Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Option 3

A Cyborg Manifesto is a detailed description of the world of cyborgs according to Donna Haraway. Simply put, “a cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” and can be described as “monstrous and illegitimate” (149, 154). The first thing to note is what Haraway calls a cybernetic organism. Cybernetics is the theoretical study of communication and control processes in biological, mechanical, and electronic systems, especially the comparison of these processes in biological and artificial systems, and an organism is a living thing that has (or can develop) the ability to act or function independently; therefore, a cybernetic organism is a mechanical yet “living” system which can function and communicate on its own. In her writing, she directly states that a cyborg is “a self-who-is-not” (159). It is someone who exists for a period of time, much like humans live their lives, but it has no identity and is not actually alive. She believes that cyborgs should be regarded only as enemies, because they are not born innocent; they “generate antagonistic dualisms without end” (180). However, though her impression of cyborgs are exceptionally similar to views in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Haraway stereotypes all cyborgs, when certainly not all of them are bad.

Haraway’s idea of cyborgs can be connected with Rick Deckard’s idea of androids in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. His job as a bounty hunter requires him to locate and retire androids. Androids, in this book, are almost exactly like humans. The only difference is that they are manufactured rather than traditionally reproduced by a man and a woman. The androids, as well as cyborgs, are seen as enemies in their environment. They have life but do not truly live, though sometimes they do not even know it.

In the book, the makers of the androids are so determined to make them as human-like as possible so that they cannot be distinguished amongst real people. Included in their database along with physical appearance and actions is an assortment of emotions; most prominent in the story are love and fear. Rachael Rosen, a friend of Deckard, accompanied him to a hotel the night he was to retire three more androids. During their stay, they became well acquainted, and she told him that she loves him. Although surely she did not truly love him, the emotions that were programmed in her mind led her to believe that she did. Haraway used Rachael as a comparison between the androids and the cyborgs in A Cyborg Manifesto, saying that “the replicant Rachel… stands as the image of a cyborg culture’s love, fear, and confusion” (178). The example of her confessing her love, although not actually being in love, demonstrates this idea of confusion. Aside from Rachael’s love for Deckard, Pris Stratton, another android, moved into John R. Isidore’s apartment building and feared interaction with humans, lest she be executed. She refrained from talking too much with Isidore, until her friends showed up and suggested she live with him for safety. During and after her move, she continued to fear for her “life.” Eventually, however, because they are enemies, these androids will be destroyed.

Besides the androids, another type of cyborg is present in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. For those who could not have an animal, whatever their reason, fake animals were available for sale. The fake animals were not as complex as the androids, but they were made so that onlookers would not know they were simulated. Unlike the androids, the fake animals were not despised. People had no problem owning them, although it was shameful if others knew. They were not seen as threatening enemies; instead they were welcomed into their homes and cared for. No one seemed to have any desire to rid their towns of these fake animals, like they did the androids.

Donna Haraway suggested in A Cyborg Manifesto that all cyborgs are horrible enemies and should not be accepted in any society, and though this is true in the case of the androids infiltrating the earth in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, it is not true in the case of the fake animals. Her concept of cyborgs is strongly developed, as proved in her writing, but she does not take into consideration anything other than the idea of an evil entity.


Matt Carrick said...

First off, you need an argument for this post. You spend a lot of time summarizing and explaining, but you don't talk about what that means. Your examples don't build to anything.

Second, I'm not sure that you quite understood the Haraway piece. In my interpretation she is not using the cyborg as a literal image of people. It is a metaphor describing how people, and especially women, are fundamentally changing in their identity due to the influx of technology. Also, I don't think that she is against the idea of cyborg at all, I think that she is very much in favor of it.

This essay was very difficult and I didn't know quite what to make of it either until we got to class. But keeping in mind what we talked about in class, I would suggest that you reread it and rethink your post.

Adam Johns said...

Matt - good feedback, even if brief.

Charity - Matt makes all the important points. I'll reiterate two of them.

* You get Haraway almost 100% wrong, which is fine for a first draft, but should have indicated that you needed a revision.
* There's no clear argument.