|Pan Morigan and Andrea Hairston|
Pan and I had a blast at Wiscon. We have now recovered from traveling across the country. (Two weeks to get over flight cancellation and midnight bus rides!)
My mind is still stirred up from the panels, the Guests of Honor, the hallway rants, the family reunions--the ghosts and spirits too, whispering in my ears. I was lucky to be on the CYBORG IDENTITIES Panel with Sunny Moraine, Scott E. Gould, and Lettie Prell. We had a marvelous conversation with an engaged, articulate audience about the legacy of Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto.
Sunny Moraine mentioned a man who went offline for a time period and didn’t find the real life nirvana that supposedly awaits those who unplug. I’ve been thinking about this anecdote and our confused relation to technology. The Internet is often viewed as the CAUSE of good or evil effects—mass addictive zombie behavior or successful revolution against oppressive regimes. The Internet as an effective tool facilitates revolution perhaps and also allows addiction (we get a dopamine hit for those I Likes), but CAUSE? That’s a powerful word.
The Internet is mythologized and mystified, maligned and worshiped. It brings wonders and joys and is also calibrated for predatory capitalist monetizing of humans as commodities. The Internet facilitates creative exchange across land and sea, shrinks time and space, and offers us public access to each other. Big Data is a treasure trove for pattern freaks, and human beings are serious Pattern Masters! (Read the Octavia Butler books for a SF meditation on this.). However, despite reverent claims for Big Data, information isn’t wisdom, and Smart Devices shouldn't make us lazy and dumb. We need struggle and serendipity; we need mistakes. Convenience is highly overrated and a wicked marketing tool. Information isn’t knowledge or wisdom. Abstract formulations aren’t the same as concrete experiences--everything can’t be written as an algorithm. But Online experiences are as much a part of REALITY as any other experience.
We are cyborgs, animals incorporating our tools/technology into our bodies and altering/creating the universe we inhabit and that produces us. Story is one of our most powerful, world changing, universe altering technologies! The story of the Net is magical, mythic.
Are we getting the stories we desire?
Do we have the technology we want?
I need a Smart Device that doesn’t interrupt my flow, that supports my creative capacities—not one that replaces them with the paint by numbers version. I need Smart Devices that challenge me and other folks to go beyond comfort zones and like minds to engage in a radical reckoning with difference.
Perhaps our tech and tech platforms are dominated by the same empire ideologies that allowed for colonization of the planet (and contribute to the ongoing destruction of diversity— deadly empire monoculture)? So what are we doing with that?
In her Manifesto, Haraway notes that Cyborgs “are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins.”
We make the meaning. So what are the ideologies behind, around, running through the Internet? How do we choose to use the Net, to structure it? The Net has never been neutral. However, a predatory capitalist calibration of our technology is not inevitable--it is not the last word.
I’ll be considering unfaithful cyborgs in my next novel, Archangels of Funk.