Category Archives: Block 1 – Cyberculture

TWEET: why people really love technology

I’m gathering together content to present a dystopia versus utopia view of technology for my ‘web essay’ and this interview provides some useful views.

We are all cyborgs now

“By the late twentieth century our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorised and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. The cyborg is our ontology;
it gives us our politics”

Haraway, D (2007) A cyborg manifesto


Haraway, Donna (2007) A cyborg manifesto from Bell, David; Kennedy, Barbara M (eds),  The cybercultures reader pp.34-65, London: Routledge.

Also heavily influenced by this TED talk by Amber case

Most images are composites constructed from iStock and Google Images

Remixed here by Dirk Schwindenhammer:

Recollections of Miller, V (2011)

Image borrowed from

“the fourth discontinuity is yet to be overcome and is the distinction between humans and machines”

“Norbert Wiener suggested that a pilot/aeroplane could be seen as a self-governing mechanism that continually processes and tries to respond to external stimuli under a complex, though ultimately predictable set of rules, in order to maintain homeostasis (that is, stability and control)” (Miller, V. 2011 Chapter 9, p211)

A number of interactions I had this morning with a learner using the VLE I manage and the VLE itself, brought me back to thinking about this paper and Wiener’s idea of the man-machine self-governing mechanism.

Whilst out and about, my smart-watch alerted me to a Forum message from a VLE user.  I opened this on my phone to find out the details of the issue, which related to a duplicate account being created in error after being locked out of an existing account.  I logged into the VLE and resolved the issue there and then and messaged the learner back to let them know everything was sorted.   Whilst logged into the VLE automated notifications alerted me to a couple of small housekeeping tasks that needed completing and I dealt with those too.  A few minutes later a notification popped up on my smart-watch with a ‘thank you’ from the learner.  Normal service had been resumed.

As Miller proposes the lines between human and machine in those interactions were certainly blurred and one could argue that an observer might find it difficult to determine whether the machines were serving me or vice versa, or, as Miller suggests, the machines and I were ‘working together as a self-governing mechanism’.

My connections to my phone, my smart-watch and the remote VLE also reminded me of Donna Haraway’s ‘A manifesto for cyborgs’ and her proposition that “we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism” (Haraway, 1991: 149-150), or as Hands, M. (2008) states “…what was previously visible as the hardware of technoculture and information culture is now increasingly invisible as the infrastructure of contemporary digital culture”.


Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.

Haraway, Donna (2007) A cyborg manifesto from Bell, David; Kennedy, Barbara M (eds),  The cybercultures reader pp.34-65, London: Routledge.

Hand, M (2008) Hardware to everywhere: narratives of promise and threat, chapter 1 of Making digital cultures: access, interactivity and authenticity. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp 15-42.

Block 1 visual artefact

This is a piece I wrote to explain the rationale behind my visual artefact to be published on a project site created by Michael Sean Gallagher & James Lamb…

I created this visual artefact to summarise learning from ‘Cybercultures’ block of the Education and Digital Cultures course, which forms part of the MSc in Digital Education.

The key themes that emerged from these studies were:

  • sentience
  • almost human
  • memory
  • divisions between technology and humanness
  • the preservation of the authentic human
  • the utopia and dystopia of technological intervention
  • enhancement
  • centring of the desiring human subject

The visual artefact was my attempt at representing as many of these themes as I could, and to hint at points raised in some of the academic discussion on the subject of cyberculture.

The scene outside the window is a response to this quote from Miller, V. 2011

“Most people’s first introduction to the cyborg is within popular media –and particularly science fiction – where the notion of the cyborg has almost always taken on a threatening quality”

I wanted to highlight the fact that this representation of cyborgs as evil is not a recent phenomenon and you will see that there are images from several generations, starting with the tripods (which are not strictly cyborgs as they do not have a human form) and the more recent ‘Terminator’.

As Miller points out, cyborgs are also sometimes portrayed as helpful in popular media:

“At the same time, more benign cyborgs in popular media, such as The Six Million Dollar Man or Robcop, portray cyborgs as helpful, as opposed to threatening, but still with a sense of pathos associated with the denigrated human”

With thin in mind I included some of the more recent movie characters such as WALL-E, Jonny 5 and Big Hero 6.  All of these stretch the cyborg definition a little but they each have characteristics we would recognise as intrinsically human.

In the foreground I am sat at a workstation surrounded by a plethora of devices that are all connected to the ‘cloud’ and, on one way or another, to my body, either directly, such as the headset and the Fitbit, visually through the array of screens, or aurally through devices such as the Echo Dot.  This represents a quote from Haraway, (1991)

“By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are all cyborgs.  The cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics.  The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality…”

The circuitry that can be seen through my shirt is intended to indicate that we are perhaps becoming cyborgs ‘by stealth’, that it is creeping up on us from behind.  Whether you see this a spreading infection or an enhancement will, perhaps, depend on your point of view.  As you can see from the image it is causing me some discomfort, which alludes to my own thoughts on the matter, particularly with devices such as the Echo Dot and their ‘big brother is always listening’ connotations.

Lastly, through the screen array I wanted to show what Miller refers to as ‘technological embodiment’; multiple virtual representations of me facilitated by the computer mediated communication routes we use for the course, such as blog comments and Twitter, though my work Academy and through my social life represented as a Facebook page and the Fitbit, which represents me on ‘Runkeeper’.

Quoting Richardson (2007), Miller writes:

“Mobile media technologies, and tele-technologies more generally, are therefore not simply prosthesis or augmentations of our sensorium, but tools which impact upon our bodily limits, shifting the variable boundaries of embodiment, and altering our sense of having a body: they educe altered ‘involvements’ of the soma.”

In the text Miller refers to Richardson proposed that:

“Our engagement with screens at a perceptual and phenomenological level is, of course, deeply embedded in an assorted history of image technologies and collective media-body interfaces”

The eight screens are also the type of array used by stock and commodities traders to view, often automated, transactions and trends. This was intended as a nod to the third block of the course ‘Algorithmic Cultures’.


Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.

Haraway, D. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181, quoted in Miller, V. (2011)

Richardson, I. (2007), Mobile Phone Cultures, Edited by Gerard Goggin, Routledge, 13 Sep, 2013, also quoted in Miller, V. (2011)

Week four Lifestream summary

It’s hard to believe we’re already a third of the way through, it’s been something of whirlwind experience so far.

I found the visual artefacts we completed this week more thought provoking than I think I would have found written pieces, for a few reasons:

  • They’re  more immediately accessible, particularly the static images
  • There’s a certain amount of ambiguity, which is open to interpretation by the viewer (much like viewing an art work)
  • I have a preference for visual representation

I’ve not had as much time to devote to the subject matter or blogging this week, with evening commitments and several house guests over the weekend.  However, I have been working my way through Lister, M. … [et al.], (2009) and distilling the points raised that felt important, or that particularly resonated with me.  The first of these “Understanding the self as a networked presence has almost become a commonplace – consciousness is increasingly understood as an ‘assemblage’ in which technologically mediated communications systems are as much part of our consciousness as ‘nature’ or the body.” felt particularly pertinent to our thinking, as it links the cyberculture topic with community culture.

I’ve also signed up to the ‘Spanish for Beginners’ MOOC with ‘Future Learn’ and, while I’ve yet to fully understand the ethnography task, I have found the the introductory discussion forum is a mine of data about the participants, in most cases providing information such as their location, gender, why they’re taking the course and other courses they are enrolled on.  I have started to collate this data and I’m already seeing some interesting gender, location and motivation trends.


Lister, M. … [et al.], (2009) “Chapter 3. Networks, users and economics” from Martin Lister … [et al.], New media: a critical introduction pp.163-236, London: Routledge

Brief reflections on Sterne, J (2006)

I’ve just read Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28.  The authors discuss some useful points regarding the need to consider what should be ‘in’ or ‘out’ when studying cyberculture, as well as the need to avoid merging abstract ideas.

The fact that I’ve now written and rewritten this short blog post about five times is testament to the wrestling match I’ve had with this chapter.   Nonetheless I’ve managed to gain an understanding of the need for an approach such as the authors are advocating.

Given that digital technology is present in and impacts on almost every aspect of our lives expanding the study of cyberculture into other histories such as communication, culture and politics,  seems inherently sensible.  When one considers the enormity of this task one can see why scholars have tended towards perhaps simplistic “there was analog, and now there is digital” / “everything before cyberculture leads up to it” approaches.

TWEET: blurred lines between biology and technology

This appears to be yet another example of playfulness resulting in a technological breakthrough.  The author of this article “remembers the scientists getting so frustrated by the expense and limitations of conventional computing technology that they started kidding about sci-fi alternatives. We thought, ‘What’s to stop us using DNA to store information?  Then the laughter stopped. It was a light bulb moment”.

My first laptop computer had an forty megabytes of hard hard drive storage that held all of the operating system, application and my user files (other than those I chose to save onto a 1.44MB floppy disk.  Today the Windows 10 wallpaper options alone would take up more than that amount of disk space.

I’ve found it fascinating the way that the data capacity of hard disk drives and now solid state storage has increased exponentially over the years.  I can now buy a tiny high density SD card that stores sixty-four gigabytes of data, that costs just a few pounds and would enable me to carry around vast amounts of data.

For the average technology user I guess there’s a limit to the amount of data we storage we could usefully use in a lifetime but the idea of being able to store it in an organic medium brings with it some intriguing prospects.  How long before we can directly insert data into our brains for instance?  Could Neo’s instant learning of piloting or Kung Fu skills ever become a reality?

Borrowed from

Despite sensational headlines early last year about research conducted by California research facility, HRL Laboratories, we would appear to be a way off from developing such technology just yet.

Meanwhile, back in the current world,  I believe the limitations for the average technology user, including our students, appear to be not in data capacity, but in our ability to curate data in a way that enables us to access again when we need it. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, some of that still relies on the mushy stuff in our heads…and maybe Google.


TWEET: Cyberculture timeline

Labelled on the web as cyberculture timeline, but linked page is dead

When I first saw this timeline my baser instincts thought this was a timeline of pornography (paintings in 1478, video in 1977, CD in 2006 and virtual reality in 2016)!  However, I’m sure there’s more significance to the dates and it’s probably not the following:

1478 – First printing of Anathomia corporis humani (the first complete published anatomical text).

1977 – VHS video machines released in USA

2006 – Introduction of Blu-ray Disc

2016 – TNW is the logo for ‘The next web’. Linking back to the 1478 date the 2016 date might relate to a VR tour inside the human body that was released on Steam and the Oculus store.

The relevance here is to the periodisation Sterne (2006) refers to.  I’m beginning to see that the three blocks of this course, cyberculture, community culture and algorithmic cultures do not refer to particular eras and I will return to this later when we’ve concluded all three block.

Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28. (ebook)

Tweet: musings on block one visual artefact

I’m pleased with how my visual artefact turned out and even more pleased that it has prompted lots of interesting and varied interpretation.

I’ve written elsewhere that I can’t lay claim to having considered half of what my fellow students and our tutors have seen in the piece, but one of the benefits of presenting ones thoughts and feeling about a subject in this way is that that it opens up an additional level of discourse and expands one’s own thinking.

TWEET: WordPress

I decided to complete as MSc in digital education for two reasons. Firstly I wanted to understand more about a field that was relatively new to me and, secondly, I wanted to experience digital education first hand, to give me some indication of how the experience might feel for the learners I support in my professional practice.

One of the ‘halo  benefits’ of this is that the course has exposed me to lots of digital tools that I might not have tried otherwise. WordPress is one of these.  It’s something of an ‘industry standard’ and for that reason we adopted it as the blogging platform for our company’s learning academy.  This education and digital cultures course is the first time I’ve ‘delved under the hood’ of WordPress and it has been a very useful experience, enabling me to help our bloggers present their own blogs in a more accessible and organised way.