Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Reflections on Ursula Franklin

I just wanted to jot down a few quick notes about this reading which were raised by a classmate, Niki Tang. After reading her blog regarding the article, I am tempted to pose an answer to a question she had posed. Niki had asked if it were possible to control noise. I would have to say that noise can be controlled to a degree but not beyond. As stated in Ken's lectures, it is not possible to achieve complete silence. The earplugs worked wonders for the amount of sounds entering my head but I could still hear my noisy world, distantly in the background. I would have to liken noise pollution to visual pollution. Filtering out some of the junk that comes our way is hard, especially during this age of computers and television. One other thing I would like to comment on is the fact that different people respond to noise in different ways. To some, the noise level commonly found in the library would be too much but for others, a restaurant with conversation is not bothersome.

Just a few quick notes about Ken's lecture last week. I was eagerly anticipating what exercise Ken had planned and I was not disappointed. Our discussion of the world without humans lead to heated debates on how much of our information is really visual. Is it more than just visual that we incorporate? Perhaps there is a seventh or even eighth sense involved. I also found the class discussion lively and much more interactive than some of the other lectures, though perhaps I did not gain as much information. Still, it was interesting to hear what people had to say about sound, our reliance on technology and the atrophy of "basic" survival skills. I especially enjoyed Kady's story about the silent communion of people in Fiji and how they revel in the silence of eachother's company. These lectures taught me a new way of examining space.
The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace-Margaret Wertheim

I guess it was only natural that the next space we should consider is cyberspace. After all, it is the new, limitless space that has the potential to fill our spiritual need, according to Wertheim. The search for Paradise in cyberspace at first struck me as odd. Upon reading the article, however, I found that much of it really made sense. I agree with Wertheim that science of the twentieth century and has pushed out the spiritual and filled it with the physical. I was reminded of the discovery by Einstein that the world is expanding and the imact that it had on his theories and thinking. To envision a universe that is infinite and physical is a scary thing. So, in amongst all of the technology and science comes the idea of cyberspace. Cyberspace, at this point, has almost limitless potential, as evidenced by the discussion of immortality and the disemodiment of the mind. It seems scary to think of the mind as completely divorced from anything organic or material. What exactly would human thought be grounded in? Could we even experience, live or sense? Would it be necessary? I enjoyed the thought of cyberspace as the forum in which past, present and future could simulataneously coexist. For me, that would be a form of Paradise. Imagine a place where I could satisfy my curiousity about everything (potentially) and live thousands of lifetimes not otherwise possible. This is not to far off from Medieval ideal of Paradise. Education, knowledge, history, future and harmony all mixing together. I also agree with Wertheim's assertion that the Net is being marketed as that ideal which will fill the spiritual void. Indeed, I think that many have bought into this notion, including myself, to some degree. Why else do people turn to the net for social interaction, information, comfort and entertainment? I would also be interested in reading what criticisms Wertheim has about cyberspace.

A Cyborg Manifesto -Donna Haraway

When I first glanced at this article, I thought one of my nightmares had come back to haunt me. I read this article in one of my Women's Studies classes and found Haraway's ideas almost impossible to penetrate. A second time around, however, has proved to be more enlightening, although I still find this a difficult read. What I took away from her argument is the idea that the cyborg is the most appropriate way to describe women in the twenty-first century. Cyborgs, as I understand it, are a machine-hybrid organism that appropriate describes a lot of the dualism that permeates society. Dualisms, according to Haraway, are persistent in Western culture and often present a paradox. Cyborgs, then, are a way to combine these dualisms into a manageable system or ideology. I found this dualism somewhat at odds with the ideas presented in Wertheim's article, mainly because Haraway allows that idealism and syolism and spiritualism exist. I am not sure how to reconcile this paradox. The cyborg is an appropriate model for the new feminism because it resists efforts to control it and crushed the biased and closed ranks of traditional feminism by incorporating dualisms. It is the feminism for the non-white, non-middle class ranks. I also found her list of "dominations" particularly interesting as each is a trait which can incorporated into the idea of the cyborg. The goddess is dead. The disempowerment experienced by many of the marginalized groups of society can readily identify with this idea--an idea which does not seems demeaning or negatively correlated. One thing I was reminded of as I reread this article was something that came out of our discussions in my Women's Studies class. When Haraway speaks of writing as a tool for the cyborg, I felt I understood how that tool was being appropriated from the oppressors for the cyborg's own use. It is a tool of empowerment. Lastly, I was struck by two ideas in this article that I am still unable to wrap my head around. What does it mean that the "female" does not exist? The other question I have pertains to her usage of the Female Man. What does Haraway mean by this? Perhaps a third reading...?!