Modest witnessing technoscience • Peter Danholt • Dept. of Philosophy and History of Ideas • 07.05.2010
Background • Peter Danholt, Assistant prof. Dept. of Information - and Media Studies, AU • Not a philosopher! - at least not by education. • Member of the STS-centre, IMV, AU • Interest in Donna Haraway as a scholar in the field of STS. Haraway as a thinker and historian follows the traces and relations that become interwoven between science, technology and society • My work: Research in healthcare IT and Userdriven Design. Empirical, ethnographic studies of how patients become configuredand made through the material practices of healthcare and healthcare IT design. Healthcare and diseases as practices that materializes and constructs bodies, subjectivities and relations. • Resources: STS (Actor-network theory, Haraway, Pickering among others)
Introducing Haraway • Professor, Dept. of History of Consciousness, University of California at Santa Cruz. • Ontological assumptions: anti-essentialism, anti-determinism, monism and process. • Reality continually becomes through the interweaving of practices. Science, culture, economy, politics, sociality, nature etc. are entangled and affects - not determines - each other in mulitiple and more or less immediately visible ways. • Metaphors: A game of cats cradle, ball of yarn (wool),
Introducing Haraway • Central term: Material-semiotic knots - texts and materiality, words and world, signifier and signified are not distinct realms neither do one determine the other. • social constructivism: meaning makes the world, • realism: words simply names the objects • Haraway (and others): Both of the above are reductionist - instead we should develop our sense of how entities are always in specific and concrete ways material-semiotic knots. Transgressing the realms and purified categories of modernity.
feminism and activism • Not standpoint feminism - female vs. male but anti-essentialist • Gender, race or class are not ‘natural’, but products of power and historical circumstances. • In this light feminism is about abolishing essentialist notions of identity and gender and destabilize universality and unity. • No reference to women as kind or whole • No non-innocent standpoints - to be done with innocense and victimhood • Why? Reference to women as kind, naturalize gender and thus repeats and further naturalize specific types of domination and thus closes off the possibility of reformulation and re-configuration.
Methodology • Paranoid reading/writing - exaggerate and take out of proportion. • interogate and relate the many threads of technoscience - extensive, ironic style of writing (see Haraway 1997: 154) • Tropes and figures: giving new meaning to things, relating them differently => enables us to think differently about the world and thus affects our practices and ways of doing and acting • Paraphrasing Michel Foucault: “The greatest ambition and affects one can have as an academic is to change the way people think”
“The tools are often stories, retold stories, versions that reverse and displace the hierarchical dualisms of naturalized identities. In retelling origin stories, cyborg authors subvert the central myths of origin of Western culture.... Feminist cyborg stories have the task of recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control.” (Haraway 191: 175) • Writing is pre-eminently the technology of cyborgs, etched surfaces of the late twentieth century. Cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism. That is why cyborg politics insist on noise and advocate pollution, rejoicing in the illegitimate fusions of animal and machine. (Haraway 1991: 176)
Technoscience • ...”my real home is the ferociously material and imaginary zones of technoscience, into which I and hundreds of millions of people on this planet have been interpellated.” • Interpellation (Althusser): ..”bring into being or give identity to”, “break in on....interrupt” • Technoscience: “.. a form of life, a practice, a culture, a generative matrix”, “the implosion of science and technology”, “a condensation of time and space”, “accelerated production of natural knowledge pervasively structures commerce, industry, healing, community, war, sex, literacy, entertainment, and worship.”, worldly materialized, signifying and significant power. • “a culture of practice and a cultural practice” • (Haraway 1997: 49-51)
Technoscience • Technoscience is a source for producing novel creatures - it is a kinship generator. A product of capitalism, science, commerce, experimentation, passions and warfare. • Technoscience continually stresses and destroys modern epistemological assumptions about pure and distinct entities. In that sense it is revolutionary. • In contrast it is also produced through ‘classical’ acts and actors of domination: the male scientist, venture capitalism, multinational corporations, the military, ideas and texts about Nature as object to human invention. In that sense it is domination. It interpellates us • In sum technoscience is a cyborg, a chimaera, but acknowledging it as such tropes it differently than as either liberating or as domination => we receive a complicated relation to technoscience and thus a relation that calls for critical scrutiny and engagement.
The Cyborg • “The cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possibility of historical transformation.” [P.150] • “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction. ... Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility. The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women's experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.” (Haraway 1991: 149)
The Cyborg • “The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence. No longer structured by the polarity of public and private, the cyborg defines a technological polis based partly on a revolution of social relations in the oikos, the household. Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other. ....The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential.” (Haraway 1991: 151)
The Cyborg • The cyborg origins from three breaches or leaking modern distinctions: • Animal - man • Animal/man - machine (biology - cryptology - Biology as information, coding, the computer as a model of cognition) • Physical - non-physical (machines of sunlight, the chip, minaturization)
Animal/man - machine: • “Biotechnology, a writing technology, informs research broadly. In a sense, organisms have ceased to exist as objects of knowledge, giving way to biotic components, i.e., special kinds of information-processing devices.” (Haraway 191: 164) • Physical - non-physical: • “Our best machines are made of sunshine; they are all light and clean because they are nothing but signals, electromagnetic waves, a section of a spectrum, and these machines are eminently portable, mobile—a matter of immense human pain in Detroit and Singapore. People are nowhere near so fluid, being both material and opaque. Cyborgs are ether, quintessence.” (Haraway 191: 153)
“Cyborg imagery can help express two crucial arguments in this essay: first, the production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality, probably always, but certainly now; and second, taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skilful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts. It is not just that science and technology are possible means of great human satisfaction, as well as a matrix of complex dominations. Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves. This is a dream not of a common language, but of a powerful infidel heteroglossia...It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories. Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.” 181
Modest witnesses • Cyborgs, OncoMouse, FemaleMan constitutes ‘modest witnesses’ - that is beings interpellated by technoscience, complicated beings that does not fit in nice categories. • OncoMouse genetically modified rodent patented by multinational corp. Du Pont. Certain to develop cancer and used in medical research. Surrogate, scapegoat, ‘enterprised-up’ animal, product, commodity, animal, natural and not natural, product and not product. Wampire: pollution of natural kinds. • Through the eyes OncoMouse we may realize the complicity of technoscience - the suffering of the animal and a savior of human beings.
Politics of technoscience • Through modest witnesses we become aware of the technoscience as thoroughly political • Rejection of the classical and modern ideal of apolitical science, distinct separations between science (knowledge) and politics (power, values) • The problem is however that much discourse in technoscience and politics continue to repeat the neat modernist dichotomy • Haraway proposes ‘the danish model’ - consensus conferences as a concrete example of taking serious the political aspects of technoscience. As a means for spawning engagement and interest - intervention. • It is not a matter of liberal choice
Situated knowledge • Problem: On the one hand sociology of science relativizes scientific knowledge on the other radical relativity cannot do. • “So, I think my problem and 'our' problem is how to have simultaneously an account of radical historical contingency for all knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice for recognizing our own 'semiotic technologies' for making meanings, and a no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a 'real' world, one that can be partially shared and friendly to earth-wide projects of finite freedom, adequate material abundance, modest meaning in suffering, and limited happiness.” (Haraway 1991: 187)
The problem of relativism • Relativism (at least some version) holds that everything is relative and therefore in a sense equally good, true etc. but to claim this relies ironically on a distanced, universal viewpoint from it is possible to claim so - a place similar to the classical objectivist position. • “Relativism is a way of being nowhere while claiming to be everywhere equally. The 'equality' of positioning is a denial of responsibility and critical enquiry. Relativism is the perfect mirror twin of totalization in the ideologies of objectivity; both deny the stakes in location, embodiment, and partial perspective; both make it impossible to see well. Relativism and totalization are both 'god-tricks' promising vision from everywhere and nowhere equally and fully, common myths in rhetorics surrounding science.” (Haraway 1991: 191)
Vision • Idea of neutral, culture of no culture, objective knowledge = Gods-eye trick • “I would like to suggest how our insisting metaphorically on the particularity and embodiment of all vision (though not necessarily organic embodiment and including technological mediation), and not giving in to the tempting myths of vision as a route to disembodiment and second-birthing, allows us to construct a usable, but not an innocent, doctrine of objectivity. I want a feminist writing of the body that metaphorically emphasizes vision again, because we need to reclaim that sense to find our way through all the visualizing tricks and powers of modern sciences and technologies that have transformed the objectivity debates.” (Haraway 1991: 189)
Objectivity redefined • Situated knowledge - strong objectivity, being positioned and accountable and accounting for ones position. Give up the dream of a viewpoint form nowhere - gods-eye. • “objectivity turns out to be about particular and specific embodiment, and definitely not about the false vision promising transcendence of all limits and responsibility. The moral is simple: only partial perspective promises objective vision..... Feminist objectivity is about limited location and situated knowledge, not about transcendence and splitting of subject and object. In this way we might become answerable for what we learn how to see.” (Haraway 1991: 190)
Prosthetics • The embodied body as never whole, self-transparent but pieced together and thus neither self-evident nor complete alien. Prosthetic = situated and multiple (Deleuze & Guattari: Body without Organs) • “The split and contradictory self is the one who can construct and join rational positionings and be accountable, the one who can interrogate conversations and fantastic imaginings that change history. Splitting, not being, is the privileged image for feminist epistemologies of scientific knowledge....The topography of subjectivity is multi-dimensional; so, therefore, is vision. The knowing self is partial in all its guises, never finished, whole, simply there and original; it is always constructed and stitched together imperfectly, and therefore able to join with another, to see together without claiming to be another. Here is the promise of objectivity: a scientific knower seeks the subject position not of identity, but of objectivity; that is, partial connection.” (Haraway 1991: 193)
Objects as coyote and trickster • Materiality, technology, objects cannot be grasped or pinned down, but are multiple, historical products, dynamic. • “Situated knowledges require that the object of knowledge be pictured as an actor and agent, not a screen or a ground or a resource, never finally as slave to the master that closes off the dialectic in his unique agency and authorship of 'objective' knowledge....Actors come in many and wonderful forms. Accounts of a 'real' world do not, then, depend on a logic of 'discovery', but on a power-charged social relation of 'conversation'. The world neither speaks itself nor disappears in favour of a master decoder. The codes of the world are not still, waiting only to be read. The world is not raw material for humanization” (Haraway 1991: 198)
Companion species • Dogs as beings we live with that are their own, yet co-evolved and mixed up with humans. Not human projections. • A history in which humans and wolves started being close to one another according to Haraway primarily on the initiative of the wolfs • Wolfs that were brave and subtle enough to be allowed close to human settlements - they domisticated us and then we domisticated them in return and so forth.
Discussion points • Haraways style of writing. • Situated knowledge - can you have it both ways? • Appraisal of consensus conferences - the Danish model.