Visual Thinking – Greetings, phone-beings

On November the 5th I attended a visual thinking seminar led by professor Clive Cazeaux based on the title ‘Greetings, phone-beings’.

The basis of this seminar:

Technology – whether a phone or a stick of charcoal – is commonly seen as a tool that does our bidding, but in this seminar a rival thesis is presented: technology shapes us and what is possible for us. How has technology been active in determining my understanding in this session?

The nature of technology and how it defines action, perception and thought.

The essential preparatory reading for this seminar:

Haraway, D. (2000). ‘A cyborg manifesto: science, technology, and socialist feminism in the late twentieth century’, The Cybercultures Reader, eds. D. Bell and B.M. Kennedy. London: Routledge, pp. 291-95, 310-16.  Work first published in 1991.

Harman, G. (2002). Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects. Chicago: Open Court, pp. pp. 20-25.

Quotes that I liked from the texts:

  • “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” – Haraway, D.
  • “And modern war is a cyborg orgy, coded by C³I, command-control-communication-intelligence, an $84 billion item in 1984’s US defence budget.” – Haraway, D.
  • “The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation.” – Haraway, D.
  • “Far from signalling a walling off of people from other living beings, cyborgs signal disturbingly and pleasurably tight coupling.” – Haraway, D.
  • “Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.” -Haraway, D.
  • “In short, the certainty of what counts as nature – a source of insight and promise of innocence – is undermined, probably fatal.” – Haraway, D.
  • “Who cyborgs will be is a radical question. The answers are a matter of survival. Both chimpanzees and artefacts have politics, so why shouldn’t we (de Waal, 1982; Winner, 1980)?” – Haraway, D.
  • “Modern machines are quintessentially microelectronic devices: they are everywhere and they are invisible. Modern machinery is an irreverent upstart god, mocking the Father’s ubiquity and spirituality.” – Haraway, D.
  • “People are nowhere near so fluid, being both material and opaque.” – Haraway, D.
  • “The ubiquity and invisibility of cyborgs is precisely why these sunshine-belt machines are so deadly. They are as hard to see politically as materially. They are about consciousness – or its simulation.” – Haraway, D.
  • “I am conscious of the odd perspective provided by my historical position – a PhD in biology for an Irish Catholic girl was made possible by Sputnik’s impact on US national science-education policy. I have a body and mind as much constructed by the post Second World War arms race and cold war as by the women’s movements.” – Haraway, D.
  • “Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.” – Haraway, D.
  • “One consequence is that our sense of connection to our tools is heightened.” -Haraway, D.
  • “For us, in imagination and in other practice, machines can be prosthetic devices, intimate components, friendly selves.” – Haraway, D.
  • “All the characters explore the limits of language; the dream of communicating experience; and the necessity of limitation, partiality and intimacy even in this world of protean transformation and connection.” – Haraway, D.
  • “The machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they.” – Haraway, D.
  • “Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth.” – Haraway, D.
  • “It is not just that science and technology are possible means of great human satisfaction, as well as a matrix of complex dominations. Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualism in which we have explored our bodies and our tools to ourselves.” – Haraway, D.
  • “Beings in themselves are ready-to-hand, not in the derivative sense of manipulable, but in the primary sense of in action.” – Harman, G.
  • “Insofar as the vast majority of these tools remain unknown to us, and were certainly not invented by us (for example, our brains and our blood cells), it can hardly be said that we use them in the strict sense of the term. A more accurate statement would be that we silently rely upon them, taking them for granted as that naive landscape on which even our most jaded and cynical schemes unfold.” – Harman, G.
  • “Heidegger teaches that equipment is not to be understood as a solid material bulk, as an atom lying before us in obvious presence. In order to examine the alternative, we can abandon the stale example of the hammer and consider a basic piece of infrastructure: a bridge. The reality of the bridge is not to be found in its amalgam of asphalt and cable, but in the geographic fact of traversable gorge. The bridge is a bridge – effect; the tool is a force that generates a world, one in which the canyon is no longer an obstacle.” – Harman, G.
  • “Heidegger has shown that its first notable trait is invisibility. As a rule, the more efficiently the tool performs its function, the more it tends to recede from view: The peculiarity of what is proximally ready-to-hand is that, in its readiness-to-hand, it must, as it were, withdraw in order to be ready-to-hand quite authentically.” – Harman, G.
  • “It is not just that equipment is generally invisible as long as it is working properly.” – Harman, G.
  • “…there is an eternal chasm between equipment and its tool-being.” – Harman, G.
  • “To say that the tool is unseen for the most part us ultimately superfluous, even incorrect.” – Harman, G.
  • “Instead, individual equipment is already dissolved into a global tool – empire” – Harman, G.
  • “Bolt and wire are the specific equipment that they are only within the system they currently happen to occupy: suspension – system, explosive- system. In the case now under discussion, the being of the individual pieces is swallowed into the larger framework of the bridge.” – Harman, G.
  • “In turn, the bridge as a whole is not a self-evident, atomic finality; rather, it functions in numerous different equipmental ways, swept up into countless larger systems. Usually, it enacts an official plan of efficiency, saving ten minutes from the drive around the bay. But in certain regions of the world, separating hostile factions, it is monitored by snipers. The bridge can be the unforgettable site of a fateful conversation (nostalgia equipment), the location of a distant relative’s suicide (memorial equipment), or perhaps it is simply stalked in a troubling insomnia.” – Harman, G.
  • “The crucial point is that at any given moment, every tool is plugged into certain limited systems of machinery while excluded from others: for Heidegger, equipment is its context.” – Harman, G.
  • “The tool gives birth to one particular world of unleashed forces, and no other – even if that world is mirrored in an indefinite number of perspectives.” – Harman, G.
  • “…the totality of equipment is the world” – Harman, G.
  • “For him, the tool in the reality of its labour belongs to a world-system, one that has swallowed up all individual components into a single world-effect. It is only from out of this system that specific beings can ever emerge. The world of tools is an invisible realm from which the visible structure of the universe emerges.” – Harman, G.
  • “For Heidegger, tool-being is notable both for its invisibility and for its totality.” – Harman, G.
  • “As such, the work of the tool forever recedes behind its radiant surface profile.” – Harman, G.
  • “Equipment seems to be a unitary effect, its various tool-pieces absorbed into the Imperium of function that it inaugurates, each of them separable from it only by way of abstraction or outright physical removal. Hence, equipment is total.” – Harman, G.
  • “It has already been seen that equipment functions by pushing up beyond itself, by vanishing in favour of the visible reality that it brings about.” – Harman, G.
  • “The function or reference of the tool is effective not as an explicit sign or symbol, but as something that vanishes into the work to which it is assigned.” – Harman, G.
  • “As we have seen, the being of equipment is Vollzug, execution or performance, a shifting of the issue beyond itself: a reference toward the end it accomplishes.” – Harman, G.

Notes from the seminar:

  • A tool like the phone allows you to achieve something – shapes you.
  • Martin Heidegger: We are fundamentally a part of the environment – there is no outline – a human being is a being their – you cannot divide yourself from the world.
  • You are not aware that you changed the gear when you drive to university – A flow, unaware, our relationship with things.
  • D. Haraway (2000) – we are cyborgs – our every waking moment – who we are given to us by technology.
  • Haraway is a feminist – “Radical” – new ways of living that don’t assume the values of history.
  • Reality is flexible.
  • Beings defined – constructed – cars – dating sites, We can change – rethink this,
  • G. Harman (2002) – “technology has its own powers, it can surprise us”.
  • What is the phone doing to you?
  • What world opens up – what other relationships are possible with this device?
  • Thesis – You can only ever be a co-creator a co-author. You have to acknowledge Photoshop, paint, and the canvas etc. – a non-egotistic philosophy.
  • The Bicycle – series of pressures and bumps – open to anticipation – vibrations felt through the saddle – thoroughly changes how you are in the world – states and possibilities that creates what you’re possible of.
  • John Hilliard, Langdale Fell, frozen motion, 1979 – camera used in a performative way – it’s not just recording.
  • When we read we should be selective.
  • Phone art – new movement – using phone devices to create art – graphic apps – directed by the software what can you do unconventionally with the phone.
  • Steven Pippin – an artist rethinking what a device is possible of. He took a picture with a washing machine.
  • Nicholas Car – You are in danger of becoming shallow. You’re only seeing what’s on the surface.
  • The nature of knowledge, understanding – virtual media.

Explore the idea of we are constructed:

  1. What can you make, what is possible for you and the technologies around you, that shows or displays (abstraction, metaphor) your understanding?
  2. What is to hand? What is possible with that thing that is to hand?
  • Environmental factors constructing me. They are making us. We are at best co-authors.
  • What is a choice? Can we respond in a different way of the environment?

Technology – whether a phone or a stick of charcoal – is commonly seen as a tool that does our bidding, but in this seminar a rival thesis is presented: technology shapes us and what is possible for us. How was technology been active in determining my understanding in this session?

The nature of technology and how it defines action, perception and thought.

What have I gained from this seminar?

From this seminar I have grasped the idea that the 21st century generation like myself are indeed cyborgs and phone beings as we are incredibly engrossed, encouraged and engaged with utilising technology in our everyday lives as a result of living in a technologically thriving environment with the expanding popularity creating and enforcing ever more desirable and seductive developments to further wow and satisfy us. This environment means we really have a miniscule chance of getting away with a successful excuse for not doing the homework as ICT services are available practically everywhere.

I believe that being a technological society of cyborgs and phone-beings is a good thing as technology itself has vigorously been made with efficiency in mind enabling us to not waste our time so much remembering that TIME IS MONEY, as time is a limited resource and a valuable commodity to us all (mentioned by Lakoff, G). Ideally we want more time to be doing the things we love and with more time accessible to us I can see that technology encourages productivity. I believe that people have more of a desire to wanting to learn as more time is available to them they occupy themselves with the pleasure of obtaining knowledge and understanding through their individual fiery passions that can now lead to greater possibilities and accomplishments than if there wasn’t technology in existence.

With educational technological sources being fast, accessible and an illuminating world open to most of us, derived from technology are multitudes of new, brilliant and exciting developments being created rapidly every day and these great advances are what we take for granted. I realise how technology on our devices to-hand are a portal to a huge stimulating world of lively inspiration and socialisation encouraging the wonders of bringing minds together. Which brings me to what’s most important about having more time granted to productivity. As technology is working to complete tasks faster than we could complete them, we are effectively building a more educated enlightened community especially with advancing improvements and developments within the sciences as its bringing us closer to finding cures and making new fascinating discoveries and results to further brighten and enhance our world.

An example of the “sweet little things” that the fabulous efficiency of technology offers us, is that instead of travelling to the library which would cost time and possibly money and to search for the book and then to search for the information that I would need to complete my coursework I can just simply use a device with access to the internet to bring about my information within seconds. Not only is technology capable of finding exactly the information I need it opens billions of doors with further resourceful information online and growing rapidly that is also updated and more reliable (if you use the right sites) than old out-dated books from within the library. Another great example of technology being so serviceable and efficient is that today I can sit in my house and do all my shopping from my home where I don’t have to make the time for the trip, avoid paying for car parks and being held up by traffic or walking round the shop getting lost while trying to find what I’m after as instead the personal shoppers can grab it all for me and deliver it to my house as soon as possible. 

Despite technology giving us the precious gift of time, in terms of the social media advances also strongly encouraged to be utilised, after the discussions that came about at the seminar I agreed that the desire to look at our phones frequently is disturbingly addictive which I personally find concerning as it’s an urge I don’t find too pleasant especially concerning when I have only put my phone down for three minutes and I feel the strong need to check it again. It’s like what Haraway said in the reading I completed “for us, in imagination and in other practice, machines can be prosthetic devices, intimate components, friendly selves” which I sense very much from my devices as they are always close by and so frequently utilised it’s like what Clive said “a third arm” completing tasks that used to be in our history a much more timely labour. Haraway also mentioned how “people are nowhere near so fluid, being both material and opaque” as the engrossment is like the access or simulation of our cyborg modes completing our biddings and also distracting us with its addictive notion.

Despite these addictive concerns that I have mentioned (rambled on about) I believe that the solution is a simple one and technology is good for us than it is bad. In agreement with what Haraway mentioned “the machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they” meaning that we have our own choices and self-control to apply necessary action if needed to meet the well-being best ideal for us in which technology is already built upon. This acknowledgement is in final agreement with Haraway’s message to us Cyborg’s in which I encourage us to follow based on our awareness of our well-being and the beauty of “the necessity of limitation, partiality and intimacy even in this world of protean transformation and connection.”

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Author: ellosweetmellon

I am 21 years old and I live in Cardif. My dream is to be a great illustrator that can sell and exhibit my work with pride.

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