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Life Out Of Balance April 30, 2009

Posted by chris drake in culture, cyborgs, humanity, technology.
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Koyaanisqatsi- A recommended film-

Koyaanisqatsi  opens with scenes of the American southwest, many of them filmed from the air and displaying the sheer hugeness of the area: deep chasms, enormous rocks on vast plains, all with little human presence. Shots of Niagara Falls and other troubled waters and an increasingly ominous tone to the music set the viewer on edge, as one begins to see signs of human presence: machines, pipelines, power lines take a place in the landscape. Nuclear explosions produce mushroom clouds over the desert.
People are eventually seen, sunbathing on a beach in the shadow of an enormous factory. The natural world soon disappears altogether, replaced long shots of packed highways. Sped up, they look like rivers of erratic light. The music becomes dominated by heavy steady beats.
Just as they seem about to explode in a frenzy, the images and the music stop, replaced by slow-motion footage of people who seem displaced, the music also grows much slower and simpler. After the previous section, this feels like a hangover. The movie ends with an astonishing, unbroken tracking shot of a rocket that explodes in mid-air shortly after liftoff. For several long minutes, the camera follows a piece of burning wreckage so steadily that it appears not to be falling at all, merely spinning in space.
Koyaanisqatsi asks the viewers to ponder their relationship to a social system that has come to dominate them rather than serve them. Much of the film is exhilarating and beautiful in a way that may seem counterproductive to that end. But the cumulative effect is more meditative than frightening. The film is not traditional in any sense. It takes the viewer on a wild flight from the tranquil (seemingly lifeless) western deserts of the United States, through the great planes of the nation’s heartland and mid-west, our forests and on to America’s largest cities. The pace accelerates as the music and images drive individualism from the minds’ eye. Modern technological life becomes impersonal and mechanical, and humans become robotic. Our everyday lives seem meaningless as we produce, consume, and maintain ever -increasing amounts of need. Technology feeds on itself and like the rocket shooting into space, as we speed to the top we our bound for destruction. Koyaanisqatsi is the Native American term for ‘Life Out of Balance’

Tekkonkinkreet March 5, 2009

Posted by ml7142 in cyborgs.
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            After viewing the fiml “Tekkonkinkreet”, I started to assimilate the concepts within this film to the theoretical concept of a cyborg.  The two boys “black” and “white” are essentially lost boys that roam around as the soul of the city.  They seemed to be defined by the events of the city and become unbalanced when the city is at unrest.  The boys are also total and complete opposites of one another yet when they are together they are unstoppable. To me this was similar to the idea of a cyborg because cyborgs are made up of parts that often times are as well total and complete opposites of the other.  As a culmination of human and technology a cyborg does not reach its full potential for success unless it is a proper balance of artificial and human thought.  This is somewhat ironic however because in the film the two boys seemed to often times become lost in a city that displayed very poignant categories within the groups of people existing in the town.  They seem to transgress boundaries regardless of their balance with one another much like a cyborg does.  I felt as thought this movie was much about boundaries.  Existing in a world of corruption and turmoil while a world of vibrant color surrounded them. They were young children surviving in an old world with mature situations.  They also exsisted in a world of surreal fantasy and harsh reality.  The two boys black and white were left to dwell in these binaries much like cyborgs are forced to.  

Inspiration and a Mermaid Tailed Patchwork Girl March 2, 2009

Posted by baimeeker in cyborgs, fsct 301, writing.
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Hey everyone!

While I was working on my narrative, I found a relevant podcast about muses that keep people up at night.  It’s called 3AM and Writing.  I suggest reading it.  You canfind it here: http://www.theseanachai.com/2009/02/27/3-am-and-writing/#more-405

Also, I just found this article.  A woman whose legs were amputated as a child asked for a prosthetic mermaid tail!  Given that she already had prosthetic legs, it may seem a little much, but I honestly wonder how it would be to swim with something like that!  And to have to switch limbs to go swimming!  What do you all think?  Here’s the link: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10171471-1.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

Superuseless Superpowers February 19, 2009

Posted by yakshi in comics, comix, cyborgs.
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My friend forwarded me a link to a blog called Superuseless Superpowers <http://superuseless.blogspot.com/&gt;. By using comedy, the entries help to humanize the concept of superheroes. Whereas our culture idolizes superheroes and their superhuman abilities, this blog assigns unremarkable “superuseless superpowers” to regular people. For example, their superheroes can grow hair between their eyebrows extremely fast, or fly only while on a plane. Each entry is a different superpower, providing numerous, often disappointing, ideas for superheroes.

This blog raises the question of what qualities make a superhero so super and powerful. Is there a hierarchy amongst superheroes, even ones that have long been institutionalized in our pop culture? Superheroes surpass the notion of natural strength, therefore how can we compare the physical power of Iron Man’s impenetrable suit to the Hulk and his involuntary mutations? Either way, all superheroes have qualities that challenge social norms and natural human abilities. Is being superhuman ultimately better than being just human?

As we consider narratives behind superheroes, and how they involve the application of superpowers and qualities to regular people, we must address cyborgs. In what way are cyborgs, in some respects science’s attempt to improve the human body and mind, also better than humans? Could their physiological and psychological differences be considered superpowers, or rather superimprovements? How would cyborgs fit into the hierarchy of superheroes, if at all?

Blake vs. Cyborgs February 17, 2009

Posted by ml7142 in poetry, technology, writing.
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When discussing the two contrasting works o Blake, the Lamb and the Tyger, I started to question his reasoning in writing two songs that could share so much meaning yet be so blatently apart. The binaries of a lamb and the tyger are symbolistic of good and evil yet blake is obvious in noting as well as questioning how the lamb and the tyger are created from the same. From reading these two songs, I started to realize how the exact thing that Blake questions in these songs are represented in a cyborg or cybernetic organism. A cyborg is a combination of binaries that come together for its creation. Whether these may be human/machine, good/evil etc, the toery of being created by “man” is all the same. In Blake’s song’s the innocent lamb and the aggressive tyger theoretically share a creator. The case can then be made the same for human and cyborg. Technically speaking the human and the cyborg, regardless of how endless their differences can be, share the same creator; a “man”. Since the other topic about these opposing poems talked about was the prophecy and experience piece, I also found a correlation to a cyborg within this idea. A cyborg or cybernetic organism is built upon hte idea of a functioning human. The human being though it has various different stories for how it is created, has a religious connotation for being created as a prophetic organism meant to live and prosper. The cyborg then is much like the tyger in that often times it is an aggressive afterthought that is created or understood as something that is the afterthought of the lamb. This thought process kind of made me question my original point although I hope you can try and understand what it is exactly that I am trying to say.

Blake and the Active Cyborg February 3, 2009

Posted by animatingthecyborg in class, cyborgs, gender, monstrosity, poetry, race.
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Since the next two weeks of class are broken up with travel and printmaking workshops, I just wanted to take a moment to highlight the choreography of the course and how the lecture on Blake today figures into the foundation for the rest of the semester.

Two of the key questions guiding the course, which can be found on the syllabus, are:

  1. What counts as “authentic” human experience and what does it mean to be human?
  2. How is the cyborg narrative been shaped through visual culture?

Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience call into question dominant cultural values (the hegemony of society) by creating fissures in the strict binaries by which society is organized and structured. So, when we consider what counts as authentic human experience, notions of object, personhood and citizenship are destabilized in the matrix that makes up dominant culture in 18th century Britain.

Personhood and citizenship are particularly important here as the Songs act as a prophecy or beacon where the Other has no proper place in society—and while most of you are familiar with the concept of the Other, for those of you who are not familiar with this idea: the Other is a person or group of people who are marginalized or ostracized by the dominant culture. The Other, or “boundary being” (as the Other typically survives on the fringes of society) is usually alienated along gender, race and/or class lines.

Blake shines a light on the “authenticity” or validity of the dominant culture’s binaries by introducing characters such as the Lamb, who, in the Songs of Innocence, appears to be “buying into” the organization of culture and the marginalizing of people as Other. The lamb is a familiar figure to readers (both today and in the 18th/19th century), because of both its Biblical and agricultural uses. However, by Songs of Experience, the Lamb is transformed into the Tyger (although familiar to us today, it was a creature most people in England had never seen), and the Tyger is coded as a strange and monstrous figure.

By taking something familiar and non-threatening as the Lamb and transforming it into the Tyger, Blake demonstrates that the Other is a part of us: every Lamb has the possibility of breaking from the herd, or flock, and expressing its independence as a person and thinker, thereby morphing into a Tyger—sameness (as can be seen in the images of the flock of sheep—sameness can also be read as “Innocence”), then, is abandoned for individuality (or awareness—or “Experience”), a truly scary concept in the wake of the French Revolution and the civil unrest in Britain at the time.

Exploring the binaries that govern the Songs, as well as the fissures that are created within its matrix, we can gain a better sense of how the subject position of the Other (or “boundary being”) is a monstrous concept—which aligns it not only with other monsters, but highlights the theoretical underpinnings that shape current cultural narratives of the cyborg today.

Although we cannot replicate the same relief etching process invented by Blake (which I explained earlier in class), our first project is in the spirit of William Blake’s work. You can even reduce the act of physically engraving the linoleum blocks down to the kinds of binaries that govern different embodiments of cyborgs today: encoded/decoded, full/empty, subject/object, strange/familiar.

In a similar way the cyborg is a hybrid creature (cybernetic, yet organic; constructed and programmed, yet aware and desiring an identity), this class, too, is a hybrid. We’re combining critical theory and creative expression, examining different incarnations of the cyborg in visual culture along the way. It’s a complicated dance (it’s a 300 level course, after all). Right now, we’re merely learning the steps so we can move on to more complicated movements.

So hopefully this helps highlight the diagram of the dance steps.