Androids, cyborgs and connectivity.

Author:Kverndokk, Kyrre
Position:Responses

I first heard about cyborgs in 1989. I was 17 years old, and I had a discussion about science fiction movies with a friend. Blade Runner was the best science fiction movie ever made, he claimed. I had never heard of the movie, and I just nodded my head. "The great thing about Blade Runner," he said, "is that the robots are not actually robots, they are replicants."

"They are machines, yet, they are so human," he explained. And he enthusiastically continued; "It is almost as if they are more human than humans." I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked him what a replicant was. He explained that they were machines made out of synthetically produced biological material. "They are not cyborgs, they are androids," he explained. I was not into science fiction at all. In fact, I could not even turn on a computer at that time, so all the talk about robots was confusing. But I had learned two cool words--android and cyborg.

A few years later I watched Terminator 2 on VHS, and I was astonished. I especially remember the scene when a nude Arnold Schwarzenegger or the T-800 Terminator arrives, and how we experience the surroundings through the eyes of the cyborg. How he--or it--is scanning people at a bar, before he finally finds a biker matching his size, and mechanically demands: "I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle".

Today, androids and cyborgs are no longer future imaginaries in science fiction movies. To some extent, mobile devices, our iPhones and Androids, have turned us into the cyborgs. By using the term cyborg, I do not refer to people with machine implants such as pacemakers or a cochlear implant, nor do I refer to Donna Haraway's feministic concept of cyborg (Haraway 1991). I simply refer to the fact that we by now have made our bodies and senses more or less continually connected to the worldwide web. Our mobile devices have become technological extensions of our bodies and senses, whether they are perfectly placed in our hands, or we carry them in a pocket or a handbag. Our symbioses with them make us able to intentionally or unintentionally communicate with the rest of the human world, almost everywhere and at any time. Hence, we have become communicative and performative cyborgs. Reading this special issue of Cultural Analysis gave me four reflections on everyday life as a cyborg.

Digital extensions of human spheres of communication

In the abstract to his article, Robert Glenn Howard writes that "Once abstract, theories of human communication as 'webs of signification' have been rendered material by digital networks." (p. 116). In this way, he elegantly refers to Clifford Geertz's famous statement that "man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun", and Geertz's claim that culture is "those webs" (Geertz 1973, 5). By drawing his analysis on Geertz's statement, Howard argues that the quite concrete intertextual and intermedial traceable links constituting online webs are not significantly different from offline webs of signification. They just become more visible. He demonstrates this by identifying a number of layers of action working together in a post from a web-forum on guns and ammunition.

Taking the reference to Geertz seriously it would of course be impossible to delimit the unraveling of the webs of significance to merely include online practices. Howard's analysis shows how these webs also are spun out of offline practices. The post analyzed is constituted around a short video clip of a military drill in downtown Miami, filmed by a mobile device, and remediated...

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