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.


Blog Theorization Overview

Hello, Fellow Bloggers!

Tomorrow Belinda and I will present on Steve Himmer’s article “The Labyrinth Unbound: Weblogs as Literature.” Here is an overview of the article and of what we will discuss tomorrow. Check it out:

As Belinda and I sifted our way through Steve Himmer’s “The Labyrinth Unbound: Weblogs as Literature,” we realized that above all, the author’s interest lies in the relationship that blogs form and strengthen the relationship between writers and readers.  He raises arguments about the way the form of blogs classify them as pieces of literature, the way they differ from traditional texts, and their overall uniqueness in the way they function as significant elements of the literary/art world.

Throughout the article, Himmer relies on jargon that was completely foreign to me in order to describe the literariness of blogs.  He uses the term “ergodic literature,” meaning writing that requires  “significant, engaged effort on the part of a reader in the construction of the text—effort beyond the flow of eyes across words or the turning of pages.”  This genre emphasizes the importance of grappling with multiple and continuous perspectives while readers ingest the writing, meaning that ergodicism focuses on process and technique over product.  In particular, he classifies blogs as a special kind of ergodic literature because elements such as comment mechanisms, hyperlinks, and search options preclude the writers from imbuing readers with one, defined narrative, conclusion, or attitude about the content itself.  These features, along with readers’ ability to access a blog at any point in its production render blogs as ergodic, and as pieces of literature that constantly redefine and strengthen the relationship between the reader and writer.

Unlike any other writing genre, blogs are fluid and constantly changing.  To support this argument, Himmer discusses the advantage of time that blogs have over bound books and interactive fiction.  According to Himmer, “There is no completion of a weblog,” meaning that blogs open themselves to public influence and to the whims/impulses of the writer.  While blogs maintain this fluidity, traditional texts remain self-contained, discrete units that are permanently beyond the writers’ control as soon as they complete their work. This significant distinction between blogs and bound books/other texts speaks to the advantages blogs possess over other writing because they place a higher demand on readers to grapple with the content, and they from stronger relationships with readers.  For example, Himmer asserts that the advantage of time allows bloggers to immediately converse with readers on the actual blog post, which will then affect the writer’s next post in response to readers’ feedback and opinions.  In traditional texts, reader feedback must appear at a later time, in later works, which does not necessarily from as strong of a relationship between both parties as conversing in real time would. The fluidity and collectivity of blogs also supports their resistance to commoditization, as their element of time renders them difficult to contain them as one, complete work.

Finally, Himmer asserts the ways in which blogs align with avant-garde art principles.  The flexibility of blogs allows its authors to intermingle personal content with public and political content, resisting fragmentation and forming a cohesive whole.  In this way, blogs function as not only as a piece of literature, but also as a piece of art that further strengthens the relationship between the writer and reader.

Overall, Himmer maintains a sense of promise and hope for blogs throughout his article.  He stresses the unique way blogs engage readers through their literariness, fluidity, and flexibility.

A Stylish Blog Post from Natalie Houston

I very recently discovered Natalie Houston (as per Dr. L’s suggestion to me), an English professor/yogi, and her blog. One post in particular exemplifies her command of blog style.

Please check out the link: Where’s the love?

As a fellow yoga blogger and as someone immersed in the world of academia, I appreciate the way Houston introduces a somewhat foreign and philosophical topic to her readers in the beginning of her post, then applies that topic to life today, and ends by offering a practical way readers can implement this philosophy into their own lives.  For example, in “Where’s the love?” she first introduces us to the idea of the opening of energy fields and chakras, then applies that idea to Valentine’s Day reminder for us to remain open to and appreciative of all kinds of love, and finally offers a short breathing/visualization exercise we can try if we feel an absence of love in our lives.  This stylistic technique makes the seemingly esoteric knowledge/culture of yoga and meditation accessible to readers, which is what I aspire to do in my own blog.

She also uses style to democratize metaphysical philosophy and yoga to her readers by employing clear language.  She chooses simple diction such as contractions, ensures that her post is short, and punctuates her writing by bolding and “listing” the steps of the exercise.  She separates this part of her post from the rest of her prose, which allows readers a visual “break.”

Finally, Houston credentials herself as a writer interested in gaining a larger readership and promoting herself as an academic, writer and personal coach by listing links to her Twitter, RSS feed,email,  and newsletter.

Through her cleverly organized content, simple language, and links to her other online presences, Natalie Houston exemplifies strong blog style in her post, “Where’s the love?”