Theories and Metaphors of Cyberspace- Abstracts

Of Mind, Body and Machine: Cyborg Cultural Politics in the Age of Hypertext

By Julie M. Albright

  • Department of Sociology
  • University of Southern California
  • USA
  • Abstract:

    This paper attempts to examine hypertext/hypermedia as powerful tools to advance cyborg cultural politics, and in doing so attempts to delineate the feminist potential of this new means of communication. The cyborg has been defined as "a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction". The potential of hypertext as a tool for cyborg feminist politics lies in its ability to confuse the boundaries of organism and machine, granting feminists the ability to create and signify their bodies and themselves, and in doing so creating new dimensions of social relations in the postmodern era. Hypertext/hypermedia also further the cyborg project by enabling non-hierarchical, non-linear, "fractal " knowledges - knowledges which may at first appear disjointed, unconnected- but from which patterns of ideas and new identities can emerge from extensive networks. Hypertext also shifts knowledge production from monologue or dialogue to what Ken Gergen has called "hyperlogue", allowing a polyvocal, more inclusive discourse to unfold without the apparent constriction of time and space.

    The hyperlogue is feminist discourse gone cyborg at at least three junctures: One, within the technological determinism of hypertext itself lies the possibility for reaction and resistance to dominant metanarratives from within the text of those very metanarratives themselves, by creating the possibility of hyperlinks from the dominant metannarative to alternative or marginilized discourses connected directly to the very heart of the argument. Secondly, more than perhaps ever before in the academic literature, the body can be brought back to the center via electronic representation. Embodied discourse - the body being represented in digital form via film, video, sound byte - coded as the body electric - can now be included as a central way of knowing within academic discourse. In this way, hypertext heralds the reconnecting of the mind/body, bringing the Cartesian split full circle. And lastly, just as Ken Gergen has redefined the concept of "self" relationally, transforming self from individual self to self-in-relationship, now it becomes possible to transform the concept of mind from individual entity to relational construct, creating the possibility for a "social mind" or "collective conscious" as it were, constructed within relational networks online, expanding the capacity of the body and mind beyond their previous limitations into the realm of cyborg consciousness.