ENG237: Science Fiction
Second Quiz is due this week (up from Thursday-Friday).
- Check syllabus to see which readings are covered on the quiz
How is identity affected by technology and science (technoscience)? Much of SF is concerned
with answering the question of what it means to be human, and what human is.
First image: lack of face-to-face communication, constantly "wired in", their phones are very
much a part of who they are--like an extension of their bodies.
- woman's face is very blank
- the two are mirroring each other
- is technology taking away from the world around it, or adding to it?
- they're together and separate at the same time
- the phone is an aversion strategy
- the phone acts as a barrier between the two of them
- ironic: a communication device blocks communication (!)
Second image: technology seen as very positive, makes them happier? Intimacy with technology
(in the way the woman is holding her laptop).Again, technology an extension of the body.
- assimilation/cult mentality
- very sanitized: identity has been taken from them?
- staged, artiﬁcial, unnatural
- glorious, hopeful, euphoric, moving forward--yet they're tied down
- very religious looking
Third image: technology as power? Gives him conﬁdence?
- contributes to his masculinity
- not like everyone else--not everyone has access to this sort of technology
- projects his identity onto an object
Fourth image: again, an extension of the body. Lack of face-to-face interactions/communication.
- gives you control over your surroundings (similar to listening to music on the TTC)
- eyes are censored out, nobody is looking at each other
- you can't connect with people
- fashion statement, status symbol
- can be connecting people in another way?
Fifth image: same thing, technology an extension of the body. Technology provides her with
power/ability/probably conﬁdence. Increased quality of life?
- the next stage in evolution: merging of human and machine
- changes her ability to express her identity and potential
The presence of science and technology becomes normalized in our lives--we tend to no longer
even think about it. But it can also play a role in the assumptions we make about others.
- comes from the Latin: "same/sameness", "over and over again, repeatedly" - the quality or condition of being the same in substance, composition, nature, properties, or in
particular qualities under consideration; absolute or essential sameness,
- who and what someone is, what distinguishes one person from another
- individuality, personality
- identity can refer to individuals OR groups
- different communities deﬁne one's identity; sense of continuity among a community
There are a variety of ways to acknowledge identity.
- psychological, emotional
- biological/physiological (e.g. sex, skin colour, height, etc.)
- cultural (gender, race, etc.)
- social (class, profession, education, etc.)
What role do science and technology have in shaping and deﬁning identity? How do science and
technology affect human relationships, and how we read others? How might science and
technology challenge or destabilize or assumptions about what it means to be human, or to
have a certain kind of identity?
In SF, we have this question of what can humanity become through and because of science and
technology? This is known as POST-HUMANISM or TRANS-HUMANISM. The idea of
humanity evolving into something that we may no longer recognize as human the way we
deﬁne it today. This could be achieved through a number of ways. Example: becoming a
fourth in SPIN.
Post-human is predominately an optimistic perspective: humanity constantly progressing/
evolving/overcoming limitations of the physical body.
Wilhelm and Tiptree: how technology and science affect identity in terms of gender, sex, and
sexuality. Technology can have a lot to do with the status of women's bodies. In both stories,
women's bodies function as commodities exploited by men, who control the means of
production and distribution.
Dove EvolutionAd. We begin with a very real woman, but by the end she has become something
not real. Some aspects are seen as "more desirable" than others. Technology can actively
shape what constitutes an ideal.
In both Wilhelm and Tiptree, the primary female characters are cyborgs. Transmitter isAnne's
head/electro-jacks in P. Burke. Delphi herself is an android. These women are all made by
men for commercial purposes.
Donna Haraway. The cyborg as a positive for women. The cyborg is a means of moving beyond
and away from the dichotomies that we rely on (such as man/woman, self/other, etc). The
cyborg is politically/culturally/aesthetically a subversive ﬁgure. "I would rather by a cyborg
than a goddess." Goddesses are worshipped, but cyborgs are powerful.
In the Wilhelm and Tiptree stories, the women-as-cyborgs are limited/commodiﬁed in many
ways, and not seen as quite so positive. Wilhelm: the "gimmick" that allows people to feel the emotions of others. This is the novum in
the story. In this story, it's speciﬁcally techno-science that allows people to achieve this
voyeuristic experience for viewers. It is very quickly harnessed to be used for commercial
Anne wants to quit but is convinced to stay on. Her decision is changed when her boss threatens
to raise the emotional stakes. Emotions in this world are important. Because of the gimmick,
real emotions are valued. Emotion is the commodity in this world. ThroughAnne, women are
getting to have a life outside their own lives. However there is an increasing need for new
emotional responses. There is a need for constant growth to generate returns and proﬁt.
In this story, we have examples wherein women's bodies are the key to this need for more. The
girl who succeeds in the audition while being sexually assaulted, as well asAnne. Women's