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Michel Foucault's Theory of Technologies of Power and Technologies of the Self

Choose one of the following options as the focus of your analysis:

Option One

As we discussed in week 2 of the course, Michel Foucault proposes that systems of social order and control are exercised through four major types of ‘technology’: 1. technologies of production, 2. technologies of sign systems, 3. technologies of power, and 4. technologies of the self. Of these, Foucault was most concerned with the latter two: technologies of power, which externally regulate the way individuals conduct themselves, and technologies of the self, which have to do with how people control themselves (their bodies, thoughts, and actions) through internal practices of self-monitoring, self-scrutiny, and self-regulation. As Foucault states, technologies of the self “permit individuals to effect by their own means, or with the help of others, a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immorality” (Foucault, Technologies of the Self, 225).

Choose a lifestyle influencer who has a prominent digital media presence a case study. Critically analyse your case study (their website, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube posts etc) in relation to technologies of the self. You might pick a health and fitness influencer like Emily Skye or Cameron Byrnes, a food and lifestyle influencer such as Hayden Quinn, a fashion and beauty influencer like Akanksha Redhu, or some other kind of lifestyle influencer depending on your own interests (as long as they are relevant to technologies of the self).

Option Two

Expanding on Simone de Beauvoir’s assertion that “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman” (de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 27), Judith Butler maintains that gender differences are not biological or natural, instead they are socially constructed. In other words, gender identity is tenuously instituted over time through the stylised repetition of bodily gestures, movements, and enactments, which work together to create the illusion that gendered identity is natural and stable. As Butler states, gender is “a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment […] the stylised repetition of acts over time, and not a seamless identity” (Butler, Performative Acts, 520). These gendered performances are acted out in accordance with dominant ideals and discourses, which provide a framework for our activities.  

In week four we explored Butler’s theories of gender performativity in relation to the construction of celebrity identity, but how do these accounts influence everyday life? Examine scholarly material on gender identity presented in the course so far in relation to your own social media presence. You may choose to focus on selfies and other images that you post on a single platform such as Instagram, or you might like to take a multimedia approach. Either way, you should provide a close critical analysis of a sample of relevant images/texts. Remember, though you are using your own social media identity as the object of analysis, you will still need to maintain a critical scholarly approach.

Michel Foucault's Theory of Technologies of Power and Technologies of the Self

The identity of an individual is influenced to a large extent by the notions which have been taught to them since their childhood and also the basic entities of their culture (Bergen 95). Weber and Kurt are of the viewpoint that these ideas wield a substantial influence on the individuals and thus the individuals often identify themselves with the binaries like male-female and others. As opined by Bertolotti, Arfini and Magnani, the net result of this is the fact that the individuals often try to define themselves on the basis of these factors and also to a great extent modify or amend their behavior on the basis of these aspects. However, the works of the recent authors like Donna Haraway and others repudiate these binaries or the entities on the basis of which the individuals have been used to identify themselves and forms the aspects of their behavior.

These authors have stated that the behavior of the individuals cannot be segregated on the basis of these simple binaries and as a matter of fact can best be understood in association with the ones displayed by the cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras and others (Birke 47). The works of the modern scientists like Stelarc, Neil Harbisson and others have also tried to defy the traditional binaries on the basis of which the human beings have formed their identity as well as behavioural practices since the traditional times (Rees 15). This essay will discuss the manner in which the work of Donna Haraway, namely, “A Cyborg Manifesto” defines the traditional binaries. The essay will also shed light on the viewpoints propounded by scientists Stelarc and Neil Harbisson related to the same.


According to Donna Haraway in “A Cyborg Manifesto”, “The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust”(Haraway 109). This viewpoint of Haraway is a direct contradiction to the ideas which has been propounded to the individuals since the traditional times. As opined by Sofoulis, the various Christianity propounds the viewpoint that the human beings are the creation of the Almighty and they were once the residents of Paradise. However, they were expelled from the Paradise because of the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. More importantly, since then they had to earn their daily bread “through the sweat of their brows” (Camp 479). Kim is of the viewpoint that the modern society tries to justify the need of the individuals to work for their daily bread on the basis of this factor. In addition to this, another fact which is being propounded by the Bible is the fact that God created the human beings or His children who currently inhabit the earth in His own image (Buran 290). Thus, it can be said that the above quoted lines of Haraway is in direct contradiction to the normal ideas propounded to the individuals not only by the religion that they follow but also on the basis of the ideas which has been conveyed to them since their birth.

Judith Butler's Theory of Gender Performativity

Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1985) is often seen to a monumental work because of the fact that the work tries to deconstruct the entire gamut of ideas which forms the cruix of the identity of the individuals (Tavera 39). Another important aspect of the essay under discussion here is the fact that it tries to deconstruct the traditional binaries like male/female, civilised/primitive, nature/culture, human/animal, self/other, whole/part and others which has formed an integral part of the identity of the human beings since the traditional times. As opined by Prasad, the human beings since the traditional times have been used to identifying themselves as either belonging to the male fraternity or to the female one. More importantly, the humans, at the same time, have been taught by the society to amend their behaviour as per the gender to which they belong. In this regard, it needs to be mentioned that the male members are required to the bread earners of the family and female members are entrusted with the various household choirs (Schultze 65). This as a matter of fact has formed a part of their identity for a very long time and they are also required to act in a likewise manner. More importantly, the recent developments in the field of literature and other fields have also lead to the development of the notions of self and other, whole and part and others (Butler 119).


Guler, Gannon and Sicchio have argued the point that the development of the notions of existentialism, colonialism and others had drastically altered the way in which the human beings have been used to perceive themselves since the traditional times. The major contribution made by the development of knowledge in these genres is the fact that they have made the human beings take into consideration the notions of self/other, whole/part and others for the formulation of their identity. However, the work of Haraway by trying to show the human beings as cyborgs or mosaics tries to alter this aspect of the identity of the humans. For example, “A Cyborg Manifesto” tries to show the human beings as cyborgs who have been composed in the laboratories through the scientific experiments. Furthermore, she says that “Consciousness of exclusion through naming is acute. Identities seem contradictory, partial, and strategic” ((Haraway 114).

The lines of the essay wherein she says that “By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs” is important to note (Haraway 111). This representation of the human beings in the high-tech world clearly recalls the monster which was created by Frankenstein in the novel of Mary Shelley, named, Frankenstein (Kroos and Herath 207). In this regard, it can be said that she tries to show the human beings in the high-tech world are just like the chimeras which have the capability or the ability to change their shape or form according to the situation. More importantly, the work also in a succinct manner tries to show the impact that the world of technology had on the human beings and also the manner in which it has reshaped the identity of the humans (Vallverdú 199). Thus, it can be said that the work of Haraway has made the human beings to rethink the manner in which they perceive themselves.    

Donna Haraway's Essay “A Cyborg Manifesto” in the Context of Gender Binaries

Kroos and Herath are of the viewpoint that the work is also important from the perspective that it is one of the very first essays which articulated the Cyborg theory. This theory of Haraway tries to bridge the void between the human beings and the animals and at the same time tries to show the human beings in the age of technology as a fusion between the traditional human beings and the animals (Bergen 95). More importantly, the theory also states that the modern human beings in the age of technology need to not only reshape the manner in which they had perceived themselves till now but also needs to take the help of the notion of cyborg politics for the same. Furthermore, she defines cyborg politics as “the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism” (Haraway 115). In this regard, it can be said that language and also grammar used by the individuals itself becomes a form a politics and also attempts by the individuals to gain power within the contemporary society. Furthermore, the attempts of the human beings to indulge in conversations and also develop emotional bonds can be seen as façade to gain more power within the framework of the contemporary society.   

The essay of Haraway deconstructs the identity of the human beings through the dissection of the feminist theory which has contributed in a substantial manner towards the formation of the identity of the human beings. In addition to these, the work, at the same time highlights the issues which are related to the “Western patriarchal tenets” (Weber and Kurt 60). According to Judith Butler in her famous work “Gender Trouble”, “Gender is just a construct, a social performance which has been devised by the society to maintain the power balance within the society” (Butler 119). However, the work of Haraway by totally obliterating the difference between the two genders and also by showing the modern human beings as a hybid of the humans and the animals makes the individuals rethink their identity (Tavera 39). In this regard, it can be said that this work of Haraway, is a challenging one for the feminists and the other critics since it completes challenges the theories as well as the viewpoints propounded by them (Prasad 445).

Bertolotti, Arfini and Magnani are of the viewpoint that the fulcrum point of the various feminist theories is the fact that they try to argue for the cause of female empowerment and also highlight the injustices that has been caused to women. However, the essay under discussion here, by showing that humans as cyborgs, totally disregards the factor of gender and thereby the entire notion of gender politics and feminism. More importantly, since the traditional times the gender of the individuals have formed an integral part of their identity and as a matter of fact their actions and also behaviour to a large extent have been dictated by this factor (Rees 15). Thus, it can be said that the essay of Haraway by making the theories and also the very notion of feminism null and void makes the individuals rethink the identity that they have.   

The essay of Haraway concludes with a discussion of the manner in which the traditional conceptions which have formed the identity of the human beings can be modified to offer a more comprehensive identity to the individuals. In this regard, it can be said that the Haraway says that the human beings in the current world of technology needs to come out of the shell of gender and other notions of identity which has been propounded to them since the traditional times (Kim 320). More importantly, she states that “Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid, sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth” (Haraway 117). Prasad has stated that the manner in which an individual has been created or their emotions and other mental aspects should form the lacuna of their identity rather than the notions of gender and other aspects.  

The experiments of the artists like Stelarc and Neil Harbisson and also the other scientists have at the same showed the meaninglessness of the entities on the basis of which the human beings have perceived their identity. In this regard, Stelarc’s “Ear on Arm” (2006) is important one which depicts the growing of an ear on the arm of a man. It is pertinent to note that Stelarc underwent a series of operations to grow an ear on his left hand (Vallverdú 199). Furthermore, the ear was connected with Bluetooth device which enables him to hear the voices through this artificially implanted ear. This is not only a monumental scientific break-through but also defies the traditional notions of identity held by the people (Kroos and Herath 207). For example, in the earlier times, it was seen that the people with these kinds of abnormalities were considered to be freaks and they were used in the comedy shows and also circuses to entertain the people (Guler, Gannon and Sicchio 151). Needless, to say that, these abnormalities came to form an integral part of their identity. However, this cultivation of the ear on the left hand through scientific means, just like the ideas propounded by Haraway in her essay defies the traditional opinion of the people regarding identity and also dualism.


Neil Harbisson is another contemporary artist just like Stelarc who defies the traditional opinion held by the people regarding identity and identity formation. Harbinson was born colour blind however he has implanted a device within his head which not only enables him to segregate the different colours in an effective manner but also has improved his eye vision (Kroos and Herath 207). Harbisson on the basis of this fact, he is often known as one of the very cyborgs of the world. In addition to this, the devise allows him to sense remote images which are not detected by the normal eye in an adequate manner. This presents a dichotomy to the normal perception of identity. For example, the human beings often consider the entities with artificial brains as robots or cyborgs, however, Harbisson is a human being who is taking the help of artificial brain implants for the purpose of the enhancement of his vision (Schultze 65). Thus, it can be said that the artists Stelarc and Neil Harbisson and their experiments have not only destabilised the traditional notions of dualism but has also made the humans reconsider the very notion of identity itself.

To conclude, the notion of identity as well as dualism have undergone significant amount of change in the current world of technology. More importantly, the rise of the cyborgs and other kinds of robots has not only challenged the traditional conceptions of identity and dualism held by the people but at the same time has forced them to reconsider it as well. In this regard, the work of Dorothy Haraway “A Cyborg Manifesto” is an important one since the work by arguing that the human beings in the contemporary world of technology have become cyborgs refuting the traditional notions held by the people. In addition to this, the work also challenges the conceptions of feminism and other thought processes of the individuals related to identity and thus in a manner it can be said that this has caused the human beings to reconsider the notions of identity and dualism. Furthermore, the works and experiments of Stelarc and Neil Harbisson have also challenged the notions of dualism and identity in a substantial manner.

References

Bergen, Hilary. "‘I’d blush if I could’: Digital assistants, disembodied cyborgs and the problem of gender." Word and Text: A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics 6.1 (2016): 95.

Bertolotti, Tommaso, Selene Arfini, and Lorenzo Magnani. "Cyber-Bullies as Cyborg-Bullies." The Changing Scope of Technoethics in Contemporary Society. IGI Global, 2018. 60-73.

Birke, Lynda. "Bodies and biology." Feminist theory and the body. Routledge, 2017. 42-49.

Buran, Sümeyra. "Correspondence between cyborg body and cyber self." Journal of Research in Gender Studies 5.2 (2015): 290.

Butler, Judith. Gender trouble. routledge, 2002.

Camp, Lisa D. "‘Time to ride the monster train’: multiplicity, the Midnighter and the threat to hegemonic superhero masculinity." Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 8.5 (2017): 464-479.

Guler, Sibel Deren, Madeline Gannon, and Kate Sicchio. "Superhumans and cyborgs." Crafting Wearables. Apress, Berkeley, CA, 2016. 145-159.

Haraway, Donna. "A cyborg manifesto." Science, technology, and socialistfeminism in the late twentieth century. In S. Stryker, & S. Whittle (Eds.), The transgender studies reader(2006): 103-118.

Kim, Eunjung. "Unbecoming human: An ethics of objects." GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21.2-3 (2015): 295-320.

Kroos, Christian, and Damith Herath. "Being One, Being Many." Robots and Art. Springer, Singapore, 2016. 191-209.

Prasad, Ajnesh. "Cyborg writing as a political act: Reading Donna Haraway in organization studies." Gender, Work & Organization 23.4 (2016): 431-446.

Rees, Emma. "Varieties of Embodiment and ‘Corporeal Style’." Talking Bodies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2017. 1-15.

Schultze, Ulrike. "What kind of world do we want to help make with our theories?." Information and Organization 27.1 (2017): 60-66.

Sofoulis, Zoe. "The Cyborg, its Manifesto and their relevance today: Some reflections." Platform: Journal of Media and Communication 6.2 (2015): 8-15.

Tavera, Stephanie Peebles. "Utopia, Inc.: A Manifesto for the Cyborg Corporation." Science Fiction Studies 44.1 (2017): 21-42.

Vallverdú, Jordi. "The Emotional Nature of Post-Cognitive Singularities." The Technological Singularity. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2017. 193-208.

Weber, Andreas, and Hildegard Kurt. "Towards cultures of aliveness. Politics and poetics in a postdualistic age—An anthropocene manifesto." Solutions 5 (2015): 58-65.

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