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Reading

Haraway, D. (1985). A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the 1980s. Socialist Review, 15(2), 65-107.

Overview of the Reading

Using the cyborg/chimera metaphor, Haraway argues against the essentialist notion that all women are one thing, and for the idea that nothing can bind women together in to one singular category. The author focuses in part on The Homework Economy – an evolution of work, particularly in the Silicon Valley, that divides work into female and male work. The female interpretation of work includes being more servant than worker, while the male definition includes more traditional dominance/power roles. If we extend this metaphor to educational technology, interpreting the role of teacher or educator as a traditionally female role, and technophile as being traditionally a man’s domain, we can see where educational technology may start to take on the amorphous cyborg metaphor used throughout the essay.

If there is no such state as truly “being” female (a highly complex construct) perhaps it is also impossible to truly merge education with technology, much the same as one could never merge all constructs of femininity or all constructs of masculinity due to their complexity. As the cyborg does not require a stable identity, neither does educational technology imply a state of being - as we covered in the first module (such as Januszewski, 2001 ), even technologists can not determine a single definition for the practice.

Summary of the Reading

The cyborg theory created by Haraway deals with a number of complex ideas, particularly focused on the feminism movement. Haraway first builds the idea of a cyborg; a being that is part animal and part machine. A cyborg spans both the natural and created world, and as such, has no real attachment the traditional ideals and views a “natural” human subscribes to. This includes views about sexuality, service/labour, family, and community. Because of its unique duality, a cyborg is able to remain partial and not give in to the typical pressures of modern politics. The cyborg/chimera metaphor, which rejects or breaks down strict boundaries, then allows Haraway to analyze the politics and political theories of North America in the late twentieth century.

Biological determinism: A theory where the behaviour of an organism is influenced entirely biology (more specifically, genetics). This type of thinking means a distinct separation between humans and animals, as they are genetically different from each other. In terms of politics, the society of humans is driven because of the biological needs of humans, such as the need for the traditional family or community.
Technological determinism: A theory where technology drives the formation of society and the values of those within the society.
Physical vs non-physical boundaries: A subset of technological determinism, this concept deals with ubiquity and spirituality, whether that applies to modern religion or to modern, miniature electronics.
The cyborg breaks down these three theories, which have influence in the structure of North American society and in modern politics. Haraway argues that the thinking described above is to blame for the relatively rigid family and work structure. The Homework Economy, a phenomenon noted in the Silicon Valley of California. The term homeworker itself stems from writing by Richard Gordon, who notes that females are the preferred labourers in the assembly of microelectronics in countries like China and India. Haraway’s definition indicates that the more vulnerable work has been “feminized”, and that workers who do this type of work are subject to more exploitation and mistreatment than their “masculine” counterparts. In the Silicon Valley, feminized work applies to the sort of contract positions that allow management to take advantage of the workers, treating them more like servants rather than employees (this could apply to underpaid workers who work long hours with relatively little job security). This metaphor can be extended to educational technology, interpreting the role of teacher or educator as a traditionally female role, and technophile as being traditionally a man’s domain. Thus, there exists a boundary between education and technology. Haraway’s cyborg could be used to break down these definitions and educational technology may start to take on the amorphous cyborg metaphor used throughout the essay. However, there exists some difficulties in this application. If there is no such state as truly “being” female (a highly complex construct) perhaps it is also impossible to truly merge education with technology, much the same as one could never merge all constructs of femininity or all constructs of masculinity due to their complexity. As the cyborg does not require a stable identity, neither does educational technology imply a state of being - as we covered in the first module, even technologists can not determine a single definition for the practice.
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Summary in a Nutshell