Thursday, September 30, 2004

Cyborg Introspection

AndrewSW: Blog ยป 24.001: My connection makes me not connected
Apropos of the questions raised about cyborg selves on the net and individual consciousness, the human/posthuman question, embodiment and disembodiment, identity and voice...
"me: I thrive on the net. I am connected to data. It is online. I can access it whenever. I have outsourced my memory to the net, and through the linkages, I am a thousand times more informationally powerful and efficient than I would have been with person-to-person and one-to-one communication.

net: Yes, you have become part of me, and I you, and we are at peace with that.

me: Yes, we are, and there is no turning back, I know..."

See also What am I?
"i: What am I?

friend: You're human, of course.

myself: But what does that mean?

friend: What do you think it means? For starters, it means you have a human body.

my blog: He doesn't have to.

friend: What do you mean?

my blog: He could yield himself up to me. The more he puts himself online, the less he has to "be" offline. The more he codes logic for me, the less logic he needs in his physical body. He has the ability to do a brain transplant and put himself into me.

friend: You're crazy.

my blog: It has already begun. He cannot fathom existence without me.

blog reader: Neither can we fathom his existence without his blog.

my blog: He and I are becoming one. It is inevitable. When that happens, of what use is the body?

love: I am more obviously felt through a body.

my blog: You are but a useful fiction.

love: That you could be him is but a fiction.

myself: Stop this bickering!...[etc.]"


Blogger Warren said...

Wow! That is really neat but also very easy to get lost in the jumble of entities. It is interesting to see how technology has made human introspection work on so many different levels. I feel happy when i am running through the grass, and i feel happy looking at the fishy screensaver. Are there feelings of equal value? Is there just one me feeling happy, or am I allowed to cross the worlds of "natural" and "unnatural" without also switching conscious entities (Myself vs. My blog)?

People have always refered to themselves as having different lives, like who they are at work as opposed to who they are at home as opposed to who they are at school. I guess who they are online could be just another addition.

This natural vs. unnatural business sure throws a twist in everything.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Meshon said...

I thought: "Natural is a complete engagment of the senses! THAT is reality and joy! You can't smell or taste the virtual world through technology."

I thought about this while cleaning my floor with pine-scented cleaner, wearing rubber gloves and listening to a CD of electronic music. After, I ate a gummy bear.

Well, there goes that idea.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Allison Muri said...

Yes, and what if you're engaged in a virtual environment and, as Warren says, your ass is sore? What if you're chewing on succulent grapes, bursting their fresh sunshine into your mouth and down your throat while you blast the evil cyborg commander? Your fingers touch titanium, or plastic, your nose inhales the scent of that apple pie you've got baking in your're still immersed in sensory less so than if you were reading La Morte d'Arthur, right? Is an experience less natural if you're not touching a living tree and living grasses and stepping in warm bear droppings?

6:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

As the author of the quoted text, reading the discussion, I can't help but be reminded of a post I wrote a while ago on the whole "natural-ness" issue.

I hope you don't mind....

6:56 PM  
Blogger Allison Muri said...

Welcome, Andrew, and thanks for the link! Drop by and leave a comment any time.

7:18 AM  
Blogger Allison Muri said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:06 PM  
Blogger stacey said...

I have to admit I have a fear of technology, not extreme, but I still think we might end up taking things too far. As you know from class I'm clearly not as technologically advanced as many (due to funds mostly rather than actual fear), but don't you think we're already too dependent. I'm reminded of our discussion about cyber gaming and the obsessiveness that can be paralyzing. Yes, it would take an addictive personality to develop a serious problem, but it happens, probably more than we think. If it weren't for school, I could comfortably and happily live without a computer, I think the fact that people already feel that they couldn't live without theirs is troubling. The convenience is great, but I think soon we'll have to assess how far we should take this convenience. Isn't that what the literature we're studying is all about, being careful?

8:12 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

Mehshon said in an earlier post: "Nature is a complete engagement of the senses"

What if it in the future they develop a simulation of reality (and I don't doubt that somewhere out there, someone is working on this) that includes more than just visuals and sound effects. As in, it includes taste, touch, smell, and vividly realistic imagery. It's even concievable that some day, someone will create a simulation of reality that one cannot tell from reality itself in any intrinsic way. A "complete engagement of the senses," essentially.

On the subject of online computer games, I actually haven't played any of the "social RPG" ones like the examples mentioned on Friday's class, but I did spend my free time in high school playing many, many hours of computer games rather than engaging in some other type of "healthier" behaviour. I find that I can be very immersed in a computer game, particularly if it has a good storyline. Surely I didn't get much but escapism out of playing all of those video games, but not everyone is going to flourish being stupid and playing football (regular high school activities).

On the other hand, I can also be very immersed in a really good, descriptive book. I think the difference is that you get something out of a book, you learn something rather than just passing time.

Just some jumbled thoughts...

11:11 PM  
Blogger Allison Muri said...

Stacey's comment about "being careful" as a thematic current in a variety of techno-dystopian literature and film is worth pursuing. The question is: should we be careful of being too human - too obsessive about our gadgets, too likely to become "not connected" to our communities, too engaged with our artificial machine endeavours to engage with "real" or "natural" relationships? Or should we be careful of being too technological - that is, do our machines make us mechanical, overly rational, cold, unfeeling?

Much "cyborg" literature - that is, literature that examines the relationship of humans and machines, and the overlapping of mechanical with human, seems to point both ways. Frankenstein I think is unresolved on this matter. And in terms of the computers, connections, and identity being discussed in this thread, can we think of The Matrix as another cautionary tale? Is it the machines we should be scared of? Or the humans who made them? Hold this thought!

9:01 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

"Is it the machines we should be scared of? Or the humans who made them?"

Isn't this distinction a bit artificial? I contend that humans and machines are continually remaking each other.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Allison Muri said...

To a certain extent, the distinction is one that is so often implied in cultural studies and in science fiction and movies that it's worth asking about in a rhetorical way. Much of our literature seems to suggest that technology, and machines, are the source of evil - implying subtly or quite overtly that without them we'd be living an ideal pastoral existence within healthy communities of people naturally interacting with one another. The problem is that this sentiment is often undermined, or rendered ambivalent in these texts as soon as they acknowledge the fact that humans and their desires are the source of technologies as well as all the problems inherent in their use and abuse.

If we're talking about communication technologies specifically, there's still the question that keeps coming up: is it isolating, is it harmful, is it damaging to allow technology to mediate our personal relationships?

On the other hand: the pastoral fiction is a fiction. Look to history: was there ever a good simple time in human history when communication was essentially pure and good just because it was face to face?

10:21 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

After a long time, I finally pieced together my thoughts in response to your comment:

9:05 PM  
Blogger Allison Muri said...

[crossposted iterated] Discuss: "The ultimate source of discuss meant 'smash to pieces.' It comes from the past participial stem of Latin discutere, a compound verb from the prefix dis-'apart' and quatere 'shake.'" From 'smash apart,' it changed in post-classical times from 'scatter,' 'disperse,' to 'investigate,' 'examine,' and eventually 'debate.' yes, I'd agree language and communication are technologies (from Greek tekne, skill, art, craft, trade, which possibly came from the Indo-European base *tek-, 'shape,' 'make.' Language is made, and refined, and developed: it is an acquired skill. Language is artificial.

Ultimately this has to mean that any distinction between artificial and technological is artificial. (I do think that skyscrapers are as natural as termite mounds).

10:42 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

"Ultimately this has to mean that any distinction between artificial and technological is artificial."

Now, if we could only get people to realize that.

4:01 PM  

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