Cyborgian Urban Dreams



Volume 3, Issue 01
September 7, 2017

ABENA BONNA (M.Arch I ‘18)

We are cyborgs. Our everyday lives revolve around the intersectionality of our identities, all of which are bound and hyper-realised through technology and the Internet. The wiring between our subjectivity and the infrastructure of our machines creates a “technological polis” of spatial permutations. The results: the superimposition of spatial thresholds of living, production, community, and institutions, all while being created and contested by the will of the cyborg.

These dreams started from thoughts of Lowell’s past—the city in Massachusetts where my last studio project was sited— Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto, the female body, and biopolitical production under the industrialized economic control of patriarchal capitalism. I imagine the women of Lowell’s mills over time hybridizing themselves: their bodies merge with networks of information and machines they worked on to create a new world that can challenge that control of patriarchal capitalism.

The cyborg from Donna Haraway’s manifesto is the understanding of new systems, connections and experiences manifesting from the interaction of different programs. This cyborgian vision for a new urbanism in Lowell is about testing and superimposing the spatial boundaries of the private, the communal, and the institutional. I propose a utopian field of new forms of collaboration across all thresholds of living and production. In the end, the form of this “cyborgian city” is a relentless grid, illustrating a continuous system of relational forces and circuits, creating ambiguous, open spatial visions.

Cyborgs are transgressive monsters, unwelcomed in the traditional system and spaces set up by patriarchy, no longer wanting our bodies compartmentalized. Haraway’s work demands transcendence beyond gendered bodies. It is a world that is post-gender, post-feminism, post-racial, post-biological, post-x. In the spirit of Haraway’s metaphor of the cyborg, the rewiring of the intersectionality of gender, race, sex, and everything between to each other propels our quest to continuously reconstruct our selfhood all while redefining how we move through both the physical and cybernetic worlds. Intersectionality is this transgression/ transcendence between the thresholds of gender, race, sex, etc. and challenges compartmentalizing vocabulary and spaces dictated by patriarchy. Intersectionality offers transformation of the present and old economic, social, and cultural systems and space in -between them for nonconforming bodies.

The physical and social environment of current cities can be hostile for cyborgs. It is up to the cyborg to subvert these dead or hostile urban environments with their own bodies, their own code, and their own networks of communication. The utopian landscape of the cybernetic world offers cohabitation and intersectionality of identities, cultures, and subcultures occupying spaces in urban environments. Those identities destabilize traditional notions of body and economic production by merging them with many lifestyles.

Today, this landscape of lifestyles comprises apps and internet culture: blogs, DIY videos, Reddit, e-commerce (Ebay, Etsy, Kickstarter, Amazon), and many more that contribute to creating lifestyles as well as individual and collaborative modes of production and creation. Our appendages—the cell phone and computer—make it possible for people to create new identities and collaborations, and with them their own markets. These appendages satisfy the personal, the emotional, and the biological working of our own bodies along with societal and economic tasks of our lives; for working, creating, shopping, traveling, eating, exercising, sex.

Selfhood and machinehood bridge the cybernetic world to the current urban environment and overlay an alternative space with different parameters of occupation and circulation. Thresholds are challenged and rebuilt. This leaves a glimmer of hope: overturning the patriarchal control of cities through one’s identity.

The Cyborg in the end is both Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster: taking control into its own hands to rebuild human bodies and identities and to create a new world of wires, muscles, skin, and information. It sees a cruel world, and reimagines different kinds of spaces in order to challenge and usurp control in that world. Entangling and fusing all into each other while the monster, the cyborg, yearns for transcendence, power, and liberation.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

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Volume 3, Issue 01
September 7, 2017