In the fall 2018 semester, I taught a semester-long class on Cyborgs and Cybernetics at the Technology, Culture, and Society department at NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
Feminist science studies scholar Donna Haraway writes: “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 all cyborgs.” But what does it mean to say that we are all cyborgs? This class will explore the history and theory of cyborgs and cyborgs in the many domains in which they have been influential to offer some answers to that question.
The class will begin with a dive into the history of cybernetics, a engineering and philosophical paradigm emerged as a way to solve critical engineering challenges during World War II. Cybernetics went on to have an outsized impact in the sciences, engineering, and the social sciences with the acceleration of the space race and the professionalization of scholarly life, influencing fields as varied as information science, management, bionics, anthropology, and biology. Cybernetics has had an equally lively afterlife in popular culture, where cyborgs have proliferated and anchored a variety of dystopian, utopian, and liberatory thinking. Throughout the later parts of the class, we will explore how cyborgs and cybernetics have been taken up as cultural resources by practitioners, artists, philosophers, and writers as aids for understanding, critiquing, and changing modern society.