Bourdieu and the Cyborg Manifesto

Bourdieu (p. 235) asks: “Does this mean that the demarcation line between the world of technical objects and the world of aesthetic objects depends on the ’intention’ of the producer of those objects?” What does he think and what do you make of this? Is technology differentiated from art by what a producer says?

Bordieu identifies several factors that influence the impact of television on its audience. In his opinion, content and intent of the author are secondary to the constraints imposed by the attributes of the medium itself. Bordieu recognizes television as a medium that strives for the largest audience possible. The social, economic and political pressures imposed on television have the effect of creating a flat structure for engaging a wide audience. Flattening complex hierarchies of knowledge is only one of the effects on content imposed by the attributes of television. Wide accessibility is also attained through time-related restrictions. Television is tightly constrained by programming schedules, tight production timelines and the short shelf life of content.

Television is expected to come into our homes, deliver neatly packaged content in intellectually accessible bites and to do so until the content becomes boring and/or stops being the topic of water cooler conversations. For better or for worse, this is the role that television plays in our culture. Television is like a giant pizza with pre-cut slices that a wide audience can easily break off, pick up, ingest and digest. Reshaping the content will reduce the ease of access for the audience. Objects are categorized as art on a subjective basis. The role played by reviewers, critics, peers and patrons in art creation is a topic for a separate discussion. However, to the extent that art represents culture and television represents technology, we can interpret Bordieu’s observations to say:

  • The technology provides a medium for the content (art/culture) to be delivered to its audience.
  • The technology is not value neutral and free from constraints. The attributes of the technology reshape the content (art/culture) so that the medium can effectively deliver it.
  • The intent of the author is only significant to the extent that the content can be developed and delivered within the constraints of the medium. The author cannot influence or shape the content (art/culture) so that it can be delivered outside the constraints of the technology. Thus, author intent is secondary to the attributes of the technology.

Even though the anthropology of technology cannot be reduced to multiculturalism, what is multicultural educational technology? And even though anthropology is never circumscribed by cultural studies, what do cultural studies of educational technology look like?

Cultural studies of educational technology examine

  • Sociology of Organizations
  • Sociology of Groups and Classes
  • Sociology of Social Movements

What is culture? What is a cyborg? What is a cyborg’s culture?

Petrina defines culture as a set of values, beliefs, norms and material traits that govern the behaviour of a social group. He also acknowledges the role of education in developing culture and transmitting it to future generations and other social groups.

A cyborg is a cybernetic being whose organic body is integrated with mechanical enhancements. Cyborgs have been popular in science fiction for the last few decades and they are normally portrayed as beings with enhanced abilities. The enhancements are a result of the integration of mechanical components to the organic frame.

Cyborgs are representative of a hybrid culture where the mechanical (masculine) and organic (feminine) are fused into a hybrid being. Haraway adopts them as a symbol of contemporary feminism because in a cyborg, the masculine and feminine are mutually interdependent and the feminine is not subjugated to the hegemonizing order of the masculine.

Do you agree or disagree with the boundary breakdowns discussed by Haraway? Describe your view of one of the three boundary breakdowns discussed in A Cyborg Manifesto

Haraway discusses three boundary breakdowns in A Cyborg Manifesto: (1) human and animal; (2) animal-human (organism) and machine; and (3) physical and non-physical. I will focus on the boundary breakdown between the physical and non-physical.

Technology strives to be invisible. Contemporary society expends exorbitant time and investment in the development of machinery that knows us better than we know ourselves. Our grandparents used to wind up their wristwatches, write down telephone numbers and press physical buttons to call somebody. Our watches don’t need winding; we can record telephone numbers and dial them by speaking to our phones. The progression has been towards lower physical contact with our devices. They are invisible because they occupy smaller spaces in our pockets, on our desks, in our backpacks or our garages. They are also invisible because they have established a more direct connection with our minds and cut out the middleman of our body. They exist as ideas more than material objects. However, these technologies are not ideas, they do have a physical dimension. Technological progress has lowered the boundaries between the physical and non-physical.

 

Bourdieu, Pierre (1996). On Television

Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181

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