Who is a Cyborg?

The posthuman is often characterized by prosthetics and cyborgism, drawing inspiration from science fiction in forming the image of what the posthuman looks like.

At present time, with scientific advances and developments,  it can be difficult to tell whether scientist or the makers of science fiction is leading the way in creating the image of the posthuman. (Herbrechter, 2013, p. 108)

One should differ between transhumanism and posthumanism. Transhumanist, often represents a technoscience outlook, here they euphorically celebrate the benefits of technologically transformation of the human, even the end of man. (Herbrechter, 2013, p. 3)

Posthumanism however needs to be viewed as the entire discourse about the subject and as such both incorporates very dystopic and utopic comprehensions of the posthuman condition and negative and positive discourse.(Herbrechter, 2013, p. 37)

Central is the decentralization of the human and post anthropocentric worldview. Here focus is moved away from the human as the only subject of importance, towards a focus on the interrelatedness of the human and non-human form of agency.(Herbrechter, 2013, p. 41)

While the idea of cyborgism and prosthetics makes the concept of posthumanism and moving beyond the human easy to understand, the implications of posthumanism might be more subtle and ubiquitous than such figurative paintings and metaphors.

New technologies, etc. artificial intelligence and ICT’s, are an ubiquitous part of our lives and are not just providing us the intended advantages of the technologies but also in turn transforming us and the way we live our lives in unexpected and unforeseen ways, creating new forms of subjectivity and dissociating material embodiment. (Herbrechter, 2013, pp.25-26, p.50)

The question could be posed: “Is the 10 year old who communicates with his friend over facebook, twitter, google+, hangouts, snapchat, messenger, whatsapp, minecraft, not much more of a cyborg than the guy with a ear operated into his arm?”

Isn’t this ear arm just an intellectual form of bodybuilding and centralizing the human?

“Is he not much more embracing the decentralization of the human and interrelated with the non-human agencies?”



Stefan Herbrechter, ”Towards a critical posthumanism”, from Posthumanism: A critical analysis, London: Bloomsbury, 2013

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9 Comments on "Who is a Cyborg?"

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Charlotte Grum
Hi Kim. I really appreciate your reflections on whether the young techno-social-human animals and I would ad their biometrically enhanced parents are more cyborgs than Stelarcs ear-arm. In a way I think that these strong visual and artistic symbols of the entanglement of biology and technology sometimes obscure the fact that virtual and augmented reality is everywhere and already a part of everyday practices – at least in particular places of the planet. While also being occupied with how subjectivity is under construction, I am very much aware of the subtle yet massive implications of social media and new technology… Read more »
Jennifer Charteris
Hi all, Thanks for the provocation Kim. A great post to consider posthuman spatiality. Charlotte, I like your term “young techno-social-human animals”. You said that “entanglement[s] of biology and technology sometimes obscure the fact that virtual and augmented reality is everywhere and already a part of everyday practices.” It made me wonder if this has always been the case in some societies perhaps sought through recreational drugs? I was also wondering about the binary notion of empowing and dis-empowering? What could a posthuman conception of power be- if we think about power as something that transcends individuals? Thanks for the… Read more »
J.J. Sylvia IV
I really appreciated the approach you took with this post! I’m currently teaching a class right now called Posthuman Media Studies, and we started by looking at these popular cultural representations of cyborgs. But as we continue to move further into the posthuman philosophy, I’m challenging them to think more along the lines that you’ve mentioned here where our use of cellphones and social media makes us cyborgs. Have you read Bernard Stiegler’s Technics and Time series? He makes the argument that humans have always used technology and, for that reason, there has never been any “essential” human. In other… Read more »
Eva Krarup
Eva Krarup
Hi, I recently read an article by Chris Hables Gray in The posthuman condition (Aarhus University Press, 2012) in which he claims that “We all live in a Cyborg Society” (among other things because millions of people use the internet every day and thus become temporary cyborgs, p. 26-27). Do you agree on that when you call attention to the use of social medias, cellphones etc.? I also think your question about whether scientists or the makers of science fiction are leading the way in our understanding of the posthuman is intriguing, Kim. Which role do you and the other… Read more »
Eva Krarup
Eva Krarup

Really interesting reflections, I will definitely look up the article by Jesper Tække. And I think you’re right that we’re now in a reality where we have long ago transgressed the stereotypical images of the cyborg presented to us by science fiction. But on the other hand a broader conception of what a cyborg is brings us closer to the approach that we’ve always been posthuman, doesn’t it? I mean, slightly caricatured, is using my computer and my cellphone any different from how man has always used technology/tools to optimize living conditions?

Sine Lykke Hansen
Hi Kim! I found your post really thought-provoking and after reading it I was even more aware of people (including myself) using technology in the everyday life. I like the question you pose, “is the everyday user of technology or the man with an ear operated to his arm more of a cyborg?”. I think we might tend to see what is “weird”, strange and unusual as the less human. Also, to discuss these questions, it might be important to make clear how you see the relation between the human and the technological artifact. I think there is a big… Read more »