Cyborgs

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A very well known character that has recently come out in a third movie makes for a very fitting example for the topic of cyborgs; the superhero Iron Man. Ironman, also known as Tony Stark was a billionaire engineer who suffered damage to his heart during a kidnapping in which his captors tried to force him to build a weapon of mass destruction. This would then lead to his creation of a powered suit of armor that would give him strength and keep his heart beating through the arc reactor, which was placed into his chest. He would ultimately become a mixture of man and machine. Tony would later use his suit to protect the world as Iron Man with his technological devices of his making. The creator of Ironman, Stan Lee used his character Iron Man to explore the role of American technology and business in the fight against communism. The superhero Iron Man is a technology-based hero.

Haraway discusses cyborgs as being the “illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism”; Iron Man is a great comparison to what Haraway considers to be a cyborg. Iron Man, a once normal being became an “offspring” of militarism once his life relied on the arc that was put into his chest. Because of the arc he became a superhuman that was capable of more than before. Iron Man is an example of benefits from technology, he became stronger and more capable once he relied on the technology of his suit and arc in his chest. 

You could easily be reading this and asking yourself, what is a cyborg? A textbook definition of cyborg is: a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built in the body. Amber Case from TED Talk feels otherwise, she says that a cyborg is an “organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments”. What she means by this is that the definition of a cyborg is no longer a fictional character; a cyborg is a real person, we have all become cyborgs through modern-day technology. We all rely on some sort of technology in our life that we feel as though we can not survive without. Lets take a cellphone as an example, (as she used in her TED Talk) a cellphone is no longer just a form of communication but it is now also a source for entertainment, time, organizing our lives, storing information, keeping and taking pictures, surfing the web, etc. Speaking for myself I never go anywhere without my phone, I always have it on me even if I am not using it, if I leave without it I feel as though I am “naked” missing a necessary part of my attire. We live in a society based around technology and every time we look at the screen of our phone or computer we are becoming cyborgs; we are so consumed by technology that we don’t even realize we are using it to “adapt”.

Technology and Gender Differences

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From the earliest presence of human life there has been evidence that has shown existence of gender roles and a difference between what is masculine and feminine. These gender structures that have continued on into today’s society can be seen not only in relationships among people but also in the everyday technologies that we use. Items that could easily be universal have been made into two different types: masculine and feminine. A product so simple such as headphones, something that was created to listen to sound without other people hearing, can be found with either feminine or masculine qualities.

The headphones known as “Frends” were made by a male group of friends who wanted to create a headphone that could be worn for style but also be comfortable and great quality. They originally came out with headphones that were designed with a more masculine look to appeal to male consumers; they were larger, a more square shape, and were either all over black or black with a dull color to contrast. Recently this male group designed headphones that would appeal to the female consumer. They created a headphone with a more feminine look; slimmer and more round and made of handcrafted metal that came in rose gold and white, black and silver, or gold and white. For these new designs they completely changed the process of making the headphones to fit a more feminine shape of head and go along with the shades of jewelry a woman might wear.

Provided with this entry is a video of the creation of the women’s line of Frends headphones. The video takes the viewer on a journey in hopes to create an image in their mind of how life will be like if they are to own and wear the new line of headphones. The video uses an attractive girl who appears to be in her 20’s describing the headphones as “high fashion” and “style”. The seller is trying to entice women through the attractiveness and technology of their product. In McGraw’s Why Feminine Technologies Matter she says, “although we usually associate technology with utility, its actual role is often decorative or cosmetic”. This just goes to show that women are enticed by the glamour of the product and not necessarily whether or not the technology is any different than the other product (in this case, the masculine headphones). The women’s headphones could easily have the exact same sound quality as the men’s but because they have a “feminine” look woman will want to buy them. Gender structures are everywhere you look and as long as we keep creating feminine and masculine types of the same technologies, gender roles will remain the same.

Social Networking and Consumption

Have you ever noticed the advertisements on the sidebars or as you are scrolling through your newsfeed on your Facebook homepage? Were these advertisements relevant to something you have searched for in the past? As I sit here and open my Facebook tab, an advertisement of the shoes I had recently viewed on Nordstrom’s website appear above an advertisement of a clothing website called Nasty Gal telling me to like their page. For what some people might view as convenient easy access to their favorite websites, I believe that Gandy thought different. In Gandy’s article Matrix Multiplication and Digital Divide he quotes, “social networking has an ideological character: its networking advances capitalist individualization, accumulation and legitimization.” I believe this to mean that social networking sites have an ulterior motive than what most people think they are actually for; social networking has been created for commercial gain and industry expansion.

Lets go back to Facebook as our example. When we create our Facebook page we fill out information of current and past residence, employment, education, and have the options of adding life events to our timelines and tagging ourselves at any location around the world. You have options of creating groups, pages, or events for people to come together and share similar interests. You can use the search bar option to search for pages to like of your favorite things, places, or celebrities. People view Facebook as a networking site, but was that really its intention? Facebook has intertwined its way into almost every other website out there. Most websites offer a Facebook option where you can either like their page on Facebook or share information from their site, which will post it to your Facebook wall allowing your friends to read it.

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Companies are able to take this information from Facebook and use it for their own benefit. Most people are unaware that as long as you are still logged onto your Facebook page (even if you currently do not have Facebook open on your browser) Facebook is able to hold in its database every website you have searched and spent time browsing; Facebook is able to release this information to any company. Each time you press the thumbs-up option on Facebook and “like” a page it is releasing more information to companies of what advertisements to put onto your newsfeed.

When you sign up for a social networking site you are given the belief that you have created our own “digital” you; that you have created an online account that shows who you are and given the option to join a community where you can share your similar interests and beliefs with others. In some ways this is true, you are able to form a community with who you “choose” (follow on Twitter and Instagram or friend on Facebook) as well as create the image of yourself you want to portray. But through this you are also giving up many of your privacy rights once you click the little box that reads, “I accept these terms of agreement”. Information that you have used to create the “digital” you can be put into the hands of pretty much anyone who wants it. Reading back to the statement from Gandy’s article, social networking has allowed for advancements in capitalism whether that is the main motive for social networking sites or a side benefit, companies are able to accumulate information from each individual person on these social networking sites and legally use the information to their benefit. Companies are advancing at high rates as their advertisement market place keeps expanding.

What would be left if we took away the “brand”?

Speaking for myself I can say that I have spent my fair share of money on what are considered to be “high-end brands” or brands that are currently “in”, but for what? To have a label slapped across the item that most likely cost the same price to make as the brand that costs half as much to buy? According to Naomi Klein, brands are everywhere making it impossibly hard to ignore them. To test her argument I made a list tracking the brands that surround me for an entire day.

Walking around campus I became aware of just how huge brands and logos are to our society. They are company’s way of advertising their products and the consumer’s way of showing what they choose to spend their money on and how much they spend. Although many people try and deny the first thing you notice about a person is their looks. Whether it is you are approaching them to converse or just a moment of passing on the street; appearance is the first thing you notice about someone. The brand you wear shows what kind of style you like and for every style there are brands that are nicer than the other brands (according to society, not the quality). Everyone is always trying to one-up another person when it comes to clothing and when I took a day to observe the brands around me it really made me question why and how society came to know brands and what makes a brand so “special”.

While on campus I saw an unreal amount of North Face items, about every other person I saw seemed to either have an article of clothing, water bottle, or backpack with The North Face logo strung across. Sitting in my classes I was able to observe the well-known usual clothing brands such as Nike, Jordan, PINK, UGG, and Obey. The typical drink choices of Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Red Bull, and Starbucks. Other brands that I wrote down that I go throughout my day without paying any attention to are laptop and phone brands including Apple, Dell, Windows, Sony, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The amount of Beats by Dre headphones I saw was very high considering they are extremely poor quality and hundreds of dollars. I could sit here and continue typing lists of brands I saw but that would take time I do not have because everything we come in contact that has been manufactured has a brand and almost all of those products have a known logo.

Are we constantly being “bombed” by brands? Absolutely! Everything, may I repeat, everything that is manufactured has a brand. As well as manufactured items companies have brands, people can have their own brand. Brands and Logos consume society. If you wanted to remove brands from your daily life or isolate yourself from brands you would literally have to isolate yourself from all of society. Brands stand directly behind globalization, we allow what brands make it or not, which brands will strive and which will eventually no longer be here. What would happen if we took everything away that had what we call a “brand”? Would there be anything left? Would you still have your same identity?

Here is a YouTube video that will really put brands into perspective

Liberation Technology and The Estrangement of Production: is there any hope for the youth?

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In Bruce E. Levine’s article 8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance he states “the ruling elite [have] created social institutions that have subdued young American and broken their spirit of resistance”(Levine 1). He discusses this by covering 8 controversial topics of American culture; his 8 reasons:

  1. Student-Loan Debt
  2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance
  3. Schools that Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy
  4. “No Child Left Behind’ and “Race to the Top”
  5. Shaming Young People Who Take Education- But Not Their Schooling- Seriously
  6. The Normalization of Surveillance
  7. Television
  8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism

After reading his 8 reasons I completely agree with what he has to say. The point that really stood out to me was the student-loan debit because it has been a topic that has been talked about amongst my friends and I. Society has made it seem that the only way to be successful in life is to continue your education after high school, start with undergraduate school and then grad school even if that means that you will have to empty out your bank accounts and create debt that will take years to payback. I see it as we are basically going to school to pay for school, but that’s life, which goes along with what Levine has to say: students are accepting debt as a natural part of life.

Another one of his points that stood out to me was schools that educate for compliance and not for democracy. From as early as I can remember I have never “wanted” to go to school, I only go because I “have” to go, my parents made me and then it was I had to go because I wanted to graduate and go to college and get a higher education to get a successful career, blah blah blah. School is supposed to be a place of education, wanting to learn about the world around you and the subjects that interest you but in reality the American school system has become a place of teaching students to be, in Levine’s words, passive and directed by others. In younger years if you did not obey the rules you would receive punishments and consequences, in the higher years of education if you do not obey the rules you receive consequences that could end your educational journey. Shouldn’t our country’s school system be in place to better our society not create a passive society that is afraid to stand up for themselves?

The third point that really stood out to me was the normalization of surveillance. This one I really understood because I am one of those kids who had their parents tracking every movement back in high school. When I turned 16 I was fortunate to receive a car as my birthday present, but there was a catch; this car had a GPS allowing my parents to see where I was and what speed I was driving at all times with the click of the mouse on our home computer. If that wasn’t enough they were able to track where my cellphone was also, so it’s safe enough to say that I was never one of those kids who could use the story of “I’m staying at so and so’s house”. Trust me, I tried that once, left my car there, but they were able to see that I was actually at a different location thanks to my phone. The thought of any activity done on my computer or phone can be tracked by our government freaks me out. Why would anyone ever want to put him or herself at risk of getting in trouble with the law even if that means not being able to stand up for what they believe in?

Overall, this was a great, well-written article that really brought some great arguments to view that I had not known about before. It leaves me asking myself, what does this mean for our generation and the future generations to come?

 

The Culture Industry

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According to Adorno and Horkheimer the culture industry and cultural goods are being used to manipulate mass society into docility, and I agree. The word “docility” means the trait of being submissive and willingly controlled, and that is exactly what we as consumers are doing. As each generation comes we continue to see more and more advancements in technology, the media, and advertising; advancements in basically any area that makes an impact on the way people live their lives. A prime example of the cultural industry and cultural goods manipulating society into docility is the iPhone 5. Although the iPhone 5 does have features that are more advanced and make it a “better” phone than the iPhone 4 many people don’t find it necessary to go and spend almost 800 dollars on a new phone, including myself. But some people think Apple had that in mind. Ever since the iOS6 update I, as well as all my friends with an iPhone 4 or 4s, have experienced major problems. IPhones have been timing out, freezing, the battery life is dying faster than usual, and other problems have been occurring. Was this all part of Apple’s big plan to make consumers buy their new product? On top of buying an iPhone 5 you will have to buy new iPhone covers, charging stations, car charger, outlet charger all because Apple switched up the charging station. If this doesn’t demonstrate how society is being manipulated into docility, then I don’t know what is. When you bring crisis-mapping into the mix it changes things up. Crisis mapping was created to map moderately unknown areas of the world that had been hit by a disaster to help bring attention to the area and assist the people living there. It has now turned into the idea of “helping others help themselves” and is driven by social networks, which contradicts what Adorno and Horkheimer have to say about the culture industry and cultural goods being used to manipulate mass society into docility.

I understand both schools of thoughts; Adorno, Horkeihmer, and Marcuse’s idea of how society is a one-dimensional culture of sameness and Negri, Hardt, Diamond, and Dyer-Witheford’s idea of liberation technology and cyber-Marx. I think they both have a commonality between them that I agree with but I agree more so with the idea of liberation technology. I believe that all the technology and advancements we have available to us can be used to benefit ourselves; don’t get me wrong, I believe a person can be totally consumed into technology which is wrong, but using it to a controlled extent is completely fine, and worth it.

White Privilege

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I come from a middle class, white family with two parents and two sisters; I consider myself to be very fortunate in the opportunities that I have been given and recognize that I have it easier than some people that I have met throughout my life. Usually I only recognize my life as being easier from experiences and things that can be priced but what I often overlook is that I experience privileges because of my skin color and not necessarily social class. Reading Peggy McIntosh’s essay on white privilege in 1988 provided me with a list of privileges that I have never considered before, such as a bandage to cover a small wound; something so small that is used by many people everyday. A bandage is considered “flesh” colored, but for who? Whites. Since McIntosh wrote her essay a few things have changed in the past 25+ years, but for the most part things have sadly stayed the same. In her essay she addresses the issue of how things will not change if they are not acknowledged. Many people go about their lives believing everyone is equal and are given equal opportunities but in reality many people from races other than white will face issues that whites will most likely never have to face. We see this today in what is knows as “colorblindness”.

Growing up in a city predominantly populated of white families, I have been exposed to white privilege firsthand; in addition to experiencing white privilege my racially diverse friend group gives me a secondhand look into being on the other side. There have been countless times I have walked around the neighborhoods and cops have driven past me without giving a second glance but I know of two different times my same friend (whom is black) experienced a cop (different cop each time) stop him for looking “suspicious”. Why was he stopped and I wasn’t when we were doing the exact same thing, simple answer: white privilege. This goes along with McIntosh’s list and how it has not changed very much, white people still have privileges that they “enjoy” such as not being questioned by the police because of their skin color or being able to shop confidently that they will not be followed or harassed. They are able to swear or dress in whatever they desire without having people look at these choices as results of the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of their race. The fact that these are still privileges whites experience shows that stereotypes are still very well alive and don’t seem to be in the decline anytime soon.

Fortunately, some things on McIntosh’s list have changed; music stores carry a large variety of racially different music, supermarkets are now carrying more ethnic foods than they have in the past, it is not uncommon to see people of races other than white in in head positions of employment. TV shows, movies, commercials, magazines, toys, books, and advertisement ads all include people of all races as well as interracial relationships.

McIntosh talks about the privileges that people endure based on gender and race but these aren’t the only two privileges people experience in their life. Nowadays it is common to see people having privileges over others based on their physical condition, social class, or sexual orientation. People who are considered to be middle class and upper class have the privilege of being able to shop for clothing and groceries wherever they like. They are able to afford living in areas that do not already have predetermined stereotypes. A person from lower class may not have the option of living in areas without preconceived stereotypes. The city where I live has preconceived stereotypes of the neighborhoods and apartments that are affordable for the lower income. These apartments and neighborhoods are considered to be the more “dangerous” areas of the city with high crime and drug use. People who experience privileges taken away because of their physical condition are women who are towards the end of their pregnancy; they cannot fly or ride amusement park rides. A person who has experienced a seizure must go a certain amount of months without seizures to be able to drive (depending on state) and a person with poor eyesight must pass the vision standards for their state to be able to obtain a license. Sexual orientation privileges could include: expressing affection in social situations and not expecting hostile reactions, talking openly about your relationship, knowing that you will not be fired from a job or denied a promotion based on your sexuality.

Whether it is your race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical condition, or something that I haven’t brought up, everyone will experience privilege in his or her life. I’m sure you could think of a time when you were at advantage and you didn’t even realize it.