STS second short essay assignment

What one new thing did you learn about the concept of a cyborg from the readings this past week? (B. Woods & N. Watson, “In Pursuit of standardization: the British ministry of health’s model 8F wheelchair, 1948-1962;” D. Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto;” Selected news articles on cyborg culture on Blackboard.)

And, who (or what) has the power in creating the cyborgs discussed in the Woods and Watson article?

Conclude by discussing how the answers to the two questions above relate to each other, in order to shed new light on our concept of a “cyborg.”

Your essay should be 300 to 500 words. Posts are due by 5pm on February 27th.


  1. KyleReid

    To answer the question “who has the power in creating cyborgs” in regards to the Woods and Watson article I would argue that the face of the power changed throughout the events of the 1950s. Originally the government via the ministry of pensions and health had the power as they provided the contracts to produce and purchase the devices that would be used by others. The concerns of the ministry are listed as “quality, durability, safety and so on” not comfort, weight, ease of use or other factors that may be important to the machine’s user. Medical professionals like N.S.Craig also had power over the designs of the standard wheelchair with their criticism of the outdated models. The last individuals with power were the members of the ITA who used their pull to have the model 6 and model 7 replaced and rallied together in 1961 to for the Joint committee on Mobility for the Disabled. Their efforts to challenge their “social exclusion” by working for a more user friendly chair show how power can be moved to unlikely places.

    The most interesting new thing I learned well reading Woods & Watson’s “In Pursuit of standardization: the British ministry of health’s model 8F wheelchair, 1948-1962;” was this idea of self-designing cyborgs. Often the media portrays cyborgs as a sort of forced condition, Robocop never asked to be Robocop, the Borg assimilated entire planets against their will and disabled people are forced to use expensive equipment to be more like the majority for whom the rest of the world is designed. To see the idea turned around, to come to the realization that individuals, disabled or otherwise, are using technology to become in a sense more powerful, to gain abilities that in some cases are unavailable the average person is as fascinating as it is terrifying.

    Although users of the Model 8f wheelchair are seen as disabled, more modern cyborgs are turning their situations into experiments on the limits of human understanding. Rather than living in a world that excludes cyborgs we live in what is slowly becoming a very pro-cyborg world. One need only see the influx of QR codes, Job hunting websites or online stores and the destruction of newspapers and pay phones to see how instant/anywhere access to the internet is becoming a requirement rather than an option. As more people become aware of their cyborg existence we can expect more ITA type actions being taken by the majority as we work for more cyborg friendly world. The ability to see Ultraviolet light, detect radiation or take pictures with a camera attached to your brain may seem like nifty little features now but there may be a day when our ancestors wonder how we survived without the Google “UV Augmented Reality Satellite Path Finding System”

  2. Asbel Assefa

    One of the first things I have learned about cyborgs from this article is how simple and almost invisible they can be to us until we closely examine them. This examination usually takes a thorough historical analysis. Looking at the Model 8F Wheelchair invented in Britain, we can see the complex relationships the technology and politics have formed in the nation. Power distribution in the creation of cyborgs shapes their life cycle.

    Authority and control did not only affect the design and distribution of the wheelchairs but they also influenced cultural representation of the disabled. It was important to compare and contrast the accomplishments and the downfalls of the Model 8F under the control of the state and the NHS(National Health Service). The role of the Model 8F as one of the first aids for the disabled also challenged the ideology surrounding disability at that time period. Another interesting thing to look at was identifying the users of this technology at different times in history. This has raised a question for me about who we might identify to be a cyborg or part of a cyborg at different phases of the history of the Model 8F.

    The “Cyborg Manifesto” essay, although a harder read, has given me new insights into how universal theories might not always reflect reality. The author used an analogy of cyborg myths and myths about feminism that are based on certain social constructs. It was also mentioned that when trying to understand either, social reality and creation of fiction have a boundary that is an “optical illusion”. This tied in well with conclusion of the chapter where it was stated that social relations of science and technology should be embraced when studying history.

    In the Woods and Watson Article, in the early 1950s power in the design aspect of Wheelchairs was ultimately the state’s. In 1991 however, the state gave up control over production design and power was transferred to the Ministry where the interest was mainly standardization of the Model 8F. An interesting side note is that Wheelchairs looked at the Ministry as a consumer whereas users perceived the Ministry as the producer.

    If I had to summarize what more I have learned about cyborgs from these articles, I would say that there are many perspectives to look at a specific technology that is apart of a cyborg. A single technology can be a key component to multiple cyborgs. How cyborgs operate depend on who is in control of their use as well as their design. Having power in the creation of cyborgs is different from being the user, however the two might overlap at times.

    (In Pursuit of Standardization The British Ministry of Health’s Model 8F Wheelchair,1948–1962)
    (D. Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”)

  3. Jair Gutierrez

    When we think about the word cyborg, we think about this 70’s and 80’s character. A person with robotic implants, or perhaps just an organic conscience with a synthetic body. One of the cyborgs that could come to mind, at least to the majority adults in the U.S., is Robocop, and not only as an 80’s idol since he made a comeback to the big screen this year. Since kids we have been predisposed that idea of these cybernetic or electronic beings, truth is that is quite the contrary. We may be already walking among cyborgs, chances are that you are already are one! Perhaps not the kind that we see in the movies or TV shows, although it may be neat. I have already synthesized part of my memory as an example, my ability of remembering phone numbers is nearly gone because of lack of practice. Thankfully I have no Alzheimer’s or any other kind of degenerative mental disease. Instead I have delegated that (among other tasks) to my loyal companion, my smart phone. I have enhanced my memory using my phone, hence I’ve become a cyborg (and quite a proud one, I must say).

    Sometimes the definition of a cyborgs implies that the enhancement must come from a mechanical or electronic device embedded in the body, this week’s authors and I disagree. During the reading I found key concepts that lead me to another idea: A cyborg is a person that enhances their abilities with devices foreign to our biological bodies. This means that ever since the first long range atlatl, knife, or a spoon we were cyborgs. They enhanced our abilities, led us to survival. Perhaps one question arises, who gets to decide what we use as a tool and what is not useful?

    In the 8F wheel chair reading, a great case was made to prove the different results when different groups of people collaborate in product design. In parts of the reading and images a discrepancy is seen. During the first models only factories or health professionals had a say in the design of wheel chairs. Rugged, uncomfortable for patients were developed, this chairs had a great facility of use for the nurses for example. With the break out of the war, better care was needed soon after it was over since all the wounded needed a way to be transported inside of a medical facility. The best model was chosen for its adaptability and how it complemented the needs of the others. Of course at the end the person with the money is the person that had the last word. This entity was the government, since it was the one putting the founding. I believe that an integrated design can be implemented in order to satisfy the end-user as well as the other parties. This way making us a step closer to cybernetic life by slowly enhancing and expanding our abilities.

  4. Yunsheng Guo

    The one new thing that I learned from the Woods & Watson reading this week is that a “cyborg” may not be willing to become one, just as the development of “exogenous component” may not be driven by consumerism. In the reading, multiple groups’ demands were the reason of British wheelchair innovation. Traditional approaches in the history of medicine, by characterizing disability as a matter of pathology and positioning disabled people as patients or dependent objects of charity, have also tended to render both disabled people and their political mobilization historically inert or invisible. (B. Woods &N. Watson) Disabled people did not choose to be that way just to use the wheelchair, and they eventually reflected their comment on the design. On the other hand, medical and health professionals had a great influence on the wheelchair design. They regarded the wheelchair as a medical device, and suggested how it should fulfill its purpose. In this case, what made a disabled person “cyborg” is medical professionals, Ministry of health Supplies Division and if possible, the person his or herself.

    In this process of creating a “cyborg”, no one has been forced against one’s will, but the social relations and government policy have a much greater influence than any individuals. If say the British government’s National Health Service would not subsidize or pay for the wheelchair for disabled people, will there still be a wheelchair innovation? Considered as the first miniature of cyborg, the space suit was built by government and could only built by government. Any other party or individual would not have such a strong demand and resources to succeed.

    Even government is on board with this idea of creating a true cyborg, will it be enough? I think a simple yes or no should not suffice. Why do any party or individual want to create the cyborgs, what kind of social relations or sociotechnical relations do we need to create this huge demand? That’s the real question we need to consider, and that is why the history of Model 8F wheelchair cannot be simply covered by SCOT theory.

  5. Ana Marchan

    Throughout the course of time, science has been correlated with technology and technology with human civilization. Despite the similarities and differences, certain concepts and theories form a relationship with technology and society, especially between cybernetics and cyborgs. In Humanities 354: Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, we have read articles and discussed the concept of cyborgs. Prior to reading,” A Cyborg Manifesto,” I had a vague idea of a cyborg. The first thing that came to my mind was Iron Man. According to Haraway,” The cyborg is a condensed image of imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation” (150). Thus, a cyborg would have some characteristics of a human, but then again it isn’t alive. Despite this concept being a hot topic, this is becoming embedded in our society. For example, the use of cellphones (iPhone with Siri) and the need for the internet (for school, work, communicating, etc) are popular and is becoming a “tool” for innovation.

    Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) focuses on the level of control that people have over technology. This theory functions best with consumers/the people because it’s they who have more control than technology. For example, “In Pursuit of standardization: the British ministry of health’s model 8F wheelchair, 1948-1962,” Woods and Watson argued about who has control over technology. Medical professionals such as hospitals and staff had power over the use of the wheelchair because they were known to be the few who had access for the use of their patients. Disabled communities also had control over the use of the wheelchair as they, as consumers, demanded the replacement of their models for new and improved ones. Even though there were those with limited power, the government in Britain had the most control over the use of wheelchairs. It was the government who was in charge of issuing the permits to buy and sell wheelchairs for their entire population. Their control was an effective way to gain revenue over the use of wheelchairs.

    Both articles are related for which they have in one way or another using technology to gain power and control. As a society we tend to complain about technology and when artifacts are renovated, regulation grows. To me, when a something new is introduced to society, we tend to be the first to criticize but with time this technology seems to become part of our daily lives.

    Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-246.

  6. Reggie Johnson

    One thing that I learned from the cyborg readings is this idea of conflict and debate of utilizing certain technologies within societies (past and modern) due to either the long-term effect of them or the current state of the society. In the insect article, for instance, the government wanted to, in a nutshell, spy on certain individuals. That can be beneficial, yet uncomfortable to some. The “We’re all Cyborgs” article explains social networking and its ups (like communication) and downs (no activity going on and one’s “second self” activity). Moreover, the technological momentum of these aspects can cause fear and nostalgia to many, because it is new. Soon everyone may be fit to go into outer space or be able to hear color if they please!

    The individuals or things that have the power in creating the cyborgs as mentioned in the British wheelchair would be the government, engineers, medical professionals, and the disabilities themselves. The article describes SCOT because the users socially modified the wheelchair. The 8F wheelchair benefited the economy (government liked it), engineers used heterogenous engineering and modified it according to consumer utility, medical professionals recommended it to disabled patients, and of course, disabilities would cause one to seek some help, perhaps “a tool that accomplishes a task” or technology.

    The two preceding statements mentioned above compare to give a new meaning to the definition of a cyborg by the definition expanding to perhaps “an organism that functions or is enhanced by technology, which can harm or benefit mainstream society”. “Enhanced by” in the preceding also could mean “dependent upon” whereas there is no choice or want to the technology.

    I also think of Donna Haraway in “A Cyborg Manifesto” who compared women (women were and have been believed to be dependent on many needs, like money in a socialist and materialist society) with cyborgs and challenged the current state by focusing more on identity, not affinity.

  7. lamby123

    Authorities have distaste for cyborgs in society unless they benefit from them directly.

    Steve Mann has an eyepiece screwed into his skull that lets him capture video of whatever he sees. A trip to McDonalds turned out to me a nightmare when employees harassed him for videotaping their business activities. McDonalds felt that customers, common folks, cannot video them but they have exclusive surveillance privileges. The authorities threw him out of the place and “rough housed” him.

    In complete contrast, the military is exploiting the use of animal cyborgs. Scientists created “remote control” organisms that they can use to do jobs that humans cannot do because of our size and physical limitations. These cyborgs have the potential to be extremely useful to the government so the research was funded by them.

    In the Watson and Woods article, again, the authority has an overarching control over cyborgs. At first the British government had the only say in wheel-chair design. The chairs were being designed without the users in mind. After WWI there was a need for a new design of the chairs as injured troops came back from war. This group was a whole new generation of users that especially cared about the utility of wheelchairs. Before this time wheelchairs were designed in a way that helped medical professionals move the chairs around. They were not made for self-propulsion. The authorities assumed the dependence of the people in the chair on the people pushing them around. This new generation was adamant on the idea of self-propulsion and utility. In 1960, chair users realized that they would need to enter into a position of power if they were ever going to see a change in design so they created a political action group. It was only then that action was taken to meet the users’ needs.

    The treatment of cyborgs in society is dependent on how useful the technology used by the organism is to authorities. Mann’s video camera proved to be a nuisance and a breach in their control of surveillance as a big business. The insects and mice were appreciated only because their integration with a remote control system that had military applications. Finally, in the case of the model 8F wheelchair, the design was only changed properly when the users were placed in an authoritative position.

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>