Cyborgs, affinity, connection (Class on 10/10)

Posted by on Oct 10, 2013 in Reading Response | 2 Comments

I’ve really been looking forward to class tonight. After class, I intend to turn this into a full blog post, Now what we have had class, I want to expand on this based on our conversation.

We started class by watching this wildly popular recent clip of Louis CK.

We divided into small groups for conversation about the clip and then came back together to report back and talk about how it related to our recent class readings. Now, Louis CK might not seem like an obvious point of entry for discussing cyborg feminism, but his piece speaks to a few things:

  • Anxiety about over-connection to devices
  • Anxiety about losing abilities to empathize
  • Anxiety about being alone
  • Conjecture about what it means to “be a person”

So what we found is that he posits that being alone–sitting by yourself–is what it is to be a person, which is in many ways a very dualistic conception of personhood: one person who is distinct and independent, with very solid boundaries. He thinks that being bound to digital networks and devices makes us less human, less empathetic. Yet if we think about Haraway and Halberstam, the cyborg has the potential to disrupt dualistic thinking because of its porous boundaries. One important aspect from Haraway that we discussed was her belief in the cyborg’s ability to choose affinities, rather than be bound by older systems of nuclear/patriarchal families. (Interesting, too, that the Louis CK piece is prompted by his understanding of how parents should handle social and mobile media.)

We also talked about our own attachment to devices and how we use them, and we segued into some of the pieces about work by talking about the way that mobile media is increasingly blurring the boundaries between labor and leisure. We’re going to pick back up on that in our next class–on Oct 17. I can’t wait.


  1. Adrienne Zhou
    October 12, 2013

    Our discussion of empathy made me think of this TED talk video called “The Empathic Civilization” ( Jeremy Rifkin mentions that we, and some primates and we suspect elephants, have mirror neurons which allow us to “experience another’s plight.” So when we witness something happening to someone else, our mirror neurons light up and we experience a feeling similar to that person’s. So if the way we communicate becomes increasingly digital and text-based, i.e. we spend less time in one another’s physical presence, we won’t be the same witnesses to the other’s plight and our mirror neurons won’t light up as much, if at all. Wouldn’t this make us less empathetic, or at least give us fewer opportunities to feel empathy for others?

    We also talked about our tendency to avoid eye contact and conversation with our fellow subway riders and called it a “very New Yorker” thing to do.
    I was on the subway yesterday and a woman asked me for directions. I pointed out the train route on the map and assured her that she was going in the right direction, and funnily enough, we had a whole conversation about how she was from Colorado and how her town was affected by recent floods and how great FEMA is for paying for her and her husband’s stay at a motel—”a mini vacation”—and how she came to visit her son in Brooklyn. She told me about Colorado and asked about my major, which is Health and Nutrition Science. We launched into a long and scintillating conversation about food and healing through proper nutrition and about our favorite foods and favorite things to make. She told me about how she cooks more vegetables than she used to, and her tomato plants. I am a tomato fanatic—I once spent $18 on a few beautiful and delicious heirloom tomatoes from a local farm—and recommended she check out the Borough Hall Greenmarket while she is in town. We talked until we reached her stop, and she said, “It’s funny; people say New Yorkers aren’t friendly, and you certainly are friendly.” That was really heart-warming.
    So some people are open to human interaction with strangers on trains. Granted, she was from Colorado and not New York, but it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling to meet someone who likes talking to strangers as much as I do.
    My parents would be most unhappy to learn of this guilty pleasure.

  2. Vita Xie
    October 14, 2013

    Here are some points that were bought up in class that helped clarified the Haraway and Halberstam readings for me (and might be helpful to all):

    -A running theme in Haraway’s writing would be contradictions and juxtapositions both in her writing style and concepts (ex. the cyborg). Haraway celebrates these contradictions, which I suppose is a way to collapse dualisms and binaries.
    -Halberstam argues that technology is a repetition of acts (rather than viewing technology as a (genderless) stablity) much like how gender is a repetition of acts. Therefore, the artificial and natural are disrupted.
    -A general “ah moment” was that regardless of whether you buy Haraway’s and Halberstam’s arguments (or to what degree), there is always humans behind technology/ beyond just use, but also creation and so on.

    See you all soon!

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