Blog Theorization: A Cyborg Manifesto

While several of Donna Haraway’s sci-fi references eluded me as I trudged my way through her complex, yet humorous “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” she raises several arguments relevant to our readings on and practice of blogging.  Haraway’s main contention is that we can use the cyborg, “a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (149-50), to “take pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction” (150).  She uses her myth of the cyborg to distance herself, and to encourage fellow feminist and postmodern scholars to distance themselves, from the dominant, patriarchal, and capitalistic culture that create and reinforce Oedipal and Biblical structures.  Because her “cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities” (154), she attacks ideas about fundamental and essential identity in order to laud the importance of inserting “revolutionary stand-points, epistemologies” into the world that the “fraying of identities” allows.

Haraway invokes the arguments of feminist and Marxist scholars throughout her work and complicates their ideas of oppositional consciousness, women of color, and radical feminism to insert her own assertions and creates her own framework regarding the construction of “the woman” in the family, workplace, school, clinic-hospital, etc.  Through these references, Haraway practices her own philosophy by reinforcing the fluidity of identity and resisting “the one code that translates all meaning perfectly…the central dogma of phallogocentrism” (176), ultimately credentialing herself as a scholar invested in using the cyborg myth to solve problems.

The arguments raised in “A Cyborg Manifesto” relate to Mayer-Schonberger’s contentions in Delete, especially Haraway’s use of the word, “cyborg,” which combines the animal and machine.  Her employment of cyborgs align with the boundaries between the body and the machine that Mayer-Schonberger discusses.  He argues that since the explosion of new media technology and social networking culture, we, meaning our computers/machines, have lost the ability to forget events, experiences, or daily occurrences in our lives, and now possess perfect memory, a change with both advantageous and detrimental consequences.  Haraway’s essay also relates to Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget, as Lanier, who feels skeptical of virtual social networking, as it renders us “humanless” machines, believes that too much information exchange results in a loss of individuality.  Haraway’s cyborg myth abates that skepticism because it encompasses both the human and machine element in ourselves, and she uses these identities that bleed into each other to exert individual identity and insert into the world revolutionary ideas that challenge the ideals of dominant culture in society.

With biting wit and informed sci-fi references that her discursive prose sometimes obscures, Haraway clearly outlines her investment in the cyborg myth to solve problems that marginalized groups face. By arguing that the duality of human and machine can work to our advantage and revolutionize societal constructions of the “woman” and “family,” Haraway takes on a more optimistic view of the constantly changing human identity than Lanier and Mayer-Schonberger, who at least in some ways fear or feel skeptical about this fluidity.