Cyber-Bullies as Cyborg-Bullies

Cyber-Bullies as Cyborg-Bullies

Tommaso Bertolotti (Department of Humanities, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy) and Lorenzo Magnani (Department of Humanities, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/ijt.2015010103

Abstract

This paper advocates a re-introduction of the notion of cyborg in order to acquire a new perspective on studies concerning the development of human cognition in highly technological environments. In particular, the auhtors will show how the notion of cyborg properly engages cognitive issues that have a powerful resonance especially as far as social cognition is concerned, and may consequently provide a new tool for tackling the emergent safety issues concerning sociality mediated by the Internet, and the moral panic occasionally surrounding it.
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1. A Quick And Critical History Of The Cyborg

The concept of cyborg was not coined in science-fiction, but by two scientists at the Rockland State Hospital, Orangeburg, N.Y.:

For the exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously, we propose the term “Cyborg.” The Cyborg deliberately incorporates exogenous components extending the self-regulatory control function of the organism in order to adapt it to new environments. (Clynes & Kline, 1960, p. 27)

Cyborgs (obtained by endowing men with transparent implants) were advocated for allowing man’s adaptation to new environments – think of outer space – that either could not be adapted, or would require a major genetic (hence hereditary) adaptation, spontaneous or induced. It is important to note that since the beginning the notion of cyborg was connoted by what, today, could be seen as an ecological-cognitive necessity (Magnani, 2009). The cyborg’s eco-cognitive nature derives from the stress on adaptation and on the cognitive functions: the artifactual additions have always been considered as something that ought to be transparent to one’s cognition and often capable of expanding one’s cognitive capabilities (Pino, 2010).

We will now briefly review two insightful positions in cyborg-related studies, which will be crucial for the rest of our argument: Donna Haraway’s feminist theory (1991) and Andy Clark’s cognitive-oriented approach (Clark, 2003).

1.1. Haraway’s Uncomfortable Cyborg

Waite and Bourke (2013), exploring the cyborg-like features of Facebook, recently showed the untarnished fertility of Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto. While we will later return on its recent use, it is worth sparing a few words on the Haraway’s contentions. As presented by Haraway herself, the theory is deeply embedded in Feminist arguments. Nevertheless some of her takes may be discussed and accepted regardless of one’s sharing the ideology they are meant to support. Haraway inserted in her definition of cyborg a trait that was seminal (or concerning an elite) at the time of her writing, but that is fully developed now: the strict dependence of our “cyborgean” nature on social cognition:

A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction. (Haraway, 1991, p. 149)

Haraway’s further insight about the relationship between cyborgs and boundaries is perhaps the one that is most useful to the actual discourse. Her pivotal claim is that high-tech culture, epitomized by the actualization of the cyborg, openly challenges the dualisms that have been determining the practical and intellectual lives of human beings for millennia: “some of those troubling dualisms are self/other, mind/body, culture/nature, male/female, civilized/primitive, reality/appearance, whole/part, agent/resource, maker/ made, active/passive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, total/partial, God/man” (p. 177). With this respect, it is extremely interesting to consider how our actual “being cyborgs” impacts our perception of the World, the way we make sense of our perceptual judgments and how we direct attention: it is the issue explored by Verbeek as augmented intentionality (2008), essential to phenomenology and cognitive science. As noticed by Waite and Bourke (2013), this denotation of the cyborg is most fitting to investigate actual phenomena such as the use of social networking websites (SNS), considering to what extent they habitually collapse dualisms and dichotomies such as the real/virtual one, which was left relatively unharmed in previous modalities of virtual pro-sociality (i.e. forums, chat rooms) as they would foster a juxtaposition of different social worlds rather than a homogenous blend.

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