Archive for the 'Reading' Category

Nov 21 2010

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Sharon Boyd

Cybershamans and Technopagans

Filed under Cyborg, Posthumanism, Reading

In the course handbook, Block 3 outlined the idea of the cyborg and how “human subjectivity is altered through our relationship to, or ‘fusion’ with, technology”. This post is a bit of a wander through thoughts, please feel free to feed in and help me clarify my musings :)

What struck me from the readings over the past two weeks is that we have not yet resolved the “human-animal” relationship, nevermind the “human-plant” relationship or the “man-machine” conundrum. Even adding technology into the mix, we are effectively just “[recycling] the old ideas of human spirit and body upon which early academic humanism was founded” (Muri, 2003).

It seems we return through time to reflections on what it means “to be human” with reference to everything else in our lives. What interests me is the focus on “being human” – we understand that with reference to other species, other “ways of being” in comparison to ourselves, and the same may hold true for machines. It is interesting that Donna Haraway moved on to study companion animals, as in my classes on companion animal behaviour, it is the comparison of a specific behaviour pattern with the student’s own personal experiences that leads to better understanding, while at the same time avoiding the trap of assuming exact behaviour “matches” between species. Haraway shows the same process of reflection in her writing, and each of the other texts we read adds or expands on a point she raised (a remarkable piece, even if it took me two weeks to try and grasp it!).

Coyle’s (2006) article was superb – it focused on this divide, this “giant chasm” – the “imagined human-animal divide”. It made me smile to see Sian’s image choice for these weeks – the devil – the human-animal hybrid “antithesis to human morality”. How often also do we see human/animal hybrids as gods or guides in various world religions or spiritual beliefs. Shamanistic practice (as with the Buddhist in Coyle’s article) sees the “interconnectedness” of all life – I see us as “becoming” (or perhaps just me – others may already be there!) – Thacker (2002) quoted in Coyle “a transgressional state of between-ness”. If I haven’t crossed the chasm yet, I’m pottering across the bridge.

The concept of the cyborg seems to be, like the hydra, a creature of many heads:

  • merging of man/machine (coupled with the ethical and species purity/spiritual(?) concerns of the animal/plant/human hybrid (e.g. Haraway, Coyle)
  • human “robot” – the automating of bodily processes (Muri 2003) – and would this include computer/machine prostheses grafted onto human/animal body?
  • disembodiment (“transcendance”) through computer networking (Muri 2003)
  • the human mind extracted and inserted into a machine form (and what of the soul?)
  • the creation of new life in machine form

(For the last two, Sterling’s Schismatrix as mentioned in Muri – Mechanists and Shapers). Or a weaving of all these – as Derrida (in Badminton 2003), echoed in RL in Gajjala and Mamidipuni (2002). Each aspect brings with it a range of fears and challenges to us as we reflect on what we would be prepared to accept (considering the thoughts of the New Zealander’s in Coyle’s article on biotechnologies).

Being posthuman carries responsibilities. In Coyle and Haraway – the importance of humans as “guardians” of the animal/plant world, in Nakamura (2008) the impact on Asian workers – the supporters/ground workers behind the “empowering possibilities of the Internet”. As Muir states (p80), the “disregard for the desires of the lower-order working bodies by the privileged, literate intellectual” (refl on the work of McLuhan).

I’ve been dipping in and out of Davis (2004) Techgnosis throughout this course, and he speaks of the connection between the concept of the cyborg and the drive for interstellar travel – man “escaping” the planet. This is seen in Muri with the idea of an over-populated world where we can “escape” the crowding and pollution by being “digitised” – transcendance to pure thought (cyborg ether form – “I want to walk in the snow and leave no footprints” Gies, 2008). But what of those who are “left behind”? What do the “transcendant spirits” leave for them?

It’s the “apocalyptic” viewpoint, looking at ways of escaping the mess (of the planet, of ourselves; cyberbody adaptations as fashion – giving both Hayles and I the heebie-geebies) versus the optimistic utopian view that we will find a way to co-exist – plant/animal/human/machine weaved, merged, supported and whole (holistic?).

Wherefrom the post title? Reading Davis, I found that, should I wish to be pigeon-holed, I might be considered a technopagan – recognition of the “magic of technology” – and the scientific, performaning, creative, literate, artistic, communicating, healing merge of the cybershaman (with apologies to Nakamura for using a dated term). The readings this week led me out into the “web” of sites for shamans and pagans – to groups on SL and thoughts about World of Warcraft – people communicating, finding “spirit”, divine in creativity – posthuman culture that incorporates as much of the past (immediate and distant) and creating to fill the gaps in forgotten knowing. A trippy experience.

The old ideas don’t fade away – they adapt, develop, absorb new times and technologies – posthuman evolution doesn’t stop here.

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Nov 19 2010

Profile Image of Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

A Double First for Me!

Filed under Artefact, Cyborg, Reading

First, thank you Hugh for introducing me to XtraNormal – this was the first time I used it and it was superb. Second, this is my first video to post to YouTube, so I’m pretty thrilled. Third, this is a reflection on cyber-existence based on a mash-up of a poem I know well and my own thoughts and words, a blending of human, animal and machine, together with a new experiment on my digital presence, and it worked much better for me than I had anticipated. And finally, as is often the way, while this was supposed to be a deep and meaningful reflection, the sight of the wee bear being so pensive, nevermind the pause at the sound of the crow, has had me falling off my chair laughing. The wonderful thing about XtraNormal is that, while I know I put in the camera angles and the looks to camera, the animation and the words, wee Amergin Bear truly has a life of his own :)

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Oct 24 2010

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Sharon Boyd

Week 5 Reflection

Filed under Reading, Weekly Reflection

This week, I have been visiting other artefacts, reflecting on the connections between our work, and reading, learning and pondering my ethnography focus. I’m still not certain I’m “there” yet, in so much as I feel I still have a lot to understand about creating an ethnography, though I have made my choice. However, I do believe that, like everything in the course so far, it is the experience that teaches.

I shared a picture this week that my husband took of me in my favourite reading spot on the sofa – and as the tag says, very much lost in a good journal :) and I also share a Barn cartoon, because it made me laugh and had a “technical” theme. It’s as close as I could get to something that brought together my daily life, my sense of humour, my work at the vet school, my love of animals and this course. A big ask perhaps, but Rory came through.

Because I spent so much time looking at artefact’s this week, my tweets, Tumbr post and references echo this – thinking about what it means to be a community, what we “see”, what it means to see (what is perception?) and what technology allows us to see more clearly.

Reflecting on global community, last night, I saw Kodo, a taiko drumming group from Sado Island, Japan. This is part of my weekly reflection as it is as integral a part of my week – if I could have posted it “live” to my lifestream, I would have, as it ties in with everything we have been discussing for me and seemed to bring the week together in one event – it is my weekly reflection in experience.

Their music draws on inspiration from their island home, seeking to “find a harmonious balance between people and the natural world”, from their traditional culture and from their experiences of travelling to and learning from other cultures’ traditional music forms.

They state that “similarities and differences prompt the group to take pause and reflect upon the importance of the varied and rich cultures that color our world. These life lessons permeate the Kodo members’ very skin and become an invisible source of our expression.”

I come home and find I can “visit” their island home through film and images they share on their website, listen to excerpts of their music, watch them on YouTube, follow them on Facebook and MySpace, and become a Friend of Kodo. I am part of the Kodo community without leaving my home.

We both remain rooted in our own cultures, but appreciative of, and learning from, each other, our individual creativity inspired anew – a “one world culture”. Globalisation in a good way, strengthening our individual “tribes” and our appreciation of traditional ways of life, rather than “detraditionalization” – Rheingold’s “knowledge potlatching”? (Bell, 2001)

Good inspiration in my exploration of online community and its actions and affects offline too.

This movie reminded me of Jeremy’s artefact, so I include it here, a balance of nature and technology, with the age-old sound of the shinobue flute.

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Oct 09 2010

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Sharon Boyd

The First Step in the Fool’s Journey

Filed under Reading

The quote that really caught my attention in Carpenter (p. 142)

“But be wary, young Padawan, of the spaces between, for the gulf is wide and deep, the landscape strange and inhospitable, and should you find yourself bereft of map or guide, you will surely lose your way”

The Fool on her journey, that’s me :)

Kress (2005) uses mythological monsters to illustrate the fine line we walk between the overly pessimistic and optimistic views of the values of  multimodal forms of communication – similar to the creatures that wait at the bottom of Carpenter’s abyss. But with Scylla and Charybdis, it was a choice between one or the other – or a different route entirely.

I like the idea of a bridge, of movement “across” as Carpenter states – a joining of the two, as per Taylor et al. moving “away from the battles… and… towards a unifying ecology”?

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Oct 06 2010

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Sharon Boyd

Online Communities

Filed under Reading

Carpenter’s (2009) article linked nicely with Grimmelman’s (2006) article on the real-life/virtual boundary issues in law. The “complex and dynamic boundary negotiations” between those wishing to keep virtual worlds free of the influence of the various laws of different countries, and simultaneously seeking protection from those self-same laws.

Reading these articles, in conjunction with Hand (2008) and Johnston (2009) brings to question the challenge of online/global community – “interactivity and empowerment” versus “insecurity and surveillance”.

Are online/virtual communities eroding or building society? What is the value of ecitizenship if our actions are all “virtual” – what about our “real” communities?

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