I am trying to get my thoughts together in preparation for the tutorial this Thursday. Colin Miller seems to think we will be discussing what we have learnt from block 1, which seems reasonable. Here’s what I think we were supposed to take away from the readings, in a general sort of way:
- Technology is not ahistorical –
Not just in a design sense in that we started out with the iPhone and we’re now on the iPhone 6 but in a deeper sense that the philosophies and mentalities that conceive and design technology have been around for a long time. Cybernetics was conceived in the 1940s and seems to underpin a lot of digital technology design thinking in the way it put humans and machines on equal footing with in a system as well as presenting information as a fluid entity. In turn, you could trace the geneology of cybernetics back to age old debates in philosophy about what is it that actually makes a human being.
- Narratives can go missing –
The Hayles (1999) reading talked about the erasure of embodiment whilst Sterne’s Historiography (2006) was based around how greater attention is paid to the visual rather the aural in cybercultures. Both of these studies identified an aspect they thought was missing cybercultural studies as a field and then attempting to argue how that was detrimental to our understanding. As we are assigned other readings in the course it is worth asking – is anything missing in the author’s understanding and assumptions? What is being privileged in this study and is it at the cost of another aspect?
- There are different ways of writing academically and I react to them differently –
Bayne’s (2014) TEL article was clear, concise and easy to read. It stated what it was going to do in the abstract, broke up the argument into easily navigable sections that were nicely signposted and is pretty much how I am to write for my own assessments. I felt like that I grasped the core ideas and understood the aim of the author.
In contrast Haraway’s Cyborg manifesto (2007) was sprawling, verbose and (purposefully?) obtuse. There were neat summarising paragraphs in the middle and the end of the text but it seemed to start with a meta-discussion of the use of blasphemy and irony within the text. The text required a large amount of background knowledge of philosophical jargon, feminist science fiction and Marxism, all things where my knowledge is a little shaky. As a consequence, I came a way thinking that I had a partial idea of one of the many implications the author was hinting at which, given Haraway’s avocation of multiplicity and refutation of totalizing theory, was perhaps the point. Despite the difficulty I found understanding the whole there were individual sentences and paragraphs that gripped my imagination in a way that Bayne’s clearer writing did not e.g. “human babies with baboon hearts evoke national ethical perplexity – for animal rights activists as much as for the guardians of human purity” (p.303). I am going to cut up choice sentences from the cyborg manifesto and try to use them as lyrics for my band.
It would wonderful if my writing could find a way to combine the vivid imagery of Haraway with the clarity of Bayne.
Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28.