“It would seem that the body is the fatal adversary of our imaginations; the time-honoured Greek separation of body and mind. Our fantasies about ourselves can have a force that is highly imaginative, but in reality, our image is simply that of our body.”

 

 

 

 

We born in a biological body 

which is the only evidence of our existence in the real world 

I am

An address 

The number

Names

etc

The interior of my room

The outer layer of my jacket

Or the flesh beneath my skin

Alternatively the face on the PC screen 

Which projected on my mom’s lap top.

I exist beyond what you see me in a proper dress

My appearance is definite, it is for the viewers to define. 

My existence is beyond what to be confirmed. Or acknowledged.

Now you can not see me, 

Do you still visually want to confirm me as Manshu in front of you?

Agree / disagree ?

My existence is beyond what to be confirmed or acknowledged.

If fashion was meant to communicate an Identity of human beings. 

Visually 

It must be extended to a new external reality of being

We born in a biological body 

which is the only evidence of our existence in the real world 

I am

An address 

The number

Names

etc

The interior of my room

The outer layer of my jacket

Or the flesh beneath my skin

Alternatively the face on the PC screen 

Which projected on my mom’s lap top.

I exist beyond what you see me in a proper dress

My appearance is definite, it is for the viewers to define. 

My existence is beyond what to be confirmed. Or acknowledged.

If fashion was meant to communicate an Identity of human beings. 

- Visually -

It must be extended to a new external reality of being

Fashion has to progress into a new communication method to translate mind beyond my true body. 

I am

An address 

The number

Names

Etc

I am

An address 

The number

Names

etc

The interior of my room

The outer layer of my jacket

Or the flesh beneath my skin

Alternatively the face on the PC screen 

Which projected on my mom’s lap top.

I exist beyond what you see me in a proper dress

My appearance is definite, it is for the viewers to define. 

My existence is beyond what to be confirmed. Or acknowledged.

If fashion was meant to communicate an Identity of human beings. 

- Visually -

It must be extended to a new external reality of being

Fashion has to progress into a new communication method to translate mind beyond my true body. 

I am

An address 

The number

Names

etc

Opening question

 

To begin with, fashion is studied alongside one’s identity and self-image. Clothes, in common sense, has been regarded as a representation of oneself, externally and socially. The punk movement in Britain, has subverted the norms of proper dressing. So far, we are at a stage when individuality is widely celebrated. We’ve come such a long way for us to have the ability and the freedom to become who we are, outwardly, whether as lesbian, gender neutral person, rebels, or alien creatures… which defiantly has a beauty to it.  

 

 

Yet, I am terribly troubled. 

 

 

1 / Human Gaze (the viewer)

When dressed up, in public, we are being gazed. 

 

The self-image that we presented, may or may not towards any others, is being defined, judged, and categorised by the viewers. Accordingly, “who we are” is confirmed by others. Especially in contemporary society, when a dominant number of people believe that you are who you wore. Such a statement becomes part of my concern. 

 

French Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, in his book Totality and Infinity, elaborated a ‘face-to-face’ encounter between “I” and “Other” (someone else). Being as being-in-the-world [Heidegger, Levinas]. Michael Morgan discussed Levinas’ existential theories in ration to ethical theory, in which, he believed Levinas’ concern is ‘with the exteriority or transcendence of the other who addresses me’. Whereas, Diana Perpich also added to the claim, argues that ‘the face-to-face gives rise to a normativity without norms’1.

 

This gazing behaviour directly contributes to people’s perception to me, to you, to she/he which results into a very flat “2-dimensional” image, or the impression of the person that they come across. 

 

 

2 / consciousness, interiority - exteriority (self)

The paradox of being beyond biological. 

 

Jean Paul Sartre wrote, “conception of the subject is projected onto the world as its objective feature”. Fashion, as the discipline that directly depicts the inner self using the “decoration” onto the biological body, is the best medium available for us to think through the Mind-body relationship.

 

In Discourse, Rene Descartes wrote: 

 

Next I examined attentively what I was. I saw that while I could pretend that I had no body and that there was no world and no place for me to be in, I could not for all that pretend that I did not exist. I saw on the contrary that from the mere fact that I thought of doubting the truth of other things, it followed quite evidently and certainly that I existed; whereas if I had merely ceased thinking, even if everything else I had ever imagined had been true, I should have had no reason to believe that I existed. From this I knew I was a substance whose whole essence or nature is simply to think, and which does not require any place, or depend on any material thing, in order to exist. (6:32–3)

In the book Space, time, and perversion Elizabeth A. Grosz (philosopher, feminist theorist, and professor) wrote: ‘Identity comes from its identification with its own image in a mirror’. Here comes the paradox: 

 

First,  the biological form is the sensual organ for the thinking self to be able to feel, sense, and reflect on.

Second, the inner self does not pre-exist before the biological self. The formation of the inner self is built around the observation of the actual image of the biological form and the material environment that it is located.

Third,  the inner self is imaginative, complex, and free, which can go beyond what the biological self can represent at one time. Therefore, the body can put the mind in prison. 

 

 

Starting Point / Dimensionality and Existence

Transcendence[philosophy term] - physical and social circumstances.

 

The thought experiment Schrödinger's cat described the paradoxical relationship between the observer and the observed. According to the collapse theories in Quantum Mechanics, when observed,the reality collapses into one possibility or other. Caused by the observation, the “possible” turns into the “actual”. “Who we are” is, thus, “captured” by others when biological form of being is observed. Yet, Being, is having great possibilities. 

 

My starting point, therefore, is to challenge the certainty.

 

The dressed-up visible self

words by Chaney Manshu Diao 2020

 

Cyber refugee: the death and the aftermath of a cyborg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1], Detail from “The Creation of Adam”.

 

. The modern death of a cyborg.

In December 2010, Amber Case delivered a speech at TEDWomen platform with the opening statement, “I want to tell you that you are all actually cyborgs”. The views hits its new record, with a number of 2,021,093, stoped at my last refresh to the page. [2]

I can’t help but wonder, how the “cyborgs” behind that number have reacted to this?

Case’s TEDTalk was later mentioned within the introduction of Chris Gray’s 2021 book: modified: living as a cyborg as iconic [3], as part of a long list of exemplary “modern” cyborgs which was discussed in the book's later chapters - from medically implanted bodies to the m undane man-with-smartPhone. Written, approximately, 35 years after Donna Haraway’s “a cyborg’s manifesto”, 60 years from the first invention of the term “cyborg” by Clynes and Kline, the cyborg being described from Gray’s text is apparently a transfiguration of the “historical” conception of a cyborg. Whether this reconfiguration or refashioning of the term Cyborg does prove its significance in time or not, there’s a suspicion here that we are witnessing an extermination of a historical existence of a mythic species: named cyborg.

. the origin story of a cyborg.

61 years ago, in 1960, the word cyborg was first used by two scientists, white man, Clynes and Kline, in an article called Cyborgs and Space. The cyborg of their creation “…deliberately incorporates exogenous components extending the self-regulatory control function of the organism in order to adapt it to new environments.” [4] The technology associated within this paper was later framed to the historical thought of making “super-man” or “machine-man” to survive the inhuman environment of the outer space, which eventually was left behind after the proven success of the space suit and capsule development for space missions. 

After the brief introduction to the term cyborg, the usage of the word was extremely limited “among scientists, who preferred more specific labels such as biotelemetry, human augmentation, human-machine systems, human-machine interfaces, teleoperators.” [5] However the tale of the cyborg caught on within science fictions. 

1960s-70s in the science fiction history (a time frame between the first invention of the term cyborg and Donna Haraway’s writing of a cyborg manifesto ) was defined as the new wave era - “an era of generational dissent, crisis and rebellion.” [6] This era marked the growth in numbers of the female writers in science fiction field and the emergence of the cyborg fictions, which subverted “a mainly white, male, heterosexual genre into a more diverse body of texts.” [7] The new wave movement in science fiction is also academically perceived in coherence with the rising of the worldwide second-wave feminism. This specific social, cultural and the political climate enabled the themes such as race, gender and alienation to be explored within those women science fictions, in which the term cyborg takes on board a variety of human-machine fusions to become a boundary-crossing metaphor. 

The new wave science fiction also acknowledged a separation of the “soft” and “hard” sciences, where feminist science fiction “emphasised cultural and social (soft) sciences, such as anthropology, linguistics, and social theories” [8] as an contrast to the traditional sciences. The distinction between the “soft” and “hard” science authorised a transition within science fictions that allowed a cultural critique to come through. The condition of the cyborg, therefore, inherited this cultural complexity to become the affirmations of differences between “other” or “others”  and “I” or “we”. The construction of “I” verses “other” also constituted to the essence of the identification of aliens/alienness within the science fictions.

The significance of cyborg relating to cultural studies did not emerge until Donna Haraway wrote her a cyborg’s manifesto in 1985. Published on Socialist Review, constructed in relation to the Marx’s Communist Manifesto, influenced by the second-wave feminism in 1970s and the New Left Movement in the 80s. The manifesto is conceived by Haraway as “a feminist theoretical document” [9].

One major critique Haraway received for her manifesto until today, is an ambiguity related to the definition of cyborg (Malik, 2001). This impreciseness is resulted from Haraway’s configuration of cyborg being both a reality (the mentioning of cybernetics and man-with-device) and a fiction (The techno-political-halfblooded cyborg). Although academically there does not exist a separation of cyborg as reality from fiction in relation to Haraway’s writing, It is not hard to understand a dramatically divided level of fusion in both scenarios - in fiction and in reality. As the identity of the cyborgs in reality are not usually impacted by the machine side, let along acquiring a fused identity. When we look at the emphasis of this manifesto of developing a feminist identity theory, which stands as a critique towards western dualism, as well as, a careful examination out of the binary system. Such an intention relies greatly on the cyborg’s partial identity as a theoretical strategy, which depends on a recognition of cyborg-in-fiction as the cyborg to support core arguments within Haraway’s discussion. 

The cyborg within the cyborg manifesto, as Haraway termed it, is a joining of binary boundaries and a testament of a self-other. This fabrication although granted cyborg a radical superpower against established politics and systems, has its aftereffect of placing cyborgs to be the ultimate other contrasting to us, forever.

. Cyborg-in-reality

When cyborg was firstly outlined by their two fathers as a man-machine system, it was designed to be an advanced cybernetic system that cooperates autonomously with the human body to enhance human performance [10]. Cybernetics therefore is the scientific paradigm, as well as, the “reality” side of the machine-man making. 

Commonly known as a feedback and control system, cybernetics has been widely researched and utilised: from the earliest applications in communication and system science to develop self-running systems, to today’s varied scopes such as AI and virtuality. Survey the history of cybernetics. With a mechanistic view of human body and materialistic view of human mind (Muri, 2007), the advancement of cybernetic technology enabled an expansion of knowledge on techno-bodies from the following two major sections: first, varied forms of body modifications (Gray, Figueroa-Sarriera and Mentor, 2021); second, a materialisation of mind and consciousness, reflected as behavioural data. 

(Body) modifications - within modern clinics

The body modification’s most common form starts with a combination of human body with mechanic implants - from prosthetics to artificial organs - is now everywhere within clinical treatments. These modified bodies are promised to have an extended life span or an improved quality of life after the treatment under the instructions from doctors. When public health was examined by Foucault [11] in relation to capitalism and power, he warned us that a pattern of governance can be achieved through monitoring collective vitality (Rabinbow, 2006). As “one pole of the biopower focuses on an anatamo-politics of the human body, seeking to maximise its forces and integrate efficient systems.” [12] A cyborg in this form (medically implanted body-machine hybrid) might be a victim of the modern bio capital. 

Virtuality - from Man-with-a-device to Man-behind-a-screen 

Although human beings is always a tool user, it is only until the popularity of SmartMobiles and the common use of internet that blurred the boundary of human form. What is significant about this portable machinery apart from its condensed collection of utility functions such as clock, navigation…and its mobilised feature, is that it connects people with each other via electromagnetic radio waves (phone calls) and internet. The phone in this way becomes the portal towards a cyberspace, where people meet, communicate, socialise and “live” virtually. Without the virtual social reality created via using the connection apps, smartPhones are merely another example of bodily modifications that further extended our brain capacity.

This enhanced hybridity between physical and virtual within cyberspace caused a separation of people’s physical reality and their imagination of the self, where, take gender identity for instance, a neutral or non-binary identity can be re/claimed without altering the biological body. Yet, scholars, such as Gillian Brown, argued against the optimism behind this statement. “It may be that cyborgs will be neither male nor female, neither with nor without colour…but how we are affected by cyborg technology now still depends a great deal on what gender, race, and class we are.” [13] Indeed, this hopeful wish towards an idealistic cyber existence of human beyond body places the information pattern in privilege over material reality, which contradicts to the mind-body inseparable thought (Hayles, 1999). Whether this will be a step forward into a transformative new world or an unforeseen pitfall, this is not a compromising future we can so easily rely upon. 

The embodied virtual life form also builds upon a matrix of information - from the fundamental construction of cybernetics to the infrastructure of cyberspace. Humankind is expected to consent to the tracking of our behaviour data in exchange for a free? service and some convenience offered by an app. By becoming a user through your portable devices, people are facing potential “threats to privacy, autonomy, (and) nondiscrimination.”[14] This cyborg reality harvests users’ personal information to produce prediction products, as a result gives birth to a new form of dominant group who controls those information (Zuboff, 2019). Given the name hacker/vector class by Wark Mekenzie in her book Capital is dead, is this something worse? in 2019, this new ruling class still is believed to repeat a capitalism convention of re/creating a dominant-subordinate division.

. reality vs fiction 

As Haraway put it, cyborg faces “the main trouble …(of being the) illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism.” [15] This failure of fitting into the system makes cyborg-in-fiction an undoubted threat to the existing system and an evolving danger to any forms of surveillance. This feminist framing distinguishes cyborg-in-fiction from the cyborg reality - an incapability of being a rebel in face of the social and political system. 

The only seemingly intertwined part between cyborg-in-realty and cyborg-in-fiction would be a case study around gender modification, which has become a more commonly perceived reality in nowadays. The modified gendered body did challenge the conception of a fixed identity, yet, the shifting from one gender to the other still follows a dualistic binary. In comparison, Haraway’s manifestation of cyborg allows a third gender identity to emerge out of the either-man-or-woman categorisation. In this way, the non/gendered cyborg-in-fiction still marks its distinction to the reality. 

. The death and the aftermath of a cyborg.

When Amber Case said “you are all actually cyborgs” 11 years ago, her sound and image were first documented and transformed into a series of data. Today, by clicking the web address, a replay of her sound and visual material connects us from present to the past. Whatever emotions triggered while receiving her message through time, what hooks on my mind is a confusion and a sense of lost.

How could a creature as the ultimate other becomes one of us, or us? 

This talk did not seem to give me any explanation. 

Sadly, Case is far from alone. It seems like the modern usage of cyborg always emphasised a study around a hybrid reality, as well as, a man-device/technology relation. Cyborg in this form, which I named it as cyborg-in-reality throughout the essay, is unquestionably a mundane reality for everyone. But if everyone’s a cyborg, what is the point of insisting using the term cyborg instead of admitting it to be a (new) post/human condition ( Tirado Serrano and Mora Martinez, 2004)? This flawed identification of cyborg in return leaves an extremely liminal space for a critical comprehension of cyborg to be more than a post/human reality. 

When Haraway re/birthed cyborg with her a cyborg’s manifesto, she “seeks a model that engages in the negation of the authority of identity at the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class.” [16] A mythology confronts grouping, identification, and the construction of us, as ”a potential political myth” [17]. This mystical species, named cyborg, was only a find within the feminist science fictions, therefore, is a metaphor. Even if the material reality seems to have ensured us a cyber future, the cyborg future Haraway tried to picture in her manifesto will only arrive through political antagonism and activism, systematic rebuild, and paradigm shifting. 

Although possesses a political superpower, The cyborg-in-fiction relies on the identification by feminist writers and scholars, such as Haraway, to exist. The contemporary difficulty of re/claiming cyborg-in-fictional against “the cyborg” being called us, puts cyborg-in-fiction’s existence in danger from forgetfulness. Would this be another re/appropriation of historical vocabulary through cultural domination? Maybe?

This defeated cyborg has no country to return. With their legend gradually turns into ghost stories, they ended up a refugee in cyber matrix. This is the cyborg haunting me…   

words by Chaney Manshu Diao, Dec 2021

1 Fig.1, di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, Michelangelo, “the Creation of Adam”, oil on canvas, c.1508-1512.

2 “we are all cyborgs now,” accessed December 19, 2021, https://www.ted.com/talks/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now.

3 Chris Hables Gray et al. Modified: living as a cyborg (New York: Routledge, 2021), 3.

4 Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline, “cyborgs and space,” Astronautics (1960): 27.

5 Chris Hables Gray. Cyborg Citizen: politics in the posthuman age (New York: Routledge, 2001), 19.

6 Roger Luckhurst, Science Fiction (Cambridge: Polity, 2005), 141. 

7 Patricia Melzer, Alien Constructions: Science Fiction and Feminist Thought (University of Texas Press, 2006), 5.

8 Ibid., 8.

9 Nicholas Gane and Donna Haraway, “When We Have Never Been Human, What Is to Be Done? Interview with Donna Haraway,” Theory, Culture & Society (Volume 23 (number 7-8) 2006): 136, DOI: 10.1177/0263276406069228.  

10 Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline, “cyborgs and space,” Astronautics (September 1960): 25-27.

11 Michel Foucault believes in a embedded power in medical systems in books: The Birth of the Clinic and The birth of the Biopower. 

12 Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose, “Biopower Today,” BioSocieties (2006): 195-217. Doi:10.1017/S1745855206040014

13 Chris Hables Gray, Steven Mentor and Heidi J. Figueroa, “Cyborgology: Constructing the Knowledge of Cybernetic Organisms,” The Cyborg Handbook (1995): 1-14.

14 Sara L. M. Davis and Carmel Williams, “Enter the Cyborgs: Health and Human Rights in the Digital Age,” Health and Human Rights (2020, vol. 22, no. 2): 1-6.

15 Donna J.Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (London: Free Association Books, 1991), 151.

16 Andrews Grant, “Decolonial Queer Feminism in Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ 1985,” Paragraph 41, no. 3 (2018): 317-332.

17 Donna J.Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, 155.

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