Macy Meetings

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Definition

In the early 1990's Donna Haraway proposed an anthropology of cyborgs to study the relation between the machine and the human, and she adds that it should proceed by "provocatively" reconceiving "the border relations among specific humans, other organisms, and machines. But Haraway wasn't the first to discuss Cyborg Anthropology. In fact, concepts of human and technological interaction have been seriously examined by anthropologists since 1942, with the initial focus being the use and effects of feedback. These discussions led to the Macy Conferences in the 1940's and 50's. These were no ordinary conferences. They were attended by academic and technological luminaries such as Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, John von Neumann and Norbert Weiner, inventor of the field of Cybernetics.

Anthropologists and scientists paved the way for serious discussion on humans and technology in 1941. Early attendees were interested in the Macy Meetings because they felt that technology would increasingly become intertwined with humanity. The effects of technology on humanity would be important and widespread, and anything that signaled such a massive change in how people lived was important to discuss.[1] The Macy Meetings lasted for a decade, recurring yearly.

There is a lack of comprehensive documentation on the Macy Conferences. Part of this derives from the fact that the first five conferences, by all accounts the most lively and energizing, were never formally documented with published proceedings.[2] N. Katherine Hayles' How We Became Posthuman[3] is one source that provides a meaningful overview.

References

  1. Inaugural Macy Conference: "Feedback Mechanisms and Circular Causal Systems in Biological and Social Systems. 1st Conference 8-9 March 1946. New York City. http://fido.rockymedia.net/anthro/arturo.pdf
  2. Macy Summary. ASC Cybernetics - Foundations. Accessed Oct 2011. http://www.asc-cybernetics.org/foundations/history/MacySummary.htm
  3. Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies In Cybernetics, Literature, And Informatics. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1999.