Category Archives: Visual artefacts

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:

Week 8 – visual artefact

I guess this isn’t strictly a visual artefact as there’a a lot of text in it, but I’ve tried to present it in a very visual way and, in the interests of variety and familiarisation with different digital tools, I’ve tried something different.

I’ve presented this artefact in Prezi:

Please click the image to open the Prezi presentation

As far as possible I attempted to introduce some scientific rigour to my experimentation and avoid the temptation to force the results I expected.  The element of playfulness made this more difficult than I expected!

With the benefits of hindsight, in my case Amazon recommendations was probably not the best choice of algorithm to experiment with, as my account is used by other members of my family.  If anything my recommendations are more skewed to my son’s preferences, as he is a more prolific user of Amazon’s services than I am.


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)

TWEET: “All communities have five dilemmas they have to cope with”

The set of unwritten norms of conduct that guide the behaviour of a group, expressing what is considered “right” and “wrong” Reznal Odnanref.

This final quote, which I have singled out above, is a good mantra for the ethnography exercise in the communities block.

Images inspired by the TED Talk  linked above and based on the work of Geert Hofstede

Fenando Lanzer makes some interesting points in this TED talk on the subject of the psychology of culture.

I found the section on hierarchy versus equality tricky.  Lanzer suggests that it is the people at the bottom of the social pyramid that determine whether there is a large ‘power distance’ i.e. whether or not a society is hierarchical.  He maintains that, in a dictatorship, the people at the bottom allow themselves to be dictated to.  To a certain extent I understand the point he is making, indeed we have seen the reverse of this in action when brutal dictatorships have been overthrown by popular uprising.  However, I doubt that many people living under such regimes would consider that they have any say in deciding whether the society they live in is hierarchical or not.

Considering Lanzer’s premise in the context of online communities though, I can see that the opposing options I’ve presented visually above do represent some of the types of ‘cultural norms’ that can become established as a community grows.

I also think the point he raises about the way an individual is treated in different cultures is very relevant to this digital cultures course.  We have multiple ‘selves’, our work self, family, social, academic and so on.  These might be selves where we are physically present (I’ve seen this referred to as our ‘meat self’) or our disembodied presence online.  In each of the ‘places’ we take these multiple selves there will be a prevailing culture and often a number of subcultures.  We have to adapt to a different set of cultural norms for each environment, choosing to comply with them or not.

From an educational perspective it seems sensible to consider that our students will  arrive, physically or virtually, with expectations of cultural norms based on their experiences elsewhere, or they may be presented with a situation, such as an empty discussion forum, where they will take part in developing new norms.



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.