Cyborg Subjects

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= a digital cultural theory online journal and a book

URL = http://www.cyborgsubjects.org amazon


The Book

Context

Excerpted from the preface, by Bonni Rambatan and Jacob Johanssen:

"In 2010, we set out to create a platform for two things we love and value: freedom of critical thought and digital culture. We wanted to create something that would testify of something major of our contemporary age. Having grown up with the Internet, we, the unknown digital kids, hoped to create a website that would be different from traditional academia: Cyborg Subjects was born. The major idea behind it was not only to freely publish articles that dealt with a broad range of themes and debates of the zeitgeist but to create a transparent and lively debate. We wanted to have an open review system where everything would be published and everyone could add their 2 virtual cents to an essay or artwork. This was an attack on the monopoly publishers in academia.

This anthology is a compilation of essays published in the online journal “Cyborg Subjects: Discourses on Digital Culture” circa 2010-2012. The journal started out as an experiment: curated works—artistic or essay—submitted to us via e-mail were posted online, free for anyone to review (with comments) and/or adapt (by creating new posts linking back to the original article).

A common thread that links all papers and ideas in this volume is that of the digital. The digital and with it the idea that something intangible and virtual has actual and radical impacts on our contemporary world. We wanted to explore this further and decided to focus on three major developments: digital subjectivity, or what we call the posthuman; how this subjectivity creates new political discourses, as exemplified in the Wikileaks polemic; and finally, how those discourses enable digital subjects to have strong, direct, real-world impacts, as exemplified in the 2011 revolutions.

Due to lack of interest, however, our open review system was quick to lose its mass. Although initial traction seemed to be good—many, like ourselves, hailed the Cyborg Subjects platform as a novel discourse-generating system in which “theoretical production will be able to keep up with the pace of technology”*—interaction was little, and kept decreasing (along with the number of quality submissions) through each subsequent call for papers.

This anthology gathers the top three articles submitted to our platform from each of our three calls of papers, additional articles from editors and guest writers, and one experimental article submission as a closing note. In addition, the cover of this book, submitted by Chinese artist Jung-Hua Liu, also serves a textual purpose, the statement of which can be read in this book’s appendix."


Contents

Bonni Rambatan and Jacob Johanssen:

"The organization of this book—which follows the organization of topics of our calls for papers—is as follows:

Part One, Subjects, is an exploration on the question “What is the Cyborg Subject?” Submitted by intellectuals from various fields—from music to film to psychoanalysis—this section represents the first moment: the conception of digital subjectivity. Robert Barry’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Violins? speaks of transcending humanist aesthetics, specifically in the field of music. Finding the Local by Siri Driessen and Roos van Haaften questions spatial notions in our digitized world. Bonni Rambatan’s essay Are Trees the New Proletariat? explores posthumanity not through digitized networks, but instead through what I believe to be its obverse, i.e. ecology. The final two essays, “Know Thyself” ... Again by Dustin Cohen and We Shall Overcome! by Jacob Johanssen, observe posthumanity under critical psychoanalytic lenses, questioning what exactly is lost when we claim to transcend humanity, and can be read as a warning to proceed with caution as we venture further into the realm of digital subjectivity.

Part Two, Sharing, takes on this venture and proceeds to the second moment: when digital subjectivity turns into global resistance, specifically in the Wikileaks polemic. Indeed, our second call for papers was made to garner response from intellectuals in those fields. Wikileaks: Signs and Seeds of Future Utopias by Aliki Tzatha discusses how Wikileaks sheds light to contemporary political culture and the taste for transhumanism it reflects. A ‘Turning of the Tables’ by Zakary Paget examines Wikileaks as an exemplary tool of counter-surveillance against authority. In A New Style of News Reporting by Stefan Baack, we explore the idea of data-driven journalism, or really the new trend of news discourse production.

The talk of shared discourses shifts our discussion from Part Two to Part Three, Streets, marking the third moment: when people with a shared global consciousness, enabled by digital networks, begin taking to the streets. Already present in protests against the prosecution of Julian Assange, this movement evolves into a stronger form in the 2011 revolutions. From the Arab Springs, Spain’s 15M, to the global Occupy movement, one finds a similar thesis: technological networks are today’s main catalyst for global revolutions. From Networks to the Streets by Aline Carvalho explores how such shared narratives in digital networks allow global movements. In The Occupy Movement as a Politics for All, Alessandro Zagato examines the shift in politics from conventional representation to something virtually available to everybody. Peter Nikolaus Funke takes the examination one step further with The Current Logic of Resistance, proposing a set of logic for digital subjectivities.

Included in the appendices of this book are some experimental notes by Glenn Muschert, Experimental and Extracurricular Notes on the Network Environment, questioning the very notion of networks and networked discourses itself, and Junghua-Liu’s artist statement for his Wi-Fi Cyborg project, a part of which is this book’s cover artwork. The two essays, although developed independently of one another, can be read perfectly complimentarily, the latter developing for the former a highly contextual example for the scope of discussion in this book."

Author Bios

  • Stefan Baack acquired his Bachelor’s degree in German Language and Literature Studies and in Cultural Studies at the University of Bremen, Germany. Currently he is completing his Master’s degree in Media Culture. His main focus is on journalism, democracy and new media.
  • Robert Barry is a freelance writer and composer, based in Paris. His music can be heard at littleother.blogspot.com. He is currently at work on a book about the history of futurism in opera.
  • Aline Carvalho graduated in Media Studies from Fluminense Federal University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and took her Masters from the Paris 8 University in France. Her book, ‘Cultural production in Brazil: From Tropicalia to Cultural Hotspots’, was published in 2009. An activist and researcher on digital culture, she is currently developing an investigation on collective action on digital networks. Web: www.tropicaline.wordpress.com
  • Dustin Cohen is Executive Assistant at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. He also holds an MA in Media Studies from the University of Western Ontario, and has a long standing interest in the philosophy of science and technology, humanism and critiques of trans/posthumanism. Blog: Cybject.com.
  • Siri Driessen studied history and cultural analysis at the University of Amsterdam. Her research considers philosophy of history and science, photography and new media.
  • Roos van Haaften works as visual artist and is based in Amsterdam. Her research concerns the usage of space within an urban context, especially the overlap of nature and culture within the cityscape.
  • Peter Nikolaus Funke is Assistant Professor in the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Peter received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on social movements, new media, and class formation under globalizing capitalism and has been published in journals such as Social Movement Studies, New Media & Society (both forthcoming), Globalizations, International Critical Thought, New Political Science or Transforming Anthropology. Currently he is working on a book length study on “The World Social Forum and the Rhizomatic Left” as well as on several articles and chapters on contemporary social movement based politics, class formation and the role of (new) media in neoliberal capitalism. Peter also just launched a project on progressive groups and movements in the Tampa Bay area.
  • Jacob Johanssen studied Communication Studies, Sociology and Classical Philology at the University of Salzburg (AT) and completed his MA in Media and Communicatons at Goldsmiths (UK). He is currently a PhD student at the University of East London (UK). His work is broadly situated within psychosocial studies, media studies and cultural studies. His PhD thesis is about a psychoanalytic conception of the subject that is both theoretical and epistemological. The research involves interviews with viewers of the TV programme ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ and explores their unconscious investments, fantasies and viewing practices. Jacob’s research interests include (object relations) psychoanalysis and the media, media ethics, psychosocial studies, critical theory, as well as digital culture.
  • Jung-Hua Liu is an artist and his main media is web technology, including HTML5, CSS, Javascript and PHP&MySQL. He has an M.A. degree in Archaeology from the National Taiwan University and will graduate as a fine art PhD from the University of Leeds in UK. His concern is the change of the perception of human beings under the effect of popular network facilities. In 1997, he learned about the internet and had his first website in 1998. With the development of the web, he has changed lots of habits of accessing knowledge and vocabulary in his daily life. Then, he wanted to use art to present and record the process of becoming a cyborg. His artwork focused on uncertainties caused by the cross-boundary of human beings and machines. Cloud Tarot is his latest work, and he simulated Cloud Computing to tell a fortune via Tarot reading. The combination of the tradition of human’s fortune telling and a buzz word in technology contributes to the infinite complication of our future, no matter as a human or cyborg.
  • Glenn Muschert is Associate Professor in the Sociology, Criminology, and Social Justice Studies Programs at Miami University. He received his B.S. in International Area Studies from Drexel University in 1992 and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2002. Glenn’s areas of scholarly interest lie in the sociological study of crime and social problems, including the mass media framing of high profile crimes, school shootings, missing persons, and social control through surveillance technologies. He has published over two dozen articles and chapters in media studies, sociology, and criminology books/journals. Recently, he has edited the following volumes: School Shootings: Mediatized Violence in the Global Age (Emerald, 2012); Responding to School Violence: Confronting the Columbine Effect (Lynne Rienner, 2013); The Digital Divide in International Context (Routledge, 2013).
  • Bonni Rambatan is an independent critical theorist and cultural researcher with a main focus in digital culture, psychoanalysis, and Left-wing political theory. He has given talks and published writings in various seminars and anthologies in Europe and Asia. A graduate of English Literature, he now studies Management in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurships at Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia. He also actively writes novels and makes films.
  • Aliki Tzatha currently lives in Athens, Greece and works in planning and implementing educational programs for adults. Her academic background is in Communication and Media Studies, in which she received her first degree from the University of Athens, and in Conflict Studies and Human Rights, along with her master’s degree from the University of Utrecht. After a short but valuable academic experience in Bergamo and Perpignan, where she initiated an Erasmus Mundus PhD in new media and political culture, she has worked as a journalist, researcher, secretary, baby-sitter and waiter. Her research interests stretch from critical engagements with the dominant theories of mobilization and collective action, to ethnographical approaches to virtual communities and digital culture.
  • Alessandro Zagato was born in Italy and received a PhD in Sociology in 2012 at the National University of Ireland, where he has also been teaching social movements. Currently, he works as a research associate at the Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla (BUAP), Mexico. Under the supervision of Prof. John Holloway he is developing a project on rebel indigenous communities in the state of Michoacan, West Mexico.