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Another perspective on cyborgs?

asweeney's picture

Following our class discussion on Andy Clark's ideas and their application to the classroom, I attended my Religion, Sex, and Power class in which we had just read The Cyborg Manifesto  by Donna Haraway. Weird coincidence, right? Now, in this other class, we were looking at the concept of a cyborg through a feminist lense and discussing the differences between a cyborg and a goddess, as the auther eventually states that she "would rather be a cyborg than a goddess." How is it, we wondered, that a cyborg is a stronger figure to which women should look than the goddess? After debating for quite a while, we eventually concluded that one imporant aspect of the cyborg is that her inner knowledge is fused with the knowledge of the external world as well (I had to mention the "skinbag" concept at this point....). This contrasts with the image of the goddess that comes from within us and "is us." 

Since these two class discussions, I've been trying to think through how some of these contrasts between goddess and cyborg might related to the clasroom. Or do they? One thought I had is that maybe our classrooms should continue to emphasize the activity of reaching outside ourselves and to the larger community to help faciliate our learning and growth. 


leamirella's picture


When I first read Clark, I read it in relation to the Cyborg Manifesto by Haraway -- I'm glad that you mentioned it.
I find Clark rather frustrating in the sense that he constantly attempts to police the boundary between us and
the outside world through the way in which he explains that everything is a mere "extension" of us. I don't quite agree with this because it implicitly values "us" over our "external" world. I don't quite agree with this hierarchy.
I believe that this hierarchy is actually a derivative of societies that over value the individual; we're not as
special as we think we are.

That's why I like Haraway's notion of fusing as it implies, in a way, a method of looking at our external world
without valuing the "us" over anything else. It also does away with binaries. Like her, I'd rather be a cyborg than
a goddess.

asweeney's picture

Looping is really a perfect

Looping is really a perfect word for it. Our text on goddesses, after all, is called SPIRAL DANCE. If we think of classrooms as never ending spirals instead of input-output settings, I bet there would be more fundamental changes in education reform--as a circuit implies that what happens in a classroom will eventually affect everyone in the outside world as well (I believe this already!)

dephillips's picture

Looping to Sources Outside the Classroom

Sun-kissed Acres is the perfect example of education looping into the outside world. Environmental Science was taught in a classroom at Bryn Mawr and then a classroom at Parkway West to eventually affect and teach an entire community. And to complete the loop, was brought back to a classroom at Bryn Mawr. I love it!!!

alesnick's picture

looping applied

Yes, it is wonderful, you're right, to consider how the Sun-Kissed Acres project models education looping through, and back through, a range of contexts.  Each time it loops it changes the context it is in and suggests new relationships among contexts (for example, that the high school students are considering bryn mawr among their college choices).  Maybe it would make sense for us to think of education AS the looping, not as the place (ie."Classroom"). Then, the looping from brains to machines/tools/materials to other brains to other machines/materials can be reconceptualized, as well?

alesnick's picture

goddesses and cyborgs

Wow! Great coincidence, indeed!  Your idea that education ought to emphasize reaching beyond ourselves is rich and reminds me of my friend Paul Grobstein's "three loops" discussion of generative conflicts leading to learning: between conscious and unconscious, brain and other brains, and brains and non-human world.  I am wondering whether in a sense goddesses and cyborgs play a parallel role in representing human engagement with the non-human world.  Paul would say that what is crucial is the looping from one to the other, recursively, in a circuit in which at any given time some knowings are possible and some are not possible.