Cyborgs and the Interaction between
Human and Electronic Bodies

In Hypertext George Landow discusses the importance of visual elements on the screen of an electronic text, including the most basic conventions of "the cursor, the blinking arrow, line, or other graphic elements that represent the reader-author's presence in the text" (Landow, 44). Such elements underscore the reader's interactive and authorial relation with the body of the electronic text. The way in which the mouse provides an extension of both the computer (in its direct link to the cursor) and the human user (in its literal link to the hand) likewise provides one example of the breakdown of a clear distinction between human body and machine.

In her "Cyborg Manifesto," Donna Haraway builds "an ironic political myth" of a post-gender society in which cyborgs - creatures "simultaneously animal and machine" - inhabit the world. With her notion of the cyborg, Haraway extends the interaction between human and electronic bodies to its fantastical extreme: "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, 149).

She continues by discussing the social and political possibilities encompassed in the cyborg: "Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves . . . It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories" (Haraway, 181). As such, the world of the cyborg can serve as a prime space in which to break down and reconsider conventional dualistic notions such as gender.

Haraway's cyborg "is a creature in a post-gender world . . . [it] has no origin story in the Western sense . . . [and] is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity" (Haraway, 150-1). It is also, in this sense, the fictional embodiment of our own fragmentary postmodern identity.

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Web page written and constructed by Laralynn Weiss, Georgetown University