- Bodies and Technologies: Dora, Neuromancer, and Strategies of Resistance
High technology networks make possible the deluge of texts surrounding us. We swim in the flow of information, and are provided with (or drowned within) interpretations and representations. High technology has changed the way capital functions, and makes possible the electronic format of this journal. A new relationship between bodies and technologies is, seemingly, unprecedented in modern capitalism. Donna Haraway, in her “Manifesto for Cyborgs” (1985), writes of a post-natural present in which “Late twentieth-century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed, and many other distinctions that used to apply to organisms and machines. Our machines are frighteningly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert” (152).
After all, the human capacity to generate or make sense of information has been surpassed by computers, and challenged by the deluge of texts (literal, aural, visual) that surround us. Baudrillard’s response to this deluge is triggered by a quick spin of the radio dial: “I no longer succeed in knowing what I want, the space is so saturated, the pressure so great from all who want to make themselves heard” (132).
Theorists from many disciplines are engaged in the process of articulating the function and effects of high technology; many have argued, as Baudrillard has, that the human condition has been transformed by the encounter with the unique and unprecedented power of high technology. Assuming a material uniqueness in the encounter with high technology is dangerous; this assumption obviates important precedents that may help us to strategize some resistance to a “gradual and willing accommodation of the machine” (Gibson, 203). Freud’s clinical methods, and his construction of the relationship between patient and therapist, for example, are strikingly similar to the current encounter between bodies and technologies. A look at Freud’s account of his treatment of Dora makes obvious this decidedly low-tech version of a “deluge of texts,” and shows the way in which this therapeutic construct incorporated resistance. What are the possibilities for resistance to this new deluge? This question has provided the impetus for a vital, and absolutely necessary, discussion of strategies. As I will show in this essay, these responses are symptomatic of the failure of resistance to technologies of the early twentieth century. Strategies of resistance are often incorporated into systems, strengthening that which is being resisted. Juliet Mitchell has described the function of this resisting space: “[Resistance] is set up precisely as its own ludic space, its own area of imaginary alternative, but not as a symbolic alternative. It is not that the carnival cannot be disruptive of the law, but it disrupts only within terms of that law” (Mitchell, 1982).
I hope to provide some strategies, and historical warnings, that may help one actualize and resist power at a time when the possibility of doing so seems dismal. Haraway reminds us, with hope and pragmatism, that “we are not dealing with technological determinism, but with a historical system depending upon structured relations among people” (165). This “historical system” includes the interaction between bodies and technologies and the implications of these encounters, which are referred to in this essay as “cyborg politics.” The origin of cyborg politics doesn’t begin with the late twentieth century, however, but with the broad tradition of positing scientific and technical solutions to free humans from pain and to solve problems of the human condition, particularly problems that originate not with the machine or technology, but within the body. Foucault has given us a description of the emergence of bio-technical power in the seventeenth century; his description of this power maps onto our twentieth- century concern with bodies and technologies:
Discipline may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a “physics” or an “anatomy” of power, a technology.(206)
Within an early twentieth-century Foucaultian formation, Freud emerges as the mental technologist and industrialist, producing the truth of mind and body within the critical tools of psychotherapy...