“A Cyborg Manifesto” – Donna Haraway

My immediate reaction to Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” was that of complete perplexity. Her style of writing and language was hard to grasp, but throughout reading it, I seemed to be able to piece a few things together to get the big picture. The big picture mainly being, that the cyborg/human hybrid is and will be the next organism in overcoming racism, sexism etc. and destroying labels regarding gender, religion and history.

Now saying that, Haraway did only start writing this in 1983, and it was published by 1985 for the world to see, so to say she was a woman ahead of her time, is an understatement, as this women almost predicted the future. As a child who grew up in the Digital Age, it’s easy for me to comprehend that there would be such forms of Artificial Intelligence created, but it is peculiar to see such ideas being thought of back then.

I was confused as to what this whole cyborg idea had to do with socialist feminism, but Haraway makes it clear that cyborgs don’t judge each other based on ethnicity, beliefs ( feminism) or stereo-types. So to become a cyborg, means, to become acceptable to all, and this is the step forward that she wants us to take. Haraway’s belief of feminism is that it should be about equality , where both man and woman are equal, not the woman trying to seek a place higher than the man. Cyborgs, according to Haraway, think in terms of equality.

Although, I do have a concern with this. Haraway’s defines a cyborg as being ” a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creation of fiction”. The new age machines cannot be considered as just appearing artificial anymore. There is no boundary between natural and artificial. Cyborgs lose some aspects of what makes us human, and even she describes them as “monstrous”, leading us to believe that they could do more harm than good. The human traits that are removed, are removed to ensure control.

In this article I found on sexism in the world of AI, it describes how it’s mainly men are building AI’s, and the effect this will have won’t be a good one if we don’t have a woman’s input. It explains how Artificial Intelligence research has drifted from the focus of how technology can improve people’s lives. This is Haraway’s goal, but we seem to be straying from it. “Many women are driven by the desire to do work that benefits their communities, Men tend to be more interested in questions about algorithms and mathematical properties.” [Marie desJardins, 2015]

“Robotics and artificial intelligence don’t just need more women—they need more diversity across the board”  [Sarah Todd, 2015]

Inside the surprisingly sexist world of artificial intelligence – Sarah Todd, 2015.

Marie desJardins, a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, whose research focuses on machine learning and intelligent decision-making.


Critical Discourse in Digital Humanities

I recently read the article “Critical Discourse in Digital Humanities” by Fred Gibbs. The three main points he has made are :

1. “Digital humanists have not created an effective critical discourse around their work.”

2. “We need more theoretical and practical rubrics for evaluating digital humanities work.”

3. “Digital humanities work requires a different kind of peer review to produce effective criticism.”

  • Firstly, he explains how digital humanities is very different from the humanities, which leads to the need for different ways of evaluating work that humanists are unfamiliar with. A critical discourse has not been made for digital humanists to criticise each others’ work. The digital humanities community has been supportive, and slow to appear unwelcoming. Although Gibbs claims we do criticize our peer’s work, it’s a public opinion that is most useful, from those outside of the digital humanities. We need to explain what is good, and what is not good and why.
  • Secondly, Gibbs explains that a critical discourse needs to be concerned with both interpretation and evaluation. He doesn’t want to see an astounding visualisation that has no meaning behind it. He also explains how the ways that old critics criticised, are needed along with the ways of critics nowadays in this new critical discourse that we are seeking. Nowadays we judge something whether it is good or bad. Back then, things were criticised based on “knowledge, disinterestedness, love, insight, style.” Gibbs tells us we are better off to evaluate things according to Barbara Herrnstein Smith, by  integrity, boundaries, coherence, features, qualities, categories to which it belongs and properties that make it what it is. So, he outlines a few of his own categories that he believes should be the criteria for critical discourse:   Transparency – to see if we can really understand what’s happening. Resusability – is there an option to export this data so other digital humanists can apply it to their projects. Data – so that it’s visible to the world and not hidden, and can be tested. Design – the medium is the message, but the decisions behind it count also.
  • Lastly, he explains that digital projects need to be published publicly for it to receive the relevant scholarly discourse. Gibbs is saying that we need a whole broader audience to do the criticising because digital humanities is a broad subject that embodies interdisciplinary practices that can’t make it alright to use the same old models of critique. The most expressive critique is one that discusses the unique characteristics and style of the creator that is reflected from their work.

This was an interesting read as a student studying Digital Humanities, it showed me how I can effectively criticise my own work, and my peer’s work so we can improve it according to the criteria stated above.