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Lecture 28 – 33.docx

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Western University
English 2017
Nigel Joseph

Lecture 28 – Mon Jan 20 Cyborgs • Even though we created them, they are smarter than us • Terminator – the first film the cyborg is menacing, in the second and third film there’s one that’s a savior and one that’s more menacing Bladerunner • The cyborgs are anti hero’s but at the end of the film the audience is mostly on the side of the cyborg • The film is set in the future, 2019 • The atmospherics – dirty, grimy, everything about the future is menacing • Human beings have made a mess of their world • We get the critique of human intelligence almost immediately o We haven’t handled our resources • We are drawn into this narrative and we learn that human beings have been genetically producing cyborgs – robotic machines – to do dangerous work in outer space o Work that human beings are unwilling or incapable of doing • We are told that these replicates are more intelligent as the human beings who have made them • We learn that 6 of them have escaped from a ship, killing all the human beings aboard and have come to earth as a potential danger • Harrison Ford plays a detective whose good at killing them, he’s reluctant • Harrison Ford is a descendent of the Humphry bogart characters o He has his little office o Keeps meeting these corrupt and dangerous people and somehow maintains his decency in a world that’s become corrupt o He locates them by a psychological test that reveals whether you are human or replicate – tests whether you can experience empathy  Replicates can’t feel any emotion  The irony is that this is a world where other species have been destroyed by human beings • Ford is successful in killing all the replicates, but in the process of doing so he realizes that the replicates are much better than human beings o They are physically more perfect o Intellectually brilliant o Above all, morally superior o The chief replicate the dies at the end is intended to be an ethical figure, he is a Christ like figure, he digs his nails into his palm, he talks about how much the world will lose o The humans in the film are killers o Chief refuses to kill Harrison Ford even though he had the chance 1 o At the end of the film the replicate has a white dove in his hand and when he dies it flies up into the grimy sky • Replicates only live for 4 years and they have come to earth to try and extend their lifespan o One of them says to live in fear is to be a slave • Clearly a film that is saying that sometimes our products are better than ourselves o Can be seen in harroway article o She says human beings have always been afraid of the product of technology o She says that there’s two reasons to not fear cyborgs because  We are on the way to being cyborgs (from our cellphones, laptops etc.)  Cyborgs represent a new start, human beings are burdened with history of oppression where as the cyborgs are free of the past and represent orientation with the future which are useful and uncomplicated • Human beings are shown as corrupt • In great tragedy, arrogance is punished quickly • An important theme of science fiction is the humorous of the scientist o They are the focus of our hostility – he will insist on putting together some chemicals or injecting something which causes the creation of the monster that endangers us o Our view of science – we admire scientists, but we also fear them and very often we despise them, often because we don’t know what they are doing o Pop culture captures this ambivalence to science – Frankenstein is the first representation of this o The creature he creates turns out to be a monster, but he’s not a monster from the start when he’s created he’s first filled with benevolence, he wants to read and improve his mind but then he finds out that humans hate him because of his difference appearance o Every time he interacts with human beings they try to kill him o Eventually he comes to hate humans and hate his maker and wants to seek revenge o He asks his doctor why he cant make him a female version of himself for him to live with him but he says no because he’s already made a mistake o The narrative becomes one of revenge, Frankenstein kills the doctors wife o The figure of frankenstein haunts pop culture narratives  Humour of scientists but notion that the created thing is better than the creator 2 • Blade Runner o The test provokes emotional response o The assumption is that replicates wont respond with the kind of horror that human beings are conditioned to respond to with such stimuli o One of the questions is a tortoise is flipped over and can’t turn back over why aren’t you helping? o Part of the replicates unhappiness comes from the fact that they are not human beings, they aren’t sure if their memories are even their own o Right from the first scene it’s trying to convey that human beings aren’t showing emotion, they are beaurocrats  The man giving the test is part of a corp that if you fail the test they kill you after o Powerful indictment of human carelessness, no humans being weepie yet the replicates are o The replicates are physically in perfect shape, articulate and elegant but the human beings are like machines with the killing and going about everyday life without emotion o Christ like imagery of the replicate of the dove and nail through the palm and the things he says take this cup I want to live Harroway • Women not in science – turned their back o Less women in science courses • She doesn’t think that women are less intellectually gifted, she suggests that women have always been slotted into the category of nature rather than science, we tend to govern our thinking of science by using a binary with nature and science on either side and women being positioned with nature o Seen as part of the earth o Men seen as partly technology o Reason for this is childbirth – because women give birth to children this assimilates them to world of nature o The way society positions you if you’re a women as nurturing and keeping the family in tact, love and comfort while men do science • She says women should resist this and power lies in science and women should seize this • She points out how we are already cyborgs o We are becoming more comfortable being part machine • Argues patterns of labor are changing so we are becoming more comfortable with machines and the feminization of labor is taking place • Traditionally men were the chief money makers who brought in food for the family 3 • In some countries women are preferred for certain tech fields because their nimble, small hands, willing to work less • Now there are women that are supporting the families – this is the feminization of labor • No longer is gender guaranteed she says o Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you are going to work for 40 years • Notion of cyborgs not in movies o Eg. Glasses – some cannot exist without glasses, they are extending their being into this technology o Eg. Cellphone has become extension of the personality  If it’s broken or taken away there’s a sense of grief o Laptops – people spend many hours of the day connected with their laptops o Blind people who use canes admit that they are an extension of the body – they are as sensitive to what they feel at the end of the cane as what we feel with their fingers o Car is a huge extension of cyborg – you are connected to anything  listen to music, go on the internet • Is all this stuff add on stuff and are we happily human or is she right and does this move us towards cyborgs? • 1. In classic fiction – many things described are reality now o Eg. Submarines were thought to be science fiction in vern’s book but now they are a reality o Suggesting that science fiction gives us a reality and can allow us to predict the future • 2. In plastic surgery, idea that people are willing to change their body, if you think of your body as a plastic envelope and the idea of things being able to be improved then you are already thinking like the kind of people harroway describes. You think of it like a machine that can be fixed and improved Robocop • Human capacity to plan and think but his body is mended together with metal, he has memories of human past – what makes us identify with him • Scene – he’s badly damaged and he’s repairing himself, female police officer is intrigued by him and trying to help him • He asks about his previous memories about his wife and kid • Contrast here – Robocop is good and obeying the law and the criminals are chaotic and the average human being is leading a trivial life o Making a point between humans and cyborgs • Scene – woman cop is helping Robocop align his shot o These types of scenes are usually romantic 4 o But here because it’s a cyborg it’s nothing like that, he’s actually fending her off o To some degree Harroway’s point about cyborg not being sexualized in a conventional way • Big differences between cyborg films and harroway’s argument is that they invest hugely in nostalgia o Eg. When het talks about his wife and son and he clearly wishes to be human again o In blade runner there’s the desire for them to be human • For Harroway there’s nothing about nostalgia, the cyborg is desirable Lecture 29 – Jan 22 • P 158. “The cyborg is .. utopian and completely without innocence” o She’s suggesting that since it’s created by us to perform certain functions it lacks innocence • “No longer structured by the polarity… the household” o She’s talking about a famous distinction between household and public sphere o Impotant for women because women have been traditionally restricted to the household o She’s suggesting that the cyborg makes it difficult to maintain this distinction • “Cyborgs are not relevant… after all “ o we should be suspicious of them because they came into existence because of the military industrial complex • She talks about that the boundary between human and animal has been breached • There’s a debate about whether or not human beings are unique and distinct from other species o People have suggested that we use language and animals don’t o We bury our dead they don’t etc. o Everything we do animals also do – there’s no clear distinction o Also the logic that cockroaches and rats are more successful than we are – they would survive a nuclear holocaust • “Movements for animal rights… life and social sciences” o First distinction – human and animals o Second is between human animals and machine  This is important for her as the barrier between humans and machines has become more blurred  All the different kinds of equipment we have started to use  Many of us are very reliant or closely attached to various gadgets 5  We are moving towards state of cyborgism, where there is no clear distinction between us and what we used to think of machines • “”Pre cybernetic machines…. Now we are not so sure” o from the media there are many films that have explored the idea that machines are capable of intelligence, reproducing themselves, dominating humans o Terminator films – machines have taken over the world and we hthe become slaves • “Late 20 century machines have made thoroughly distinctions… frightingly” o like description of blade runner o Harrison ford are taciturn, don’t weep, don’t fall in love • “The third distinction… mocking spirituality” o The technological world provides equal access to those who can understand it is anti patriarchal • “From one perspective the cyborg world… apocalypse” o She says a cyborg world is dangerous but there’s another perspective where people aren’t afraid of the joint kinship • “There is nothing about being female that binds women… and other social practices” o She rejects the idea that there is an essential gender o Women who don’t think of themselves as reproductive but more as professionals o She says it is a sign that women are acquiring power through their embrace of technology • P204 “This list suggests…. As well” o If you undermine one set in the binary the other side collapses as well o Most famously used to critique the idea of gender essence – man can only exist if there’s the opposite of man, which is women o If you undermine the notion that there’s essential women quality than you’re undermining the notion of essential male • 205 “The actual __ women… informatics of domination… for different people” • “the cyborg is.. feminist must call” o think of it as a product of the factory, eg. They can repair themselves, there is no one thing there that can be destroyed forever, every part can be reproduced o she’s suggesting that that’s a good model for women, instead of getting hung up on a notion of selfhood which is immortal we need to think of selfhood as replaceable and capable of sustaining itself through changing of specific parts • 206 Human babies with baboon parts 6 o Example of human being in uncomplicated way o “ A stress system goes array… human babies with baboon hearts provoke… at least as much for guardians or purity”  Those that struggle are the humans that say that the human body shouldn’t have introduced animals parts and the animal activist say why should we exploit the animals  These groups are focusing on a specific person living out cyborg identity  She suggests a whole other group participate in this – gay men, immigrants and drug users who are victims of disease • Extends notion to various categories of people that we do not know how to place • Gay men to her are troubling because they blur the line between male and female • “These excursions into communications… all depend upon electronics” o Each time you vote for an election all our votes depend on how the computers tally it up o Money in the bank – there is no actual money anywhere it is just electronic numbers on a screen o We are moving into a cybernetic network- especially through computers o We will perhaps know each other perhaps only through computers • “Microelectronics is the basis… o Reality will become what’s on the screen • The homework economy - “The new industrial revolution produces… women are not disappearing from the job loss as much as men” o In the US the automobile industry which was traditionally a safe and solid industry, the whole notion of the happy American male somehow depended on this secure employment opportunity it has become one of the most volatile industries in the world o Factories are closing down, people laid off o No security in some of the key industries o On the other hand women are not as threatened as men by these changes, they are entering the workforce in larger numbers o Partly because their expectations are fairly low, if they were excluded for so long they are willing to work at any level o For the first time they are becoming breadwinners in substantial numbers – perhaps up to 35-40% o Men are becoming more tolerant that they do not need to be the primary breadwinner Lecture 30 – Jan 27 7 • As we move towards smart home the strictures against women are diminished – no particular reason why women shouldn’t have the same skills or access to the same tools men have • She sees this as a development that has gender ramifications • Harroways essay is an optimistic one – she wants to fight our tendency to be oppressed by society • 1. She says women have typically identified themselves with nature or being oppressed o Most feminist groups when they try and cause solidarity based on suffering o She says all this is well but brings the danger of trapping women in oppression – they start taking pride in oppression o She says women need tog et away from this and the position of moral superiority • 2. To think of a real life women harroway would be on the side of a woman who works as a mechanic or professional in the corporate world and refuses to identify herself as a women o just as many of us who are not white or in perfect physical shape who will sometimes not mark themselves as this because we want
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