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Here, Amber Case states something commonly repeated on this blog: we are all cyborgs. As such, she calls herself a cyborg anthropologist, similar to how we conceive of the study of technology and society as Cyborgology (perhaps without such strict disciplinary terms – but that is another discussion).

However, there is much disagreement between Case’s usage of the term and how I (and others) on this blog define a cyborg.

First, Case argues in the video above that the human cyborg is a recent invention. A product of new technologies that compress our mental capacities over time and space. On this blog, however, we tend to use the term much more broadly. For instance, one fundamental technology that structures other technologies built upon it is language. Post-structuralist thinking has long taught us about the power of language to drive what and how people think, how selves are formed, how power is enacted, and so on. Other technologies, such as spatial organization (think the architectural technologies of the amphitheater or panoptic prison) have profound impact on the mental processes of humans. The human mind has never been independent of technology, and, as such, we have always been cyborgs.

My second disagreement surrounds Case’s argument that our digital selves are a sort of “second self.” Instead, I’ll argue that the notion of first and second selves might be a false binary. For Case, the second self is that digital version of ourselves online. She argues that we have to constantly maintain this second self that is always connected with others. And in this frantic explosion of connection we are not taking the time grow, we reflect less on who we really are and precisely how we want to present our second selves online. “Kids today,” Case states (I always shudder as to what follows that phrase), are becoming “addicted” to clicking buttons.

And it is here that Case should note that this problematic is precisely why her theoretical binary between first (physical world) and second (digital) selves is false. People are enmeshing their physical and digital selves to the point where the distinction is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Facebook profiles are heavily anchored in the physical world, and our offline interactions are influenced by digitality. The reality in which we exist is increasingly augmented by atoms and bits, and this augmented reality is inhabited by an augmented cyborg self (opposed to the dualistic language of first and second selves).

In future posts I would like to question some other assumptions built into Case’s framework. Instant communication is not necessarily without deep reflection, as I have previously argued. And following Michel Foucault, I would like to equally trouble the utility of constant self-reflection and discovery in search of some “truth.” Instead, I view this new task of subjectivity promoted by Case as a powerful form of social control embedded within the logic of social media.


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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alltop Facebook, Casebot. Casebot said: Amber Case was blogged about in: Amber Case: Cyborg Anthropologist (a critique …: Here, Amber Case states some… […]

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