The works of Manuel Castells and Donna Haraway have greatly impacted the understanding of cyberculture. Their ideas have contributed to thinking on information technologies. Castells introduces the ideas of the impact of these technologies on social interactions and morphology. He identifies an information network that links to the operations of human beings. Their ideas expand to show their influence on the global economy through financial systems and multinational corporations. The truncation of information age results in a network society. On the other hand, Haraway’s ideas are drawn from the historical periods of the Reagan Era and the Cold War. She designs cyborg methods from Star Wars, a Reagan strategy. However, the ideas of a cyborg are integrated with technology, military, feminism, materialism, and socialism. Key ideas surround the illusionary nature of cyborg existence.
The network society is a school of thought promoted by Manuel Castells. Castells argues that information is based on the integration of technology with social, economic, and political issues of the society (Castells & Catterall, 2001). A network links interconnected spots where there is some intersection. Therefore, the network society is made of forms and functions. It is characterized by the economic unit becoming a network rather than an isolated form of production. Information becomes a factor of production and critical in the development of urban centres through the information network. According to Castells (2000), the network society is a social structure derived from the information age. The social structure revolves around the patterns of production and consumption. It may also involve power and experience. On the other hand, the information is viewed by Castells as a historical period where human activities and interactions greatly rely on technological paradigms. The paradigms are based on microelectronic information and communication technologies together with genetic engineering.
The first idea is informationalism used by Castells to describe the current economic order by shying away from a term like post-industrialism. In reviewing the change, he considers a transition through the socio-technical paradigm shift. It is a line with events in globalization and capitalism whereby there is increased consumption of information in generation, processing and communication. The manipulation of knowledge in itself is the source of productivity. Quoting Webster and Robins, Bell (2007) notes that there is a transition from hardware to software and then data. The state of informationalism has roots in the advent of falling communism, leading to christened global information capitalism or new brand of it. In the core of informationalism is the informational mode of development. Intrinsically, the world is still in a state of capitalism and labour relations. However, the mode of development includes the types of technology that humans use on a matter, humans themselves, and other people to create profits (Castells, 2002). Thus, the current mode of production acts on knowledge.
The technology paradigm advances the use of information and knowledge in societies because it is pertinent in all societies. However, the most outstanding thing in cyberculture is information technologies. They are much different from the ones present in the industrial revolution or even the information revolution. The Internet is the centre stage of this technology revolution. It is a global tool for communication on which most computer technologies focus. There is also a shift of these computer programs to network technologies such as nanotechnology. It has led to the increased exploitation of information and knowledge in the production of services and goods (Castells, 2000).
According to Castells (2002), the development of a new technological paradigm around more flexible and powerful information technologies makes it realistic for information in itself to become an output of the product process. The output can be information producing products or exact information processing. In the end, information on various facets of human life is processed, hence connecting different areas, elements, agents and functions. Eventually, there is a continuous interconnected economy with the ability to process technology, knowledge and management in a series of interconnections. Some of the examples mentioned by Castells include multinational corporations and financial markets.
Financial systems dominate the world today (Castells & Catterall 2001). According to Castells (2000), there is automation at the centre of operations of economies that condition human lives. There are concerns about electronic financial systems’ impact on jobs or privacy. Castells claims that automation is a collective capitalistic robotized market with complex and conflicting logic that can be random. Thus, financial globalization is marked with information ripples and unpredictable booms and recessions. The chaotic nature of the global economy spreads almost everywhere by intention or accident though it does not cover the world in totality. In operations, multinational corporations and financial markets are not displays of the world economy but a success of systems with the real potential of covering the globe. The global economy is an uneven existence in different places of the world but of somewhat clear structure. The presence of the fourth regions is a manifestation of places excluded, for instance by financial systems (Bell, 2007).
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Therefore, Castells (2000) believes that today, there exists a new economy with three distinct characteristics. The first is informational that involves the capacity to produce information and process it influence on production and competition in all industries. However, the biggest problem is gauging information productivity. Second, the new economy is global in nature. It covers financial corporations and multinationals. The entities require communication and high-skilled media. Notably, not all jobs and economies are included in the global economy. Thus, the economy is extremely selective. Finally, the new economy is a network. The global economy is interconnected, and it is a producer of information, resulting in a network of enterprises. However, it is worth noting that the network is created of firms or parts of firms, not enterprises. It is what exists in multinational corporations and even smaller production entities (Bell, 2007).
The role of the network in a social organization turns to human history. The information age has resulted in a society that is very flexible and adaptable. On the contrary, there is difficulty in managing resources, tasks and coordinating functions. At the same time, there is the decentralization of performance and decision-making. There is a possibility of managing the complexity of technologies. In essence, the network has no centre and works through binary logic. It fulfils a function that is neutral and programmed beforehand. All in all, the network society is based on the capabilities of information technologies and production (Bell, 2007).
Donna Haraway’s works can be evaluated through her writings on cyborg methods. According to Bell (2007), they include the consideration of “New Machines, New Bodies, New Communities: Political Dilemmas of a Cyborg Feminist” at the conference The Scholar and the Feminist X: The Question of Technology in 1983. Further ideas were expressed in 1985 in “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Socialist Feminism, and Technology in the 1980s”. The manifesto was revised into nature cultures together with nine other essays. Hence, the title is “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”. The manifesto was a review on feminism based on the Star Wars era. In the essay, the aim was to critique and remember the war and consequently link ecofeminism and technoscience. According to Bell (2007), the manifesto was the first paper Haraway did on the computer. It is better called as cyborg writing. At that time, there was the increased use of computer, especially in the humanities. Thus, people themselves began feeling like cyborgs.
Haraway developed the cyborg and manifestation ideologies around the Star Wars, which took place during President Reagan’s administration. The Star Wars were officially known as the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI). It was developed in the 1980s to protect the United States from a space attack. The defence mechanism was based on satellite technology with an X-ray laser curtain that could handle nuclear missiles (Bell, 2007).
Haraway presented the cyborg as an object of both social and fictitious existence. In other words, it was a social being of illusionary existence. On the other hand, the manifesto was an ironic political myth sided with materialism, feminism and socialism According to Haraway (1991), the main problem with cyborgs is that they are not true to their origins and fathers. Equally, the illegitimate offspring also shows a close relationship with military, social and patriarchal capitalism. In this context, Haraway displays the cyborg character as being affected by the manifesto. The manifesto acknowledges that there is a deviation from the norm. As such, the idea of the cyborg is an integration of technology and life form. Cyborgs are also known as cybernetic organisms and involve the integration of organs with technological devices that can make an automatic influence on their operations. The first cyborg was a rat with an osmotic pump that was studied to simulate the human body for space travel. Haraway states that the illegitimacy of the cyborg is the ability to change the designated functionality which is the father’s intention (maker). Cyborgs can also challenge their origin, adding to the irony (Bell, 2007).
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Thus, it adds to the definition spelled out by Haraway as science fiction and social being. The understanding of the cyborg challenges the three perceptions of the world. They include the following ones: the relations between animals and human beings, organisms and machines and, finally, physical and non-physical environment (Bell, 2007). A major part of the irony is that the use of technoscience has helped to deteriorate the fundamental relationships. It concerns transplanting animal organs into human beings and understanding human behaviour from animals and smart machines that are very dangerous in the first place.
Issues around feminism are also covered in the works of Haraway. She considers the identities of women in multicultural settings. Feminism studies reflect events of the 1980s. At that time, a woman was less conservative in politics, analysis and epistemology (Sofoulis, 2002). Haraway explores social and radical feminism in fractured identity. Her work attempts to advocate for the place of women by representing their views in totality. Nonetheless, the idea of difference or postmodern feminism even goes ahead to consider discrimination, especially against women of colour. In the end, it is proposed that there should be cyberfeminism. In this context, feminism places partly but realistic relations (Haraway, 1995; Bell, 2007).
In the information age, there is a propagation of changes in the world by looking into how social relations relate to science and technology. The chart of paired items compares the ideas of modernity with contemporary technology. The information displayed in the chart is related to informationalism as it is promoted by Castells. Further, she acknowledges that the world living is an emerging array of innovations is derived from industrial capitalism. According to Bell (2007), scientific management at home and factory is replaced at an advanced stage by global factory or electronic cottage. On the other hand, labour is represented by robotics while functional specialization is characterized by modular construction. This manifestation is similar to ideas presented in the network society. Dialectics brings back to the talk on feminism. It is advanced that a man is replaced by a more flexible woman in the organization. The basis changes from family, market and factory to “women in an integrated circuit” (Haraway, 1991).
Information and bioscience technologies provide the various aspects of codes that act as the origins of power, analysis and political intent. Codes include machine and genetic codes that provide the basis for considering the aspects of feminism in the cyborg. Subsequently, Haraway considers the complex nature and ethnic disparities in global markets. As such, the place of women is discussed in different contextual frameworks. Nonetheless, the place in science and technology is intriguing. For instance, there is a women-led home which experience domestic chores that can integrate technology use. Equally, the technology has been adopted for work at home and office. Further, Haraway introduces a new set of labour dynamism in the homework economy. It considers the division of labour in the information age. It is made possible by using existing technologies (Bell, 2007; Haraway, 1995).
According to Haraway (1991), the cyborg is imagination from feminine science fiction. Consequently, the cyborg is a problematic being in the lives of men, women, races and humanity. The author pre-empts visualizing cyborgs as real enemies. Cyborgs, like human bodies, resemble power and identity. The cyborg identity links body and tool. Further, the cyborg is not unique or modest in its operations. Thus, there is the antagonistic dual identity of irony. As already mentioned, the cyborg can work against the creator and the purpose for which it is meant. “The machine is not an it to be animated, worshiped, and dominated” (Haraway, 1991, p. 180). The main idea promoted by Haraway throughout the work is that human beings are responsible for machines, and as such, they can draw boundaries and keep machines in check. The cyborg is isolated from military to a more social sense. Needless to say, the cyborg is always mobile (Bell, 2007).
Finally, today, the cyborg has different functions unlike the restrictions once shared by Haraway. A link in the cyberculture chain is sought from the once failed project under Reagan to success in cyborgs. The author notes the changes but argues that the term cyborg should be limited to the issues of the 1980s. Nevertheless, she reinvented some of her ideas around the cyborg.
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