Of angels, cyborgs and the web

Raphael                    Himmel uber Berlin        Angel of the North    Fighting angel in computer game

Whilst reading the article by Rob Shields, Flanerie for Cyborgs, a sentence caught my eye:

How are categories of identity – such as the feminine – distributed in changing ways across  not only reproductive bodies but objects and virtualities from angels to voice-based digital intefaces? (p218).

Angel… a disembodied entity which crosses the virtual and the real?

I suddenly became (totally) pre-occupied by angels…. I wondered if in my earlier post the suggestion of the representation of ‘angels as early cyborgs’ is perhaps not too extreme after all…

I checked wikipedia and here is explained that the theological study of angels is known as “angelology”. Angels are often depicted as benevolent celestial beings who act as intermediaries between Heaven and Earth, or as guardian spirits or a guiding influence.

In western art, angels have been depicted  since Byzantium times, all the way through medieval art, renaissance… indeed in recent times (Angel of the North, Himmel uber Berlin and an image from a game – reference unfortunately lost – all images above) and http://www.angelstoday.net/

In a posthuman representational context: angel, neither male nor female (but arch angels are most definitely male)  neither organic, nor abstract, distinctly bearing a relation with the physical, but mostly detached… My thoughts wandered….

Angel, a  flaneur, seeking the truth of the soul, the immateriality acting as an intermediary.

Following on from Shields, I now see

  • Angels, an early virtual ‘emanation’
  • Hayles’ 1st order cybernetics, 1960s onwards
  • Hayles’ Autopoeisis
  • The appearance of cyborgs (in Haraway’s ‘infomatics of domination’)
  • Followed, as Shields suggests, the world ‘into information’ (for example survey and data, tracking, the genomics’ four-letter language of DNA sequences)
  • The surveillance via data-mining – putting two and two together across databases of personal, health and purchase information.
  • And the recombination of traits at the genetic level to enhance certain qualities.
  • Shields extends Haraway’s focus on cyborgs borne out of militaria-embraced visuality, juxtaposing the ‘ lived geography of women in circuits of culture and capital (p 211) situated in a narrow location, to the extent that cyborgs are ‘manifest in the nano, genomic and molecular’. Cyborgs are both a writerly device and a molecular- or smaller-scale biotechnical idiom (p 217) … ‘they (cyborgs) are nothing but signals, electromagnetic waves, a section… Newly emerged sites where cyborgs appear, include the ‘televisual media and arguable the web as a public sphere.’ (p216)
  • Hayles’ virtuality
The web as a cyborg, I do find this agreeable with my intuition around 21st century digital culture.


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