Religion and cyborgs

‘We might instead acknowledge or explore the use of the cyborg not as actual disengagement of self from body, but as a metaphoric construct arising from centuries-old textual traditions of the body as a material residence for that mysterious immaterial entity variously called soul, mind or consciousness.’

‘Ironically, in our popular and academic literature the cyborg figure of the ‘post-God era’ functions to make implicit or explicit claims for Christian precepts of spiritual transcendence.’

(Of Shit and the Soul: Allison Muri, 2003)

It made me think we have 2 strands, which seem intertwined:

From a western perspective, the unification and separate entities of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit, reminds us of an assembling/re-assembling of embodiment, a detachment of human flesh but also God made flesh, and humans  made in ‘God’s image’. The incarnation, entering heaven, promising a detachment (from the body) a raising of the soul.

Cyborg have a very human likeness. Built in ‘human image’. Holywood portrays them as indestructible (Terminator) or have them switching off after a period of time (Blade Runner) as a safety mechanism. In another film, AI (Steven Spielberg) the ‘boy birth’…. All movies skirting around utopian, dystopian worlds, heaven and hell.

Lucifer, a cyborg-like figure representing death, the Arch Angel Gabriel the saviour?

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Chocolate (… and rhizome)

Gough, N. (2004). RhizomANTically becoming-cyborg: performing posthuman pedagogiesEducational Philosophy and Theory, vol 36, no 3, 253-265

I just read this paper (twice now) and it has the same effect on me as dark chocolate: I can only eat it in small quantities, it taste very pure, like an indulging substance and it will probably keep me awake tonight….







I had already lifted a quote by Noel Gouch, in last week’s reading of Pederson’s article. It struck me this quote would make a good definition that I personally would associate with art.




However, I realise now that something is missing from the Penderson article. The full quote, from Gouch’s original papers, should be:

‘Now, the idea of rhizomANTically becoming-cyborg signifies my desire to imagine teaching and learning as material-semiotic assemblages of sociotechnical relations embedded in and performed by shifting connections and interactions among a variety of organic, ‘natural’ and textual materials’

In the paper, Gouch connects Deleuze & Guattari, Haraway and Bruno Latour as a ‘rhizomANTic’ theory for learning and teaching.

The paper reflects my attempt at developing the ‘Love Sick’ story.


(what is also weirdly connected here is the ‘ant bashing game’ my cat was fascinated with, ANT referring here to the Actor Network theory of Bruno Latour (and others) )


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6 theoretical resources for mobility research – Sheller and Urry

the authors identify 6 bodies of theories that can be enrolled within mobilities research:
  1. humans have a ‘will to connection’, with the pulse of the city
  2. hybrid geographies of humans and nonhumans that enable people to move and to hold shape, bringing things close (incl surveillance)
  3. material stuff makes up places, requiring assemblage (assembling/re-assembling)
  4. recentring of corporeal body, a vehicle through which we sense place and movement
  5. topology of social networks (here it shows this paper was written in 2005)
  6. the analysis of complex system  (the example of foot and mouth is given, but the horse meat scandal is another one today)
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week 9 – summary

This week has seen a move away from blog activity to readings: Haraway, Hayles, Pickering, Pedersen and Sheller & Urry, looking at cyborgs, posthuman activity and mobility.

I reflected offline what posthuman activity means to me and made an attempt at continuing with the lovesick story which I see as an online narrative, directed by the temporal and digital spaciality, but linked to an offline mood and momentary status.

My story has now reached a point where it enters another platform (Vuvox) with a forced linearity in Twitter and this blog, looping the sequence. It is a story that is ‘becoming’, a performance (meaning unfixed).

The readings and further investigations on Haraway (in her 2003 lecture) brought an ethical perspective.  An experiment with my own cat, saw it interacting with an immaterial world. This playful activity is in contrast with the technological invasion of species and natural resources brought on by the cognisphere.

Finally, in my attempt at narrowing down a focus for my dissertation on aesthetic spaces I see a mobility paradigm as a useful start for considering online aesthetic spaces. The notion of boundaries which Haraway and Hayles discussed will need to be further investigated.


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aesthetics and the new mobilities paradigm – Sheller and Urry

Is it possible to move away from a ‘sedentarist’ aesthetics (based on fixed artworks, such as on walls in galleries, or projected, displayed, staged in theaters  cinemas, musea)  to a mobility (liquid? nomadic? fluid? )  aesthetics, which reflects situated space, place and in networks? An aesthetics beyond boundaries and disciplines with meanings and narratives assembled and reassembled? The exchange of material and immaterial cultures.

In this paper, there are some suggestions that link to the above

(p. 7) the new mobilities paradigm posits that activities occur while on the move, that being on the move can involve sets of `occasioned’ activities (Lyons and Urry, 2005).

and thus moving applies to both networked and physical moves:

(p. 8) Not only does a mobilities perspective lead us to discard our usual notions of spatiality and scale, but it also undermines existing linear assumptions about temporality and timing, which often assume that actors are able to do only one thing at a time, and that events follow each other in a linear order [see Callon et al (2004) on how the apparently absent can yet in effect be present].

(p. 8) The new mobility paradigm argues against this ontology of distinct `places’ and `people’. Rather, there is a complex relationality of places and persons connected through performances. (…) Places are indeed dynamic  - `places of movement’ (…)   Places are about relationships, about the placing of peoples, materials, images, and the systems of difference that they perform

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Do cats play with electric ants?

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Last night my daughter and I decided to test out a computer game on a willing subject: our cat. It made me think that perhaps we will not enter the next stage (beyond posthuman) until somehow animals join in our digitally interconnected world. Can cats really play with electric ants? Why would my cat play with these ants anyway? there is no food (for the cat)  involved, but it does resemble analogue offerings…

On the other hand, human exploitation of animals is aided by technology. What sort of philosophical and ethical implications are there? The materiality of our biological needs (taking the flesh i.e. meat) is still primary. The loss of body (information) is in support of material sustenance, of both meat and non-meat eaters.

And then I read the Hayles article  ’From ‘Cyborgs to Cognisphere’ ‘ in which she is reflecting on Haraway’s recent work

‘Understanding that humans and animals have co-evolved together is entirely consistent with the contemporary but nevertheless potent phenomenon of humans and machines co-evolving together. Indeed, given the technologies of genetic engineering, implants and bio-silicon hybrids created from a variety of life forms ranging from cockroaches to lampreys, it is clear that humans, animals and intelligent machines are more tightly bound together than ever in their cultural, social, biological and technological evolutions.


Haraway’s insistence that the world is ‘relationality all the way down’ applies as much to technology as to companion species. In the contemporary period, computation emerges as a crucial aspect of the entwined dynamical hierarchies that structure and energize relational dynamics. As inhabitants of globally interconnected networks, we are joined in a dynamic co-evolutionary spiral with intelligent machines as well as with the other biological species with whom we share the planet.

[will need to give this further thought...]

Haraway more recently looked at the dogworld, this lecture offering further insights below and reviewed here.

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by the way: it took my cat many attempts at grasping what was going on: he was not keen to act, but purring all the time… !

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love sick – dis/connect

I was unable to add a sound to the vuvox artifact, will need to investigate, but the one above is a found one I greatly enjoyed and thought fitted neatly.

Click on sound above and then click/visit vuvox below, get my drift….?







‘Making visible that interdependence—in general, rather than in this single instance—is, I think, the primary pay-off of the posthumanist shift in the unit of analysis.’

‘…the reciprocal production of subjects and objects, the coupled becoming of the human and the nonhuman.’

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987) -a heterogeneous assemblage  with a certain kind of inner unity… zones of intersection and interference

from the Pickering readings


There seems a vast potential in connecting, disconnecting a heterogenous assemblage of multi-modality, that creates meaning, temporal meaning which is pushing forward a narrative.

Here I let the image seek connection, the underlying intuitive story, the internet tools of things, opens up:

tracking through spaces of performativity and agency, always becoming (Deleuze)

‘the smallest unit of analysis is the relation’ (Haraway, quoted by Hayles), in ‘Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere’

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Material-semiotic assemblages of sociotechnical relations embedded and performed by shifting connections and interactions among a variety of organic, technical, natural and textual materials
Gough (2004), on posthuman pedagogy

This is such an ingenious definition. The ‘material-semiotic assemblages’ seems the most durable element in getting this off the ground.

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Harraway on boundary

I have just started to re-read the Haraway article, and only now realised she also discusses boundary breakdowns. She mentions that cyborgs represents a transgression.There are 3 boundaries: boundaries of humans-animals, animal-human and machine, boundary between the physical and non-physical.

Harraway suggests:

We are dealing with polymorphous information systems (the informatics of domination) , with the cyborg a kind of disassembled and assembled,postmodern,collective and personal self. Communications technologies and biotechnoogies are the crucial tools re-crafting our bodies. These tools embody and enforce new social relations for women worldwide.

I thought Chantelle’s IVF blog was a great illustration of this, although it is perhaps a bold statement to say that blogs can be seen as conceptual (immaterial) cyborgs…  And there will no doubt be other blogs and fora on similar topics appearing rhizomatically . The associated tags of these blogs support a computer-manipulated, machine-enhanced search, stretching enforced boundaries (html, web 2.0) which are always changing. Forum members and bloggers exist through the computer, through internet flows, yet as humans operate individually, the flow of ideas and electricity blended.

The Cyborg as a blog…. a cyblog?


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I thought the Katherine Hayles article was pretty captivating. What struck me in this article is the concept of ‘boundary’.

As she gives a definition on posthuman – the posthuman subject is an amalgam, a collection of heterogeneous components, a material-informational entity whose boundaries undergo continuous construction and reconstruction – I think key is our interaction with these boundaries. Boundaries shift, mutate, engage, can be sharp and fuzzy. Embodiment itself implies a boundary and ‘erasure of embodiment’ similarly implies to me a distinction of where embodiment is defined, and where it might dissolve.

Boundaries indicate an environment in which there is a manifestation of boundary. This environment can be material (matter) and immaterial (information) and again considering a separation of these, as Hayles is discussing, involves the idea of boundary. The idea of abstraction to multiplicy seems impossible, unless there is a boundary.

All this is pretty complex, I get lost in the reflexivity!

[ I find it takes a lot of re-readings to digest, hope to do more on this]

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But the constructed revolutionary subject must give late-twentieth century pause as well. In the fraying of identities and in the reflexive strategies for constructing them, the possibilities open up for weaving something other than a shroud for the day after the apocalypse that so prophetically ends salvation history.
Donna Haraway



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week 8 – summary

This week directed my focus on a new (google) blog I developed for the micro ethnography, incorporating a study on YouTube. My choice of a BBC documentary (Schama on Mark Rothko) is relating to my forthcoming dissertation topic on aesthetic spaces.

My activity on the Google blog turned my attention away from the WordPress course blog, extending the ensuing narrative and course interactions into different directions –  it gave me the ‘rizhomatic’ insight which I then used to illustrate the blog.

The choice of online platforms to illustrate the ethnography was overwhelming in view of the time constraints. I looked at Timetoast, Glogster, Prezi and Issuu, but in the end settled for Thinglink. Here I opted for an image that could visually map or draw together my blog posts and ideas.

I am interested in how technology affects online academic discussion and attempted at using my blog along an X and Y axe as a 2-D timeline,  with X representing the linear timeline and Y some of the emerging concepts.  This resulted in writings on  ‘rhizome’ and ‘alloy’, with future suggestions (‘affordance’) to be developed.

In the meantime I also continued with the online serial of ‘love sick’, and illustrated the ethnographic blog with a soundscape (another YouTube upload, a cover of an old favourite).

The diverse ethnographies of my fellow students have offered me a better perspective on how to create visuality within the various online platforms.

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Love sick – on the road again

The journey continues in the streets of Edinburgh, looking for clues, where does love lead to…?

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tagging for narratives

‘In this project, the author(s) tried to understand “What happens in nicovideo [a service similar to YouTube]  by visualizing the inherent tag co-occuring networks. Tag co-ocurring networks on Nicovideo represent relationships of content and subsequently, evolution of content. ‘

I thought the idea of ‘evolution of content’ was an interesting concept. The internet grows discussion, like a digital farm, it is being cultivated and harvested.


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The sound of a YouTube Rhizome

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Typology of consumption

Correll (1995) suggests that online community experience is mediated by impressions of the real-world locations as well as the unique contingencies of computer-mediated communications.
There are four styles of online community membership and participation: regulars, newbies, lurkers and bashers.  Over time, a shift develops, from newbie, lurker to regular; bashers come from the outside.
Members of online community have 2 main elements bringing them together which can interrelate in many ways.
The first element considers the relationship between person and the central consumption activity that they are engaging in, with and through the online community.
The more central this plays a role in the identity or the persuit of a new skill or activity – central to self-image and core self-concept – the more the person is to pursue and value membership of the community which is considered a pathway to knowledge.
If this is not considered important then the relationship to the online community is going to be more distanced.

The second element is the actual social relationship of the particular online community itself. How deep, long-lasting, meaningful and intense are those relationships?
both elements  are interrelated
from Kozinets, Robert V., (2010) “Understanding Culture Online” from Kozinets, Robert V.,  Netnography : doing ethnographic research online   pp.21-40, London: Sage
I uploaded this photo showing fans recording video and/or still photos. No doubt these end up on a platform such as YouTube. In a comment I made regarding YouTube, I am suggesting that some uploads may have a better ‘alloy’ than other uploads due to the nature of the ‘consumption’.
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Ehtnography – YouTube Mark Rothko

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Some online communities may be too task-orientated (and therefore not 'social' enough) or might not stimulate sufficient interaction to develop 'group-specific'meanings, or they might be too divided and divisive to coalesce'
(Baym 1998)
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week 7 – summary

I have spent all week checking through the YouTube upload of the BBC’s Simon Schama’s Power of Art – part 1 to 7

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This was a tasks that took longer than originally anticipated. The observations will be offering an interesting perspective of the YouTube platform, with a sample of postings recorded over a 4 year period.

I decided to use a Google blog and am now investigating which artifact to draw the ethnography into that may be best suited. In view of the limited time available I may have to rely on existing expertise, although I would prefer using a new platform.

The coming week will be spent revisiting the readings of the block, with additional commentary.

In the meantime my ‘other’  blog is public – check my blogroll for for more info.
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YouTube community rules

“Let folks know what you think. Feedback’s part of the experience, and when done with respect, can be a great way to make friends, share stories, and make your time on YouTube richer. So leave comments, rate videos, make your own responses to videos that affect you, enter contests of interest—there’s a lot going on and a lot of ways to participate here.”

Not too sure how easy it is to make friends on YouTube

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