in Embodiment and everyday cyborgs


There is a huge number of people that I owe equally huge debts of thanks to – in fact way too many to mention but I am going to try. My apologies to anyone that I have overlooked (in the faint hope that there is no one I have overlooked).

Back when I started writing I had two book buddies – Steve Kemp and Jane Calvert – whose input and thoughts were invaluable. Fast-forward and the most recent feedback was at the STIS Reading group where Morgan Currie, Miguel Garcia Sancho Sanchez, Michael Barany, Rob Smith, Rachel Simpson and Vassilis Galanos pushed me on to finish this book. I have been extremely fortunate to have the most amazing PhD students who all helped: Sara Bea, Fiona Coyle, Nathalie Dupin, Laura Donald, Leah Gilman, Vassilis Galanos, Anna Kuslits, Natalia Nïno, Janet Philp, Tirion Seymour, Anne Sorbie, Malissa Shaw, Rachel Simpson, Alison Wheatley and Laura Wigley and a final shout-out to José Goméz for reminding me about the Varela article!

The wonderful world of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies is an important home to be in and accepting of individuals like me who do not necessarily wear STS clothing all the time. Without the unstinting and unwavering support of Cathy Lyall, a person I am lucky to have as a friend, I would not have had the self-belief to persevere with writing. She is ever practical and always kind and I owe her too much. A corridor conversation with Cate Heeney reminded me that Descartes is still a thing! Niki Vermeulen’s constant encouragement and generosity helped rehabilitate an interest in 3-D bioprinting and all things heart related.

Margaret Acton and Géraldine Debard were fantastic – each offering different input (the former of cake and the latter vocals on ‘Electrifying Cyborg Heart’). It was Gé with whom I talked through how ‘everyday cyborg’ as a term might work. I am so grateful to Margaret for her proofreading skills, making this book a much easier experience for those reading it. The index in this book benefited from the magical skills of Moyra Forrest to whom I am eternally grateful.

During the writing of this book I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition which made writing even more difficult than I had anticipated it would be. Then, of course, there is the impact that COVID-19 has had on everyone. Isabel Fletcher was a fantastic colleague and friend with a wicked sense of humour and was my fantastic wing commander when I was teaching. Without the support of my good friend and colleague, Fadhila Mazanderani, the journey would have been so much more difficult – I am truly fortunate to be able to work, study, argue, teach and sort out the plans for world domination with her. The research may never have seen the light of day until Tom Dark from Manchester University Press encouraged me to try and do this and then offered only patience and understanding when I missed several (all) deadlines.

From the wider intellectual field beyond STIS I benefited from reading and conversing with the likes of Alex Faulkner and John Gardner, Nelly Oudshoorn and cyborg scholar Chris Hables Gray. I had read his Cyborg Handbook years before the idea for this book was ever brought into being; I never imagined that I would be invited to contribute a short story based on my research with the everyday cyborgs to the follow-up book called ‘Modified: Living as a Cyborg’ allowing me to experiment writing the fictional piece called ‘When I first saw Jesus, he was a Cyborg’. Muireann Quigley, through her enthusiastic support and belief in the concept of ‘everyday cyborgs’, helped me get to the final pages of this book and I am grateful to her that she is taking ‘everyday cyborgs’ onto a whole new register about the legal and ethical situations of cyborgisation. David Lawrence was a fun guy to be around and an intellectual ally. Klaus Hoëyer and his team in Copenhagen were incredibly generous, inviting me to explore with them mutual areas of interest and offering fantastic feedback which I benefited from enormously. I met Sam Taylor-Alexander, the first person to suggest the term ‘everyday’, however Sam passed away during the writing of this book and the world is not the same place without him. My fellow cyborg studies scholar, the wonderful Nelly Oudshoorn, was encouraging and shared her work and research with me. Donna McCormack offered wonderful insights into an earlier version of Chapter 1 when I was struggling with the gendering of organs.

I first started working with Shawn Harmon when we were both involved in the ESRC Innogen Centre in Edinburgh. Our partnership over the years since, whether it was art collaborations, writing journal articles or researching ‘smart’ technologies, was always stimulating and fun. This book wouldn’t be where it is without benefiting from our collaborations. Among others with whom I worked alongside in the Mason Institute at the University of Edinburgh, Graeme Laurie was an inspiration and I learned a huge amount of what it means to be an academic in terms of kindness, openness and generosity. His ability to be constructive, never destructive, and his willingness to consider the best of everyone was a constant source of inspiration and I owe him more than he realises. The same also applies to Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley who allowed me to take some risks as her Research Fellow and continued to support me. Thank you to the help given by Tirion Seymour the research fellow on this project.

If it hadn’t been for Neil Grubb, the project that this book was based upon, namely ‘Animal, Mechanical and Me: The Search for Replaceable Hearts’, would have missed one of the most critical aspects of actually doing the research as he enabled the contact with implantable cardiac defribillator (ICD) patients and their families. It was Neil who alerted me to research that demonstrated ICDs were causing issues for some individuals and their families. Neil’s team and others made me very welcome, and supported me always, despite the demanding nature of their positions in the UK National Health Service. My thanks also to the families who agreed to speak with me – to them I owe the largest debt of gratitude for their willingness to share their experiences, some of which were not always pleasant for them. They are the true stars of this book and it is their narratives and stories that have made this research what it is. I owe all of them thanks and by bringing their voices to the centre, I feel I have offered something by way of return. Maggie was inspirational and her willingness to document her feelings and allow them to be heard is what is great about the short film Maggie’s ICD Story. Without Maggie there would have been no ‘Story’ – her willingness to share her experiences was a massive act of generosity and courage and I will always be grateful to her.

None of this would have been possible if the Wellcome Trust had not offered funding for ‘Animal, Mechanical and Me: The Search for Replaceable Hearts’. Not only did they fund the project for five years, but their University Award Scheme allowed me to secure an open contract at the University of Edinburgh. The stability that this position offered – in a period when so many individuals do not have that luxury – made me extremely fortunate. It offered an investment not only in the project itself but to the research that I am able to go forward with. Paul Woodgate, Dan O’Connor and Simon Chaplin offered unstinting encouragement.

One of the unique experiences I was able to have because of the Wellcome Trust funding was for a related engagement project: ‘Everyday Cyborgs: Stories from the in/side Out’. It gave me an opportunity to take risks in terms of how art could offer a medium in which the social and ethical issues of human hybridity could be discussed. I was keen to ensure that individuals who are not usually consulted with about the social and ethical consequences of cyborgisation, xenotransplants and 3-D bioprinting had a role to play. Connecting with the people at North Edinburgh Arts such as the fantastic Kate Wimpress, Ali Grant and Allison Worth enabled the making of the film ‘Broken Wings’ with the young adults (Max, Siobhan, Mark, Liam, Annie and Mia). The time that the young people, and the artists who supported them, gave (Cameron, Claudine, Paddy and Sean) was incredible and took the project way beyond my expectations. It was one of my very best experiences and I hope they enjoyed it half as much as I did. My favourite fiction writer by far to work with is the wonderful Pippa Goldschmidt who has been a friend through thick or thin (through conceptual angst and expression overload). My second favourite (only kidding) is Ross Ziegelmeier. I am so grateful to him because without his creative talents Maggie’s ICD Story as well as the animation Everyday Cyborgs and Humanimals would not have happened. My thanks to Cameron Duguid, an amazing artist and one of the nicest people I have met. My gratitude to Astrid Jaekel for allowing use of her wonderful images for the front cover of this book.

I would like to thank the reviewers of the many articles that I attempted to write and publish. I am glad that the Triad of I, the ambiguity of embodiment and biomedical nemesis made it through to the final cut. Any errors and mistakes are mine.

Like many who write books, I found the process, at first, more than a little tortuous and daunting, but it was a lot easier when surrounded by my family and friends. David, my partner in all things for over 25 years, helped me remain calm when I wanted drama, remaining my steady rock throughout all of this, and supporting me when I had limited energy and self-belief. My life is richer because of him. Finally, to my most amazing daughters – I can’t put into words just quite how much you mean to me.

Gill Haddow, February 2021

Embodiment and everyday cyborgs

Technologies that alter subjectivity


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