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Week Two (Mon, 1/24): "How Like a Leaf"

Do you think you are like a leaf? 


I. Well, first, some coursekeeping:
welcome back! (how many of us? how's the room size?)
anyone new? (sign-up/in sheets, w/ usernames)

22 of you registered and posted, as requested,
introducing yourselves--> there's a nice variety among us,
where we come from, where we'd like to go,
what our relationship is to technology--
which we will draw on, play w/, use before we conclude today....

but first: any as-yet-unresolved problems w/ the process of posting?
(reminder that you can change your password and your user name)
if you haven't introduced yourself on-line yet, please do so right away!

any other course-keeping issues: accessing readings, etc??

encourage you to explore other venues where our
shared topics are being demonstrated (for example!):

"The How and the Why," through Feb. 13 @ the McCarter Theater in Princeton: by the writer/producer of the t.v. series In Treatment;
in this show, about the relationship between two women biologists
(per the Philadelphia Inquirer), "we will learn a great deal - painlessly -
about evolutionary biology" (and about what it's like to be a woman
doing science!)

11:30 on SUNDAY, January 30, @ The Community Education Center, 3500 Lancaster Avenue  in West Philly, a performance of Red Rovers (work in process by the Headlong Dance Theater) : "Mars. An abject landscape. Endless dust, extreme heat and cold. Occasional meteorites. Onto this landscape dropped two rovers, named Spirit and Opportunity....Red Rovers is new a dance theater-visual art collaboration ... exploring a lifeless landscape, the search for life on other planets, the impossibility of easy communication, the bonds between robots and with their makers, the eventual genetic modification and robotization of our human bodies, task-oriented movements, intricately detailed dance actions, strings of numbers and NASA lingo, propulsion, disability."

but first! for Wednesday!  read the Introduction and Chapter 5 of Andy Clark's 2003 book, Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence, pps. 3-11, 115-142 (in the password-protected file @ /~adalke/gender )--much more accessible/ clearer version of Haraway, updating the cyborg theme
(though not gender specific -->
so you might think about gender apps for his argument;
think also about the pluses/minuses of clearer language)

II. For today: we've read Donna Haraway's INFAMOUS essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” AND (a hopefully clarifying? follow-up interview w/ her)

In How Life a Leaf. Donna J. Haraway: An Interview with Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, 2000, TNG asks, "Experientially speaking, what is your most profound moment of encountering... "cyborgology" ... or "cyborgness"?.... what are the moments when you remember it crystallizing for you?

DH: Well, one is certainly my sense of the intricacy, interest, and pleasure--as well as the intensity--of how I have imagined how like a leaf I am. For instance, I am fascinated with the molecular architecture that plants and animals share, as well as with the kinds of instrumentation, interdisciplinarity, and knowledge practices that have gone into the historical possibilities of understanding how I am like a leaf" (p. 132).

In "The Cyborg Manifesto," Haraway celebrates the
breakdown of three boundaries/"leaky distinctions":

*organism-machine ("our best machines are made of sunshine")

She encourages us NOT TO FEAR our
"joint kinship" with animals and machines,
to acknowledge our "permanently partial" identities,
our "contradictory standponts."

So: let's try it/see how open we are to this invitation.

Take out a piece of paper and write for a few minutes:

"How like a ... I am. For instance ..."

Call out a dozen of these.

Your experience of doing this?
Resistant, playful, irritated, intrigued....?

You've seen @ work already one our favorite teaching "tricks": using metaphors and similes, as a way of getting @ things indirectly that we may not know we know (or think, or believe), of getting beyond the "rational" or "reasonable" to some of the stuff settled in our unconscious. That's why we asked you, in the first class, to give your metaphors for gender, science, and their interaction; that's why we start today w/ some simile-making.

It's particularly appropriate to do this as an introduction to Donna Haraway's work, because she says (in How Like a Leaf, my new Bible!), "Since I experience language as an intensely physical process, I cannot not think through metaphor. It isn't as though I make a choice to work with and through metaphor, it's that I experience myself inside these constantly swerving, intensely physical processes of semiosis

[the process of making signs].

Biochemistry and language just don't feel that different to me. There's also a Catholic dimension to all of this. My deep formation in Catholic symbolism and sacramentalism -- doctrines of incarnation and transubstantiation -- were all intensely physical. The relentless symbolization of Catholic life ... is the physical world .... I grew up very much inside an elaborate symbolic figural narrative world where notions of sign and flesh were profoundly tied together. I understood the world this way by the time I was four years old" (p. 86).

III. So: that's the history of "why" Haraway "thinks in metaphors"; but what's more important is the "how": the point/motivation for her selecting the particular metaphor (in this particular and most famous of her essays) of a cyborg:

  • What is the claim that she uses the cyborg to make?

  • What is on-going conversation into which she steps?
    (to whom does she refer; whose work does she build on?)

  • What does she contribute to that conversation?
    What's her intervention?

  • What is yours? What questions do you have for her?
    What's your push-back?

IV. What are her politics?
What's the larger structure w/in which she locates those politics?
(What do you know about the historical varieties of feminism?)

[from Rosemarie Tong's 2009 edition of Feminist Thought: A Comprehensive Introduction, on the diversity of feminist thinking:

  • liberal feminists (suffrage; equal rights; equality of education: Bryn Mawr!)
  • radical feminists (libertarian and cultural: ripping out the patriarchal system; focusing on sexuality, pornography, mothering; the androgyny debates)
  • Marxist-Social feminists (critique of the class system: oppression located in private property--means of production should belong to all)
  • psychoanalytic feminists (shift focus from macrocosm to microcosm of the individual: psychic trap of the Oedipal complex; explore prelinguistic, pre-Oedipal domain of the Imaginary, before children enter the Symbolic order)
  • care-focused feminists (why are women associated w/ emotions and the body, men w/ reason and the mind; women w/ interdependence, community, connection, and men w/ independence, selfhood, autonomy?)
  • multicultural, global, postcolonial feminists (highlighting differences among women--in race, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender identity, age, religion, level of education, occupation/profession, marital status, health conditions--challenge female essentialism and chauvinism)
  • ecofeminists (focus on strengthening humans' relation to the nonhuman world: broadest, most demanding definition of self's relation to the other)
  • postmodern and third-wave feminists (highlight plurality, multiplicity, difference to re-think the category "woman")

Setting Haraway's attempt to build an "ironic political myth
faithful to feminism, socialism, materialism" in this context:

where does she locate herself?
Of what use is it to build an (oppositional, utopian)
myth (completely without innocence)?
To make an argument for pleasure in the confusion
of boundaries and for
responsibility in their construction?

  • undermines all claims for organic/natural standpoint:
    refusal of "eco-feminism"

  • caricature of radical feminism:
    non-existence of women except as products of men's desire;
    women’s experience=sexual violation/objectification
  • inadequacies in feminist analysis -->
    proceeded as if organic, hierarchical dualisms still ruled

    cannibalized, techno-digested: all in question ideologically
    home, workplace, market, public arena, body
    all dispersed, interfaced in infinite ways:
    (example of the "homework economy":
    feminized work of electronics assembly:
    "women in the integrated circuit")
  • world subdivided by boundaries
    differentially permeable to information
    permanent partiality of feminist points of view:
    feminist dream of a common language is
    a totalizing and imperialist one

    American radical feminists (Griffin, Lorde, Rich) have profoundly affected our political imagination--and perhaps restricted too much what we allow as a friendly body and political language.

two groups of texts w/ insight into construction of cyborg myth:
women of colour and monstrous selves in feminist science fiction
(possibilities for our shared reading after break:
Katie King, Joanna Russ, Samuel Delany, James Tiptree, Octavia Butler...)

more problematic?
her use of "sister outsider": the off-shore woman
devastating critique by Paula Moya of this "misappropriation of women of color: These real-life cyborgs (for example, the Southeast Asian village women electronics firms...) are actively rewriting the texts of their bodies and societies."

similar problems with claims re:
severely handicapped people have the
most intense experiences of hybridization w/ devices (?)

cyborg imagery expresses two crucial arguments:

* refuses demonology of technology
* universal, totalizing theory misses most of reality

Haraway's postmodern cyborg: avoids
ideological dangers of recourse to an authentic female self;
description of femininity as automation, a coded masquerade
what is so anxiety-provoking in a blurring of machine and
and what is so attractive in holism and universalism?

femininity is always mechanical and artificial
the cyborg resists static conceptions of gender and technology;
produces an uncanny effect
calls attention to the artificiality of gender distinctions

image may obscure certain relations between living women and technology: disenfranchisement in electronic marketplace--

but: already cyborgs are us,
as embedded in new technologies as they are within us
(more on this from Andy Clark)

V. So! (said the English prof):
what kind of language does Haraway use to construct this argument?

(From the 2008 interview in "Bits of Life: Feminism at the Intersections of Media, Bioscience, and Technology:)
"There is the tyranny of clarity .... I like layered meanings, and I like to write a sentence in such a way that, by the time you get to the end of it, it has at some level questioned itself .... I am committed politically and epistemologicaly to stylistic work that makes it relatively harder to fix the bottom line .... I want to use [cognitive] technologies to increase the opacity, to thicken, to make it impossible to think of thinking transparently .... I am not looking for stable ground....We are a little hard to digest. And I think that is a good thing ... It is the position of the inappropriated/d other.

VI. Let's conclude by going back and re-reading our introductions of ourselves in relationship to technology through the lens Haraway provides. How would she respond to/analyze our descriptions of our relationships to technology?

per O.E.D.: "technology" is the "systematic treatment or
study of (practical or industrial) art or craft;
from technic, pertaining to art/skillfully made + ology, study of

 "technology"= study of the artful manipulation of the world

m.aghazarian: I realize that I am considering the word "technology" in a very... contemporary? colloquial? manner.

Donna Haraway: "Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert."

anne bound to ...  clock and calendar
m.aghazarian get the time; but when there's no service... cell phone
tangerines explore creativity; but more time in front
of screen than interacting w/ other people
cara much greater access to information, but
decline in the amount of books I read/
number of distractions provided by
leamirella always something missed camera
Oak communication Internet
Francine digital drawing/entertainment...
but communication/social networking??
MissArcher2 indispensible to constant connection, but
we've ceased to focus on where we are
Franklin20 artistic capacities, but too dependent iPhone
spreston connected, but too reliant laptop
Hilary Brashear create a private soundtrack, but
distancing of human to human contact
ekthorp ability to carry all my music with me iPod
Hilary G calming, personal, self-motivated creativity piano
merlin quick and efficient transmission of knowledge and information, but replacing a person with your imaginary visualization cellphone/text messages
Apocalipsis constant connection/instant gratification/makes me a
strong player in the world by increasing my resources
kelliott carry my whole life/switch in identity iPhone
rubikscube limited ability to consider questions
without one right answer
Arduino control board
phreNic can access astounding amount of information:
but too much, too trivial or incomplete?
Riki takes a lot of time video camera
shin1068111 go anywhere whenever I want, but: accidents;
requires lots of energy and causes air pollution.
aybala50 handy for seeing everyone I'm supposed to airplanes
Liz McCormack doing science = manipulating and imagining stuff beam machines,
MSA 322 listen to my favorite music whenever i wanted walkman--> iPod
TiffanyE music, emails, internet access, organization, keeping in touch--but danger: horrible listeners because attention is constantly glued to the phones Blackberry