Cyborgs Defined (Assistance from Amber Case)

Last modified by Michael Fischer on 2018/02/11 10:04

On Dec 16, 2009, at 12:38 PM, Amber Case wrote:

I'd be inclined to say that anything that is an external prosthetic device creates one into a cyborg. The idea of a cell phone being a technosocial object that enables an actor (user) to communicate with other actors (users) on a network (information exchange and connectivity) makes one into what David Hess calls low-tech cyborgs: 

"I think about how almost everyone in urban societies could be seen as a low-tech cyborg, because they spend large parts of the day connected to machines such as cars, telephones, computers, and, of course, televisions. I ask the cyborg anthropologist if a system of a person watching a TV might constitute a cyborg. (When I watch TV, I feel like a homeostatic system functioning unconsciously.) I also think sometimes there is a fusion of identities between myself and the black box" (Gray (The Cyborg Handbook), 373). 

"According to the editors of The Cyborg Handbook, cyborg technologies take four different forms: restorative, normalizing, reconfiguring, and enhancing (Gray/Mentor/Figueroa-Sarriera 3). Cyborg translators are currently thought of almost exclusively as enhancing: improving existing translation processes by speeding them up, making them more reliable and cost-effective. And there is no reason why cyborg translation should be anything more than enhancing" (source: 

Other specialized cyborg types:

the protocyborg, which "lacks full embodiment" (14); the protocyborg translator would consist of a human translator sitting at a typewriter, or perhaps at a dedicated word-processor without internet access

the neocyborg, which "has the outward form of cyborgism, such as an artificial limb, but lacks full homeostatic integration of the prosthesis" (14); the neocyborg translator consists of a human translator sitting at a computer, but so that the computer still serves as a typewriter, without full utilization of word-processing, term-management, e-mail, or web-browsing capabilities the semicyborg, an intermittent cyborg, only hooked up to technology some of the time; most professional translators become semicyborgs when they work

the hypercyborg, a cyborg embodiment that is layered or cobbled together into a larger cyborg whole; the hypercyborg translator consists of a network of many smaller cyborg translators, as when a team of semicyborg translator-editors is linked together by listserv or webboard and their collective output is fed into a centralized database, term-management program, or other machine(-aided) translation system

the retrocyborg, a cyborg transformation intended to recreate some lost form; a retrocyborg translator might be one in which, for purposes of historical illustration at a translator fair, say, a human translator sits at a computer made to look like an old pre-electric typewriter, which guides its human operator to make translation decisions typical of protocyborg practice (when to hit the carriage return, when to roll the page up and correct a mistake with whiteout, when to pull the page all the way out and start it over)

the pseudoretrocyborg, a cyborg transformation intended to recreate a lost form that never existed; well, we're pretty far into science fiction, here, but we can imagine, say, a retrocyborg made to look like a spirit-channeling translator, someone receiving the words of the target text from the spirit world (might be an attractive display at the main LDS museum in Salt Lake City, a cyborg demonstration of how Joseph Smith actually translated the Book of Mormon - although, of course, the Mormons would want to call the cyborg translator a retrocyborg rather than a pseudoretrocyborg)

(source: same as above) 

There's some more good text and quotes here:

  1. Cyborgs actually do exist; about 10% of the current U.S. population are estimated to be cyborgs in the technical sense, including people with electronic pacemakers, artificial joints, drug implant systems, implanted corneal lenses, and artificial skin. A much higher percentage participates in occupations that make them into metaphoric cyborgs, including the computer keyboarder joined in a cybernetic circuit with the screen, the neurosurgeon guided by fiber optic microscopy during an operation, and the teen gameplayer in the local videogame arcarde. "Terminal identity" Scott Bukatman has named this condition, calling it an "unmistakably doubled articulation" that signals the end of traditional concepts of identity even as it points toward the cybernetic loop that generates a new kind of subjectivity. [Katherine Hayles, "The Life of Cyborgs: Writing the Posthuman."Cyborg Handbook, 322]

2. This merging of the evolved and the developed, this integration of the constructor and the constructed, these systems of dying flesh and undead circuits, and of living and artificial cells. have been called many things: bionic systems, vital machines, cyborgs. They are a central figure of the late Twentieth Century. . . . But the story of cyborgs is not just a tale told around the glow of the televised fire. There are many actual cyborgs among us in society. Anyone with an artificial organ, limb or supplement (like a pacemaker), anyone reprogrammed to resist disease (immunized) or drugged to think/behave/feel better (psychopharmacology) is technically a cyborg. The range of these intimate human-machine relationships is mind-boggling. It's not just Robocop, it is our grandmother with a pacemaker. [Chris Hables Gray, Steven Mentor, and Jennifer Figueroa-Sarriera, "Cyborgology: Constructing the Knowledge of Cybernetic Organisms."Cyborg Handbook, 322]

Four Kinds of Cyborg

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

In "Cyborgology: Constructing the Knowledge of Cybernetic Organisms" -- the introduction to their Cyborg Handbook -- Chris Hables Gray, Steven Mentor, and Jennifer Figueroa-Sarriera describe four classes of cyborg:

Cyborg technologies can be restorative, in that they restore lost functions and replace lost organs and limbs; they can be normalizlng, in that thev restore some creature to indistinguishable normality; they can be ambiguously reconfiguring, creating posthuman creatures equal to but different from humans, like what one is now when interacting with other creatures in cyberspace or, in the future, the type of modifications proto-humans will undergo to live in space or under the sea having given up the comforts of terrestrial existence; and they can be enhancing, the aim of most military and industrial research, and what those with cyborg envy or even cyborgphilia fantasize. The latter category seeks to construct everything from factories controlled by a handful of "worker-pilots" and infantrymen in mind-controlled exoskeletons to the dream many computer scientists have-downloading their consciousness into immortal computers. [3]

Created by Michael Fischer on 2018/02/11 10:04


If you're starting with XWiki, check out the Getting Started Guide.

My Recent Modifications

Need help?

If you need help with XWiki you can contact:

Unless otherwise indicated © 2007-2018 AnthroNexus
v 2018.1