Jottings on science, religion, technology, pop culture and faith from the Antipodes.

Cyborg, Science, Technology & Religion

The cyborg as vehicle for engagement with the world

In her article, “Thoughts on the Status of the Cyborg: On Technological Socialization and Its Link to the Religious Function of Popular Culture”, sociologist Brenda Brasher continues the conversation about cyborgs and their role in society by arguing the metaphor of the cyborg may provide a useful avenue for critical and constructive engagement with technology and technoculture.

As technological incursions into daily life increase, the cyborg may become a key metaphor for those soon to comprise the pioneer generation of third millennium society. To the extent the cyborg accurately represents human selves as affected by techno-life and thus reliably orients us in the world we inhabit, this development could be deemed a positive one, albeit one that entails considerable ambiguity. As Haraway has noted, the cyborg is inherently pluralistic. Rather than employing the foundational Western dualistic strategy of identity that achieves definitional clarity through a hierarchical contrast of paired terms (male/ female, human/beast, self/other, white/black), the cyborg incorporates dualism within itself by insisting upon an integral identity between people and their material environment. Presuming an inseparable connection between the self and other, the cyborg offers a metaphoric platform upon which complex human identities might be developed whose connective links could stretch out like the World Wide Web itself to embrace and encompass the world. Because it directly faces and accepts the material components of human life, the cyborg as a root metaphor for contemporary human identity offers the capacity to encourage a responsible awareness of and interaction with the material world.

Full reference: Brasher, Brenda E. “Thoughts on the Status of the Cyborg: On Technological Socialization and Its Link to the Religious Function of Popular Culture.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 64, no. 4 (1996): 809-830. (Available online here)

Could Christianity adopt the metaphor of the cyborg in such a way as to provide similar theological engagement. Certainly the cyborg’s materiality might provide the link to an incarnational engagement, as might the idea of Jesus Christ, both human and divine, as a type of cyborg. I like the idea of the inseparable connection between self and other. And perhaps the imago Dei captures a hybrid nature. See also Greenflame: Re-imagining Christ as Cyborg