Using a range of social science methods and drawing on the sociology of the body, biomedicine and technology, Haddow invites readers of ‘Embodiment and everyday cyborgs’ to consider whether they might prefer organs from other humans or non-human animals (known as xenotransplantation), or implantable ‘cybernetic’ technologies to replace their own? In discovering that individuals have a very clear preference for human organs but not for the non-human, Haddow suggests that the inside of our bodies may be more important to our sense of identity than may have previously been thought. Whereas organs from other (once) living bodies can contaminate the body of the recipient (simultaneously altering subjectivity so they inherit traits e.g. gender), cybernetic technology is acclimatised to and becomes part of the body and subjectivity. In organ transplantation the organ has the potential to alter subjectivity – whereas with cybernetic technology it does not alter identity but is incorporated into existing subjectivity. Technologies are clean from previous organic fleshy associations and although they may malfunction or cause infection, they do not alter identity in the way that an organ might. Yet, we are arguably creating a 21st-century identity crisis through an increasing reliance on cybernetic technologies such as implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) creating new forms of ‘un-health’ and a new category of patient called ‘everyday cyborgs’ who have to develop strategies to incorporate device alienation as well as reinserting human agency over ICD activation.
will show, everyday cyborgs implanted with an ICD have additional concerns when compared to other cardiac patients relating to the vulnerabilities that are created by living life with a heart device. The ICD cyberneticsystem has an intimacy due to its being inside the body; an intimacy with the body that simultaneously makes it beyond the reach and control of the individual it functions within. Ironically, although the ICD might be physically out of reach of the everyday cyborg, recent policy and newspaper reports suggest that the communicative aspect of the
Animal, mechanical and me: Technologies that alter subjectivity
(Voice-over to ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, American TV Series, 1974–1978).
It is 2015, and I am interviewing Maggie, six weeks after she has had an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) fitted in order to prevent her from having a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). She shares with Steve Austen the fact that she too has to live a techno-organic hybrid life, allowing cyberneticsystems to control some of her vital functions. Unlike Steve Austen, Maggie is not better, stronger or faster. This book is about individuals such as Maggie who are everyday cyborgs
Largely going unnoticed there lies a 21st-century identity crisis generated from the overwhelming desire of human beings to repair, replace or regenerate the human body. Embodiment is ambiguous and is a state that becomes particularly acute when technological and organic modifications to the inside of the body alter subjectivity – this is thought to happen because the body and identity are one and the same ‒ prior to an individual’s reflection when the body can be separated. Transplanting organs from humans and non-human animals therefore contaminates the recipient, not only changing their body, but changing who they are. On the other hand, technological modifications are incorporated into the human body and identity and do not cause any concerns about subjectivity alteration. Rather, there can be a willingness to acclimatise with a cybernetic system and its coming to be incorporated into the organism to form a part of their identity in the way that other corporeal structures such as organs are. Nevertheless, the ability of the everyday cyborg to acclimatise to their new techno-organic hybridity is not necessarily a case for celebration. The increasing biomedical reliance of technoscience is generating new vulnerabilities that is creating new strategies of ‘unhealth’ and indeed may be thought of as a new form of (bio)medical nemesis (Illich, 2003).
noticeable in the few weeks after surgery and at times after that, where the skin silhouette acts as a continual reminder of the presence of a cyberneticsystem. In Leder’s terms, the ICD is causing the body to become an ‘absent absence’ ( 1990 ) as shown in John’s comments:
John: And it’s almost like … and I don’t want, I don’t want to be … it’s a bit like being continually reminded that you’ve got this condition. I mean, in some respects I would rather just blend into society and just become an ordinary person again, you know.
Gill: Do you not think you’re an