Essay Option #6
The depiction of humans as cybernetic organisms has been the prevailing theme in multiple texts throughout the term. However, the authors seem to differ in defining the half- human, half-machine organism. I will analyze several movies such as The Matrix and The Stepford Wives, along with multiple articles in The Cybercultures Reader. In doing so, I will contrast how these authors define the cyborg and then I will ultimately bring each piece together to create a true understanding of the cyborg.
“A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (Donna Haraway). Define your interpretation of cyborg using the Deborah Lupton and Donna Haraway articles from The Cybercultures Reader. Then compare the different constructions of the cyborg in at least two texts in this course.
A cyborg can be defined many different ways, using the texts we have read in the Cybercultures Reader, along with Snow Crash and using examples from films we have watched I will define the cyborg as a mixture of human and non human characteristics. Using the films, The Matrix, The Stepford Wives, and Hackers I will develop a thesis that embodies the true definition of a cyborg and how they fit into society.
Throughout this course we have analyzed texts that depict different real-virtual world relations. We see our cyber-identities depicted in social media in the movie The Social Network. Race and ethnicity are shown in both our virtual and real world in Snow Crash. In The Matrix questions of cyberfeminism are raised in The Matrix.
As people are becoming further immersed into their technology, the line between the virtual and real world is blurred and humans are seen as machine-like entities. For example, in the novel Snow Crash as humans become integrated into the Metaverse their identities in the real world and the avatars in the virtual world become synonymous. In addition, in the short story “Entrada” the people associate the virtual world as their escape, so they become more and more ingrained in this virtual world to forgo the stresses of everyday life. Finally in the piece “The Embodied Computer/User,” humans are no longer seen in individualistic terms, but are rather identified solely as interchangeable parts.
This essay will argue that virtual worlds are becoming very realistic in nature. The virtual worlds represented in The Matrix, Snow Crash, and “Trouble and Her Friends” are realistic in nature and show that the stereotypes of the real world are developing in virtual worlds.
The Stepford Wives film concerns sexual oppression in a patriarchal society by showing how liberated women are a threat to the patriarchal order in their outspokenness, persistence, aggressiveness, and goal or career orientation. Women are reduced to objects as their husbands destroy and recreate their bodies addressing the changing role of women in contemporary society as well as apprehensions about technology.
In texts of the cyberpunk genre, disembodiment is a common theme. In typical cyberpunk texts, this detachment from the body is seen as a transcendental circumstance. One in which the mind is able to free itself from the dead meat that is the human body. Cyberfeminist fiction like the short stories “A Real Girl” and “Trouble and her Friends” re-evaluate the concept of the mind leaving the body through the depictions of cyberspace presented in the short stories.
As evidenced by society and literary texts, technology is causing the separation between reality and the virtual world to become indivisible. This is made evident by an analysis of the protagonist’s sentiment in the novel Snow Crash in conjunction with the anecdote Entrada and the film Avatar, which demonstrate how the virtual world is becoming interchangeable with the real world. However, by the same token, in Avatar technology enables the virtual to be present and distinguishable in reality where individuals can enter the virtual world and become a different entity, but are observed in the real world. The culture and the obscurity of the virtual world are becoming apparent in the real world.
The story A Real Girl written by Shariann Lewitt tells the story of a neural processing system referred to as an AI in the story struggling to identify herself as a real human being. She is given the opportunity to make the transition from the PC into a real human body and to become mortal. Throughout the story AI battles with and struggles with the idea of defining herself as a women through technology. She knows that she cannot feel the way real humans can but she struggles to accept this for she feels that she has fallen in love and that her love for other women like Marjorie and Andrea truly was real. A quote i found very important and meaningful in the story was when AI says, “Men never saw me as even possibly alive. I am always a machine when i work with them, and while it hurts terribly there is never any chance the lines will be anything other than clear. I am purely function, and whatever satisfaction i receive from my work is purely intellectual. With men, there is rarely any recognition that i might be something different than silicon.” (508). She feels as though she is under appreciated by men. That to them she is “purely function”. This is a struggle very present in todays society. Although women’s right have come along way many women in the business and working world feel that they are under appreciated for there work and that they are overlooked when they are just as equally if not more qualified than many of there male colleagues. There are many “cyberjokes” and images online these days of women in the kitchen that say this is where they belong. I think the story A Real Girl helps to portray the struggle of the modern women as she tries to define herself in the real world through technology.
Melissa Scott’s feminist cyberpunk, “Trouble and Her Friends,” tells the story of two homosexual lovers who make a living as “crackers.” As a futuristic piece, Scott exemplifies the inequalities faced by women and homosexuals in a society overcome by technology. Trouble is notorious amongst web-users for “cracking” IC(E), the security systems that watch over the virtual world. Implanted in their skulls is a “brainworm” which signifies their existence as cyborgs. The brainworm enables them to travel pathways of the Internet with “…use of a full range of senses”(77). Here, Scott exemplifies the struggles of women with physicality. The brainworm allows for bodily interaction on the Internet. Accordingly, Scott depicts the “old-school crackers” as the opposition, for men don’t often deal with physicality. Scott divides these two groups to demonstrate the presence of inequality. Cerise realizes that “she would have to crack that IC(E). The IC(E) Trouble had refused to face with her. Anything with that big a fence around it had to be valuable”(83). This excerpt demonstrates the gender inequalities faced by Trouble and Cerise. To “crack the IC(E)” symbolizes the barrier that separates the two from men as well as heterosexuals. The boundary is seen as “valuable” because it entails the current setbacks they are dealing with. A significant case and point is the Evans-Tindale Bill, which “bore no relation to virtuality”(67). The brainworms are far more capable than the “dollie-slots” but face blockades such as the government’s new law. Scott sheds light on the nature of women in the virtual future, exhibiting two women who are empowered by the Internet, but evidently fall short of equal opportunity.