Before I begin to tell you about the relationship between gender and technology, I am going to introduce to what those terms mean separately. According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, gender is defined as “1 a: a subclass within a grammatical class (as noun, pronoun, adjective, or verb) of a language that is partly arbitrary but also partly based on distinguishable characteristics (as shape, social rank, manner of existence, or sex) and that determines agreement with and selection of other words or grammatical forms; b: membership of a word or a grammatical form in such a subclass; c: an inflectional form showing membership in such a subclass. 2 a: sex
Now, I’m going to begin with the direction our general definition of technology leads us. Technology has a wide variety of definitions but most of them lead us to the same conclusion. That conclusion is that technology is anything that is and/or has been created. Merriam-Webster says that technology is “1 a: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area: engineering 2
Lyotard’s stance on the relationship between gender and technology is that whether it is male or female, we all work like a computer. We survive based on our abilities to gather information about our surroundings. Our thought processes are the keys to be able to remember this information when the time comes to use it. And if this solar explosion were to happen now, how would we survive? What tactics would we use to avoid being extinction? So we see what Lyotard thinks of the relationship now let’s look at what Haraway believes.
Haraway believes that the relationship between gender and technology is from a more feminist view that women were used to do all the duties around the home and that the men would do all the work elsewhere.. But she does make the point that using the image of cyborgs would “suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves.” (Haraway 181) We now have each view on this relationship. Now I have to decide which one I believe.
In his work, Can Thought go on Without a Body, Lyotard views technology from two aspects, the “HE,” and “SHE.” He breaks down his work into two sections. “HE” begins by describing to us how while we talk the sun is getting older and will blow up in 4.5 billion years (Lyotard 8). Lyotard is talking about how philosophers come up with these questions that can never be answered. This is thought. He says that “after the sun’s death there won’t be a thought to know that its death took place”( Lyotard 9). Lyotard states that technology created humans.
How’s this possible one might ask? He says “Even the simplest life forms … are already technical devices. Any material system is technological if it filters information useful to its survival, if it memorizes and processes that information … if it intervenes on and impacts its environment so as to assure its perpetuation at least. A human being is not different in nature from an object of this type.” (Lyotard 12)
He proceeds with a comparison of human beings’ nature and environment compared to the simplest life forms. He goes on to say that humans are a “living organization that is not only complex but replex” (Lyotard 12). He believes that our bodies are the “hardware” of the technical device he calls human thought (Lyotard 13). He continues by telling us that if the body is not functioning properly that human thought is impossible. He believes that we need to develop a new hardware that can handle a software as complex as the brain or something just as equivalent, but it has to be maintained by “sources of energy available in the cosmos” (Lyotard 13). He continues on and on with this until the next section of his argument starts, “SHE.”
In this section Lyotard talks about the gender differences between men and women and how men have a little femininity and how women have some masculinity. Without this how would either know what the other one is like? The force that fuels this knowledge and want of an opposite gender is desire. He goes on to say “the intelligence that you’re preparing to survive the solar explosion will have to carry that force within it on its interstellar voyage. Your thinking machines will have to be nourished not just on radiation but on the irremediable differend of gender.” (Lyotard 22) Lyotard is saying that in order for us to survive, we must either create a new “being,” or we will surely perish.
Haraway states in her work, A Cyborg Manifesto, that “cyborgs are creatures simultaneously animal and machine, who populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted.” (Haraway 149) She also states that modern medicine has cyborgs in it as well. She believes that each one is conceived as a coded device. This is set “in an intimacy and with a power that was not generated in the history of sexuality.” (Haraway 150) on page 152 Haraway begins talking about the distinction between animal-human (organism) and machine. She talks about a “ghost in the machine.” She says that machines weren’t “self-moving, self-designing, or autonomous.” She goes on to say that they mocked man’s dream since they could not achieve it. Haraway says “Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.” (Haraway 152) Why should we cower from the machines that we created? The solar explosion will destroy these machines and these humans unless we create a machine so powerful that it can carry out human tasks.
I believe in Lyotard’s theory because of what I have seen as I have grown up. We have advanced technology so much within the past 20-30 years that if we were to tell people how far technology would come along and help us, they would think we were crazy. A prime example of an innovator in technology is Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. And technology is this man’s pride and joy. The man created the Microsoft Company back in 1975 and later created the computer program Windows in 1985. (Microsoft.com) This program was the first of its kind and restructured what we know to be as the basic computer program. Bill Gates, a male, created what we now know as the premier computer company in the world. And he hasn’t stopped yet. In 2003 he created a new video gaming system with the X-Box and now with the release of the X-box 360 in 2005 he has revolutionized gaming. He continues to astonish the world of technology with his innovative ideas and creations. The man will never stop because this is what he loves. If there is one person on this planet that could come up with a “being” to perform all human functions to survive this “solar explosion” I feel that it would be Bill Gates.
Technology appears to be a male dominated field. But it really isn’t is it? How many women know more about computers then men? I do not have an answer but I’m sure there are plenty of them out there. I know a lot of women that do things in technology that I did not know existed. It doesn’t matter what gender we are, we are all equal. We all understand what things are after we gain knowledge about them. We all survive due to the experiences we have had over the years. We know if it’s 12 degrees outside to wear a heavy winter jacket with a hat, scarf, gloves, maybe even long-johns for those who wear them. It’s a survival tactic that we have grown up to know. It’s like riding a bike, if you fall off you get back on and try again. If you stop riding for a while and get back on, you’ll remember exactly what happens if you fall. You get up and back on and try again. You never really forget what happens in any event that occurs during your lifetime because each significant event has a cue in our mind and when something happens to trigger that specific cue, we know what we have to keep going. We can survive, we just have to figure out what the cue is for a solar explosion.
Haraway, Donna. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.
Lyotard, Jean Francois. "Can Thought go on Without a Body?" By Jean Francois Lyotard. 8-23.
Merriam-Webster, comp. "Gender." Merriam-Webster Online.
Merriam-Webster. "Technology." Merriam-Webster Online.
Microsoft. “Bill Gates.” Microsoft online.