On SF & Donna Haraway:

Contained in these briefest of sketches, however, are important keys to understanding the full intent of Haraway’s ironic myth. The Manifesto calls on SF in a number of ways. First, and crucially, looking to SF becomes a way of foregrounding and talking about the mythic elements of technoscience. Thee Manifesto is centrally concerned with a reconstruction of socialist-feminist politics “in the belly of the monster” -a drive that requires a “theory and practice addressed to the social relations of science and technology, including crucially the systems of myth and meanings structuring our imaginations” (Haraway 1991a: 163). For Haraway, SF is a useful tool for foregrounding such “systems of myth;’ especially if we export our SF reading practices to science and see both as stories about science.

SF in the Manifesto is also, of course, a key source for the figure of the cyborg itself. As in all her work, “grokking” the cyborg entails accepting the enmeshing of the material and semiotic, the “reality” of subjects described by science as well as their historical constructedness. Thus “the cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience” and Haraway’s cyborg, at least, sees its promise in the confusion of boundaries between organism and machine that seemed reified as part of the science/arts, nature/culture, human/animal binaries. The SF cyborgs Haraway cites as cogenitors are key for the way they “populate worlds ambiguously natural and
crafted” (Haraway 1991c:149). That is, the SF worlds writing cyborgs into being always skirt the im/possibility of the natural/artifactual dualism. It is in this sense that Haraway calls her feminist SF writers “theorists for cyborgs” and our “story-tellers exploring what it means to be embodied in high-tech worlds” (Haraway 1991c:173).

Key to Haraway’s approach in the Manifesto is the need to oppose a technophobic fear of the machine and instead accept the machinic-and the collapse of technological/organic boundaries-as part of our embodiment; “the machine is us, our processes, and aspect of our embodiment”(Haraway 1991c:180). These are, of course, not the only boundaries that must be challenged. Importantly, “cyborg monsters in feminist science fiction define quite different political possibilities and limits from those proposed by the mundane fiction of Man and Woman” (Haraway 1991c:180 )that is, our stories of sexual, gendered, and species divisions, amongst others. Haraway provides a whole list of oppositions and objects whose status as natural, given, universals is challenged in this work. “Thee cyborgs populating feminist science fiction make very problematic the statuses of man or woman, human, artefact, member of a race, individual entity or body” (Haraway 1991c:178). Indeed, most of the examples Haraway cites in the close of the Manifesto do not so much confuse the human/machine boundaries we commonly associate with the SF cyborg as they trouble these other problematic boundaries. Russ’s Female Man “refuse(s) the reader’s search for innocent wholeness” (Haraway 1991c:178); while Tiptree is called on for her “generations of male brood pouches and male nurturing”; Varley for his “mad goddess-planet-trickster-old womantechnological device” Gaea; and Butler for her black sorceresses, shapeshifters, mixed species and human-alien characters. 1here is human/technology interface here, certainly, but in the case of Tiptree, Varley, and Butler these are cyborgian monsters produced through biotechnology, and ones where the human/other boundary is polluted through intermingling between races, species, aliens, and animals. What all these texts have in common is the way in which they were consciously engaged in rewriting and revisioning both traditional SF narratives as well as broader scientific and social discourses. Most of the texts Haraway references were associated with the feminist utopian movement, however these visions were not-as some commentators persisted in arguing-blueprints for a real “elsewhere.”” Communion or joining with the alien or animal in feminist SF is not a desire to escape planet Earth and indulge in miscegenation, but a way of thinking differently about what it means to be human-to resist and warp the self-other dyad. The appeal of all these texts for a cyborg trickster figuration is their resistance to wholeness, unity, and innocence… The alien species, races, organisms, and machines populating these texts mean we cannot escape the fact that right from the beginning there was always more going on than the boys from Wired or the cyberpunks might have thought.

It is this destruction that “provokes the necessity of active rewriting as reading.”

Haraway-qua-reader feels compelled to rewrite not just the story itself but “the whole human and unhuman collective that is Lisa Foo” (that is: just as she has reread and rewritten the cyborg, oncomouse, or dogs). She uses this act or performance of rereading to make her real point, which  is about the aim and function of such rereadings, reappropriations, and reconfigurings. … This is, of course, precisely what Haraway does with her other figurations, including the cyborg: she rearticulates or redescribes them in order to foreground that which is hidden or foreclosed. “It’s not a ‘happy ending’ we need, but a non-ending” (Haraway 2004:no).

From Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway 

On muteness:

“The differend demands a rigorous listening-not because of some a priori rule which says I must do the other’s bidding, but precisely due to the absence of a priori rules, to the sui generis nature of the encounter Every differend has never happened before-it is always happening for the first time, and thus requires an openness to every possible way of linking onto the phrases produced. “Phrase” here does not necessarily mean linguistic phrases, but it does mean “utterance” produced by a semiotic agent or whatever is taken to be a semiotic agent by the rules of the language game. In other words, in some contexts a lighting bolt might be a phrase (as when a mystic believes herself to be peaking to God, who then sends down a lightning bolt in response), whereas in others it won’t be (as in a meteorological di course). Silence is a phrase when someone chooses to withhold or not speak. Thu , for our purposes, everything depends upon showing that nonhumans can be, and are, semiotic agents and maintaining a context in which what they produce counts as utterances in spite of the fact that these utterance will ncesarily be, for lack of a better term, different. In other words, this model of democratic being-with requires that we figure the other as capable of meaningful utterances even as we are unable to understand these utterances.

Cary Wolfe’s critique of Lyotard’s notion of the differend centers precisely on the notion of agency and its humanistic entanglements. Because the differend takes place between agents of phrases, it is not the best model for understanding our differences from animals when animals are “mute” as a matter of course, not agentially. The animal’s silence is not a phrase and so not a proper silence, “it is not a withholding, and thus does not express the ethical imperative of dissensus and the diflerend” (Wolfe 2003:59). Because the animal cannot be said to be the agent of its utterances in the same way as the human, Wolfe argues, this fundamentally undermines the effectiveness of the differend schema for a multispecies theory of justice. Lyotard’s humanist commitments sneak in “in the taken-for-granted muteness of the animal, which, crucially, can never be a withholding” (Wolfe 2003:62). However, apart from what Lyotard may or may not have written about the animal, it is important to examine what role agency could possibly play in a philosophy that begins from the condition of a relation of not-understanding the other. What does it mean to identify a being as a semiotic agent-or not-in conditions of not-understanding?”

From, Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway 


GABBLER RECOMMENDS: “My Roomba Has Achieved Enlightenment”

Robots are typically seen as having no consciousness. But potentially they have the highest kind: equanimity. This is the emotion Buddhism counts as among the most sublime. The Buddha evidently described the equanimous mind as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility, and without ill will.” My Roomba is certainly without hostility and ill will. Going about her daily rounds, she’s something like blithe—both self-contained and indifferent to human value systems. As for abundant, exalted, and immeasurable, I can’t be sure. How to measure these things, or is that what “immeasurable” means?


BookTuber Tuesday – »Critical Zones« Discussion of the Film »Storytelling for Earthly Survival« ZKM | Karlsruhe

See also: Gods in our Machines

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘We’re on the Brink of Cyberpunk’ by KELSEY D. ATHERTON

The 2020s are, in a real, tangible sense, the conclusion of The Long 1980s. Writing in the 1980s, foundational cyberpunk authors were watching as leaders on both sides of the Atlantic pursued a set of political reforms collectively known as neoliberalism. Prioritizing competition in the market above all else, these reforms were fundamentally a political project, aimed at shrinking the public sphere and undoing many of the commitments to social welfare that had been made in the wake of the chaos, upheaval, and deprivation of the first half of the 20th century. The neoliberal turn was a project of unmaking the state for individuals and communities and remaking it for capital.

Cyberpunk conjured a world at this end state of neoliberal reorganization. Islands in the Net features drone warfare launched against data havens at the behest of corporations. In Blade Runner, the profit considerations of multinational companies determine worker personhood. There is more than a little of the Tyrell Corporation’s prudent life expectancy design in how Amazon responds to worker protest over a lack of personal protective equipment. Today, cyberpunk’s anticipated neoliberal end state is nothing more fanciful than life as we know it.