The cyborg is a technologically-enhanced human. While we recognize and even play off of the campy sci-fi/cyberpunk vision of a half-robot that is conjured up by the term “cyborg,” our vision of the cyborg—our topic of study for this new blog—is at once more sophisticated and more mundane. We believe that the cyborg concept is epitomized by the ordinary person living in the 21st Century, whose everyday activities are seldom, if ever, independent of technology, whether they be for communication (e.g., cell phones and other electronic communication devices), bodily enhancement (e.g., medicine and specialized articles of clothing), or self-presentation (e.g., fashion or the social media profile).
Our fundamental thesis is that technology (exemplified by social media) alters who we are, how we interact, even how we define reality. And, in turn, we continuously alter and define these technologies. All of reality, including ourselves, has been augmented by technology of some sort, and all technology has been augmented by our sociality. As such, we are all cyborgs. And the study of this blurring of technology and social reality is cyborgology.
Facebook has become the homepage of today’s cyborg. For its many users, the Facebook profile becomes intimately entangled with existence itself. We document our thoughts and opinions in status updates and our bodies in photographs. Our likes, dislikes, friends, and activities come to form a granular picture—an image never wholly complete or accurate—but always an artifact that wraps the message of who we are up with the technological medium of the digital profile.
The full picture of how we become cyborgs with the Facebook profile comes into focus when we realize that it is more than just a reflection of us. We have, in part, also become reflections of our profile when we give preference to those ways of living that create the best documentation for the sake of our profile. Our looking glass self, reflected in blinking screens of computers and other devices, illuminates the person augmented by technology.
Moving beyond the individual and towards the social, we recognize that cyborgs interact with each other via technology with ever-increasing frequency and rapidity. The success of Facebook is derived from its function as a space of socialization. There, we learn about others, view their pictures, communicate relationships and so on. We also “use” Facebook when we are not logged in. When offline, we attend events created on Facebook. We may chat offline about links others posted on the site, then log back in and continue the conversation on the site. The result is a blurring of the online and offline as well as between the digital and material. In fact, we believe that such distinctions make little sense in the cyborg world, one where atoms and bits have combined, entangled, and wrapped themselves into a fluid augmented reality.
This is cyborgology.