Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere

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N. Katherine Hayles Theory Culture Society 2006 23: 159 DOI: 10.1177/0263276406069229 The online version of this article can be found at: http://tcs.sagepub.com/content/23/7-8/159

Theory, Culture & Society http://tcs.sagepub.com/ http://anthro.palomar.edu/tutorials/cglossary.htmMy Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts

In highly developed and networked societies such as the US, human awareness comprises the tip of a huge pyramid of data flows, most of which occur between machines.

Hayles – Unfinished Work 161

"Emphasizing the dynamic and interactive nature of these exchanges, Thomas Whalen (2000) has called this global phenomenon the cognisphere. Expanded to include not only the Internet but also networked and programmable systems that feed into it, including wired and wireless data flows across the electro- magnetic spectrum, the cognisphere gives a name and shape to the globally interconnected cognitive systems in which humans are increasingly embedded.

As the name implies, humans are not the only actors within this system; machine cognizers are crucial players as well.

"The cognisphere has had many positive effects as well. Increased communication, access to databases around the world, communal knowledge-building through wikipedias and other data collection projects, and the ability to find and form networks with like-minded people in the US and abroad are only some of the forms of collective action and democratic potential made possible by the world-wide web. More subtle are the changes in subjectivity that the cognisphere is bringing about. Shifts in reading practices suggest a movement from deep attention to hyperattention; incorporation of intelligent machines into everyday practices creates distributed cognitive systems that include human and non-human actors; distributed cognition in turn is linked to a dispersed sense of self, with human awareness acting as the limited resource that artificial cognitive systems help to preserve and extend". Hayles, 162 in Unfinished Work: Theory, Culture & Society 23(7–8)

Downloaded from tcs.sagepub.com at PENN STATE UNIV on November 30, 2010 http://anthro.palomar.edu/tutorials/cglossary.htmWhy the Mind Isn’t in the Head: The Lived Body in Biology, Cognitive Science and Human Experience by Evan Thompson and Francisco J. Varela

"the world we understand is also the world we make, in both literal and figurative senses. As she has repeatedly pointed out, such world-making practices imply responsibility for their construction".

". . . the cyborg and companion species are hardly polar opposites. Cyborgs and companion species each bring together the human and non-human, the organic and technological, carbon and silicon, freedom and structure, history and myth, the rich and the poor, the state and the subject, diversity and deple- tion, modernity and postmodernity, and nature and culture in unexpected ways" (2003: 4)