My final assignment notes: A critique of cyborg pedagogy

Selecting an assignment topic for me has been like a shot in the dark: although the philosophical arguments on posthumanism have been really difficult to get into, I have determined to look at it in greater detail.  I started my tumblog by claiming that I want these course materials to be digestable and readable by non-experts in this area.  However, there has been a lot of specialised terminology introduced: utopia, dystopia, commodifying, digital visual literacy, transliteracy, multimodality, MOOC, reflexivity, virtual ethnography, ontology, becoming, substance, matter, arrival, panopticon, digital culture, agency, cyborg, posthumanism, rhizomatic, rhizomANTic, and disembodiment.  I have some idea about each of them, but I know it will be hard for anyone else who has not gone through the course.

So the biggest challenge for me is to be able to deconstruct posthumanism in the context of digital culture, and consider how this impacts eLearning culture, and hence learning itself.

My starting point is Haraway.  I had spent a whole week reading and re-reading Haraway before anything of what she wrote made sense.  Finally, through discussion with peers, and friends who have a background in philosophy, I was able to deduce a few basic premises of Haraway:

a) Her belief that boundaries that we are familiar with, have to be disrupted and redefined.  She has identified four decenterings that need to happen:

decentring of europe from the centre of the universe,

decentring of humanity from centre of organic life ,

decentring of consciousness of all the modes of active agencies and active beings in the world,

decentring of the natural from the artificial so that the liveliness of the entities that we call technological have to be accommodated in some ways.

b) This ‘pleasure in confused boundaries’,  placing the non-human on the same continuum of human, reconstruction of meaning contextually, intervening or disruption of the traditional, are all part of the language of posthumanist writers.  However there are many interpretation of posthumanism.

c) Haraway’s assigning ‘liveliness’ in nonhuman objects, seems to assume that human beings are tied up in a connection with nonhuman objects and it ‘becomes’ part of this big picture rather than being considered as the centre of things.  This also implies that the notion of agency, attributed to the human, diminishes.  As a result, there is a mixing of agencies and ontologies in exploring the co-constitutive life.  The idea technological and bio-determinism hold strong in Haraway’s philosophy. Humans are not the only actor in making things happen.

d) The paper on Cyborg Manifesto which Haraway had written in the 1980s, for a socialist-feminist paper, was considered a joke by Haraway herself as she did not think it would be published.   After watching some of her more recent lectures, one begins to have more understanding of her style of presenting her thesis.  Her approach includes a preamble of her past and where she came from, all in the context of what she is about to say.  This answers for the very long preamble of Cyborg Manifesto, and also the premise of which Haraway was taking as a Marxist and feminist.  Essentially it examines the relationship between human and technology.  The use of the word Cyborg has its reference to the military use of animals with cyborg capacities.

What implications have these ideals for education?

A few academics have bravely written articles on their gatherings and becomings, and how they have experimented in their own classroom.  I find the use of the posthuman language a little disturbing because it is excluding many people from understanding the text. I had to try to get used to the terminologies, and to attempt to adopt some of them, to enable me to cross the obstacle of seeing this as a possible and useful way to describe pedagogy.


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