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ChristosPanayiotou MediaandCommunicationsTheory

CyborgConsciousnessintheDigitalEra:TheSelfand IdentityasaCyborghybridin thepostmoderndigitaltimes. SocialNetworkSites:thecaseofFacebook

Summary
InthefollowingassignmentIamtryingtoanalyzetheroleofthecyborgmodelfromarather broad perspective of thought, retrieving thoughts from cultural studies and also media and technology studies as well from the field of psychology. More specifically I will explore the area of artificial identities and how virtual identities we acquire from our exposure to the media and the digital culture are so much embedded in our physical consciousness that theybecomeanindistinguishablepartofourownreality,thuscreatingacyborgselfwhichis partly based on our physical reality and partly on the cultural, artificial sphere. Firstly, I will set a theoretical argumentation about the role of cyborg in our society while I will explain also briefly the concept of the cyborg and how it emerged. Consequently I will see how this cyborg model applies to human identity gaining insight from cyberpunk movies and literaturesuchasthemovieBladeRunner.MyaimistoparallelizetheFacebook(asthecase study) with the theories and ideas about the cyborg model and see the advantages and disadvantagesthatemerge.

Foreword
It seems that human physicality has from long ago coexisted with human artificiality. Artificial reality goes beyond our postmodern age to premodern times and even ancient and prehistoric times. Since long before the electronic media, human cultures were always trying to replicate physical reality through language, art, religious practices or technological inventions,eitherasawaytohaveacontroloverthatphysicalrealityortomanipulateit,or more often and more importantly to augment that reality. Human civilization has created a complex system of representations that sometimes seem to replace the deep originality (if there is any) of the physical world (Baudrillard, 2001). This complex representation system that is all around us embedded in the physicality of the objects tends to be the benchmark forouridentitiesandourmentalinteractionwiththephysicalandthesocialworld(Gillespie, Kadianaki, O' SullivanLago, 2007). Some of these objects might be words, other could be clothes, and other could be totally arbitrary social symbols that we assign meaning to, in ordertoreflectourselvesonthemandthuscommunicatewithothersandbeunderstood.In otherwords,wetendtoobjectifyourselvesonobjectsoutsideofus. Our identity and existence as persons in the social sphere is the result of the construction of a narrative with these cultural objects. When narrating our identity we are trying to create a story that differentiate us, or assimilate us to other persons stories about themselves(Howarth,2011).Butifinthepastpeoplewerenarratingstoriesinafacetoface

manner, in the modern world, media has created a huge sphere of representations in which people are living in (Weinmann & Cohen, 2000) interacting with a simulated world of simulacra (Baudrillard, p.169188, 2001), that are used as the main interface medium in which any meaning and any identity construct emerges (Debord, p.100 114, 1994). In my opinion this parallel reality of the media sphere (in the case of this study: the social media sphere) is merging with our physical emotions, creating an identity, socially constructed through artificial media but based on physical experiences (as emotions),in a way like a cyborg would merge its physical part with its artificial. But one question that could be asked here is the question of what is our true self? Does an original identity that is separated from artificial exist or the real identity is the one that emerges from the hybrid of the two, the physical and the social? Donna Haraway would probably answer the second. In facebook example I am referring to below in the essay, I see a pattern that is similar to the one of the artificial memories described in the Blade Runner movie. In the movie the replicants were using the memories of other persons to acquire knowledge about themselves, while similarly, in facebook we are using ideas and expressions of other people (for example in the case we upload a song we use the words expressed by the songwriters) to express ourselves, creating an artificially constructed identity in the electronic space that is not us but at the same time it represents us. In other words we are merging our physical reality (our emotions in the physical world) with an artificial reality (songs, multimedia that are not ours), to create a merged identity (a cyborg) in the cyberspace that represents our identity. It is neither physical nor artificial; it is the result of the physical self using artificialsocialconstructsinordertobecomevisibleinthecyberspace.

Theoreticalargumentationaboutthestatement
In my personal opinion, cyborg model has multiple beneficial and multiple harmful roles in our society. Electronic age has introduced a posthuman reality, which exists as a parallel artificial world merged with our physical one. This artificial, digital world, when used in a right way, it can augment the physical reality, give us more power and enrich our experience, while abolish any physical constrains and barriers existing in the physical world (Turkle, 1999). Humans in the digital age have become a powerful hybrid, mixture of their physical bodies with acquired electronic capabilities. Moreover, if we take the cyborg model in its more broad concept (as Donna Harraway proposes it) (2010), rejecting the essentialist thinking maybe beneficial to our growth as civic beings. Blackandwhite thinking and thinkingincategories(theoppositeofwhatthecyborgmodelproposes),preventsusfrom growth, as we are preoccupied with fulfilling the category demands instead of thinking clearly for ourselves and taking each particular situation individually (Figure 1). To make it clearer, thinking in categories prevents us from dealing with the uniqueness of each situation,whichincouldbemorebeneficial.Forexampleinsteadofcategorizingtheworld and follow these categories, it would be better if we acquire knowledge from a mixture of things and thoughts, a cyborg blend of things that could be more accurate and more beneficialinaparticularsituation.Soforexample,byfollowinganideologyinanessentialist way and being dogmatic about these ideologies (total identification with them), prevents us fromdealingwiththeactualsituationthatcouldcallforamergeofthetwoideologiesintoa third that is neither of them, but could be more beneficial for solving a particular social

problem. The same goes with more every day social aspects of ourselves, as for example our identification with subcultures. If for example I portray and feel myself as a hardcore metalhead,andallIdoislistentoheavymetalmusicanddresslikethat,thispreventsme from actually trying to listen to other kinds of music or acquiring elements from other styles that I could also enjoy. So, in the aforementioned simplistic example, I believe that the cyborg model (acquiring elements of various styles and music and merging them, mixing themtofitmyuniquepersonality)couldbebeneficialandredeeming.Insocialnetworksites that I will refer as example below in this essay, this is actually something happening especially in sites like facebook or tumblr, where the major way of personal representation is made through the mixture of styles in the persons profiles, creating a collage that is a mergeofstylesintoauniquestylethatrepresentseachindividualuserdifferently. Besides, such cleancut categories/identities do not exist in the real world: instead there are all individual situations calling for a different action and different way of seeing them each time. In other words, our experiences and behaviors could not be predetermined, because each single experience we have is different. As such any predetermination of a situation (including our identity) is false and maybe sometimes even dangerous, as they are based on essentiallydifferentexperiences. Neo:Ithoughtitwasn'treal. Morpheus:Yourmindmakesitreal. (TheMatrix,L.,A.,Wachowksi,1999) In our age this cyborg postindustrial model, is becoming increasingly powerful so that I believe there is the danger that will displace the physical world of the place of what we perceive as real. If that happens, humans are running the danger of becoming alienated from their physicality, and ultimately be dependable on the support of technology to exist. Moreover in the broader meaning of the cyborg term, through the acquisition of the cyborg model we are beginning to lose the contact with our original self, that (even if much of the postmodern philosophy rejects) I personally believe there exists. Communication in our technologically advanced era is mediated through a vast pool of images; experiences that are recycled into new bodiesOur bodies: For example, in order to express our emotional condition in one particular time we are more likely to refer to a media product, e.g. to a preexisting song than to write one on our own. Our reality has become a synthetic recycled self, fake as fake as the recycled memory implants in replicants in Blade Runner movie (Deeley & Scott, 1982). In the movie, Replicants think they have lived the memories they have, they think they have this identity they have, while instead their memories and identityisagivenstrangetothemarecycledandsyntheticelementborrowedfrompeople lived before them. Just like this we use media products to express our own emotions as if they were our own. Ultimately they become us, they define us. They become the only way we acquire knowledge about ourselves, they become our selfimage and the only definition of our self. Originality and individuality is lost and replaced by media products that are not our own, but nevertheless they are us! Thats how postmodern human runs the danger feeling alienated from his own self and original feelings. Moreover, even if we feel somethingcomingfromwithinouroriginalself,wetendtoignoreit,becauseitfeelsstrange to us. We are not used to trust our original self, because ultimately the borrowed image feels more real to us than the inner selfimage, which becomes the fake. Media Generation

is used to search for their selves outside rather than the inside: we are constantly trying to find media products (characters, celebrities) to identify with, rather than search and trust our inner self. We feel that these media identities are somehowmore real.Ultimately this cyborg,mixedselfimage,becomesouronlyselfimage. Besidemypersonalbeliefsabouttheroleofthecyborgmodelinoursociety,itmightalsobe appropriate to dive into academic literature in order to find how actually this model works into our society. Below, I am trying to blend findings from academic literature referring to cyborg model, while gaining insights also from postmodern literature and media products aboutcyborgs.IntheendIamtryingtoapplymyfindingsintothecaseoffacebook,because I think that facebook is something that represents in a great extent our current era, at least regardingtheroleofcyborgmodelintooursociety.

Cyborg
The term cyborg was coined when scientists at NASA were searching for a solution that would enable space travelers to adapt and survive to the strange space conditions with the help of machines. As the term cyborg (cybernetic organism) implies, a humanmachine system would interact as a whole new organism that is neither fully biological nor fully synthetic but a merge of the two, enabling the adaptation to the extreme space conditions inthecaseofalongdistancespacetravel(Clynes&Kline,1960). Later, the term was used by Donna Harraway (2010) to criticize traditional feminist theories that were preoccupied with clear distinctions between men and women. Instead of drawing clear lines between genders Harraway proposed that gender theories should adapt to a cyborg model that rejects binary identities. Harraway distinguishes between two kinds of cyborgs, the one in a metaphorical sense and the other in a more concrete, literal sense. In its literal sense, cyborg could be perceived as the merge of technological devices on an organicbody(Lupton,2013),whileinitsfigurativesense,acyborgistheentitythatemerges from multiple identities and realities that are enclosed in a single identity that is nevertheless neither of the identities it is consisted by, but rather a hybrid of them. It is a neverending process that it has not a teleological aim and neither wants any. There are no absolutetruthsbutratheramixtureofthings(Figure1). Regarding the cyborg model, there is also an argumentation that technology could not be really perceived as a something apart of human beings and that human body is not to be ever described as nontechnical (Mackenzie, 2002) as well as identities could not be categorizedinstatic,definitecategories(Harraway,2010).Harrawayapproachesthecyborg ontology in a rather positive light, making it clear that a belief in binary identities is not only absurd but also dangerous. In her text a Cyborg Manifesto Dona Haraway (2010) is trying to redeem human existence from dualisms that according to her are not based on a natural order but are just part of our cultural logic. As postconstructivists do, Dona Harawaybelievesthatanessentialistapproachkeepsthethoughtnarrowandrepressedina misleading dualistic model of the world, recreating the dynamics of authorities that already exist out there by adapting any reaction on an already problematic and oppressive model of theworld.Soinsimplerwords,theoppositeofsomethingoppressiveisstilloppressive. For so much time, identity was considered something stable and dependable to the physical body, and the stable social context one was born in, something that Dona Haraway and

other poststructuralists seem to reject. Identity formation nowadays had become a continuously changing, unstable state that is based on changing roles and environments. Partly, this could be attributed to the dynamics of our postmodern society of endlessly changing personas that we are forced to adapt to. In postmodern cultures, a person could changemultiplestatuses,rolesandidentitiesinasingledayformingadiverse,polyphrenic self in order to adapt to the everchanging contexts we find ourselves into (Gergen, p.171 198, 1991), thus moving away ourselves from any identity black and white definitions and introducing a saturated self (Gergen,p.171198, 1991), a collage of multiple and different personas that we acquire through that motion into different contexts. Largely, according to Kenneth Gergen, this collage is the result of the artificial relationships we formwithourcontactwithmediacharactersandcelebrities,withwhomwecommunicate each time we watch TV. What Gergen argues about in the Saturated Self (1991), is that media products create a parallel artificial context in which we immerse ourselves in, and that the who we are while immersed in this media world is no more fake that the who wearewhileoutsidethisworld.Thishybrididentitythatisformedwhileweareinteracting with physical reality and while we simultaneously interacting with this artificial reality is according to Gergen who we originally are. Gergen in his writings is much more pessimist that Haraway, and he sees that the saturated self creates feelings of inexistence of an essential, stable me. This, feelings of inexistence, according to Gergen, intensifies the feelings of hypocrisy, as the individuals view on himself is based on media assumptions of himself. In other words, Gergen argues that the subject is dead, and the identity is consequentlyandwhollybasedonculturalproducts.

TheDigitalSpaceandtherecycledidentities
Wearemovingfrommodernistcalculationtopostmodernistsimulationwheretheselfis multiple,distributedsystem(Turkle,1996,148). Inthecaseofthe internet andtheelectronicspace, thisidentityformationtendstobe even more in fragments, than what Gergen describes. According to Sherry Turkle (1999), identity formation in cyberspace, is based on totally arbitrary media (such as language), that are independent from physical reality. Studying the MUDs (MultiUser Domains) in the primitive internet of the 80s, she noticed that the user could have multiple identities while being in front of a computer screen connected to the internet, a fragmented self with the physical selfjustanotherversion,nomorerealselfthantherestartificialselvesoftheuser. According to literature, the cyberself has become another aspect of our self constructed solely from the material of the cyberspace. If that is right then, our digital self is no more than an artificial aspect of us, constructed by multimedia pieces found in the vast media pool of the internet. In other words, the digital self is recycled cyberspace material (Figure 2). Such ideas about an artificial self are a predominant theme in much cyberpunk postmodern literature. In Phillip K. Dicks Do androids dream of electric sheep (1968) adaptation: Blade Runner (Deeley & Scott, 1982) moviethe movie instead of referring to anoriginal(monadic)spiritthatawakensabody,aswouldMaryShelleyinthecaseof Frankenstein (Shelley, 1996) for example, what awakens the Replicants (humanoid

robots) are constructed memories and constructed identities, suggesting that our identity andourselfperceptionisultimatelysociallyconstructed,recycledandartificial. In Los Angeles of 2019, replicants are androids visually indistinguishable from human that are given artificial memories and identities in order to feel like human beings. Those memory implants are designed to give the replicants the impression that they are human andthusnotseparablefromtheirhumanmasters.IntheBladeRunnerstoryreplicantsare talking like human, are thinking like human, are looking like human, they are even feeling like a human, they are everything a human is, but still they are lacking a true history (Bruno,1987)thatwouldgivethemahumanstatus. But, how would someone distinguish himself from replicants if the given memories and identities are so much embedded in consciousness that are not distinguishable from the original. What makes them real is their own reality, suggesting that their artificial memories are no different from the real memories of the real human, so the lines between a fake self and a real self are completely blurred. In other words, originality doesnt matter anymore as the line between reality and artificiality doesnt exist anymore. Moreover, the aesthetics of the movie continuously remind us of the hybridity of human conditioninourpostindustrialage.Theclothesofthecharactersinthemovie,aswellasthe environment are full of reused waste. Waste in the movie is everywhere and it is reusable implying a reusage of old products (Bruno, 1987), in a new manner. The original purpose of the waste doesnt matter anymore because what matters is their new postoedipal (Harraway,2010)reality,whichisnotpreoccupiedbyanyoriginalpurposeoridentity,justas the given identities of the replicants. As reused waste, old styles are also reused in the movie, where you can find buildings with GrecoRoman aesthetics next to Chinese. People are also creating pastiches and fusions of the reused old styles like punks next to Chinese people next to whomever. City language is also a fusion of German, Japanese and Spanish (Bruno, 1987) while the city itself it is said to be LosAngeles, but reminds more of a mixture of New York with Shanghai. Rain and darkness are not the typical representations of Los Angeles, yet the scenery is dominated by such weather. So everything and everyone in this cyberpunk city are out of what expected, while they are forming a mixture of signs that represent theiroriginality buttheyallarefunctioningindependentlyfromtheiroriginality. The movie itself as an object is not preoccupied with its originality: it is a mixture of everything real. The only thing that refers to a reality beyond, an oedipal calendar as Haraway would put it is the replicants yearning for existence. Replicants in the film are striving to establish their existence. They do not accept their artificiality and they crave to acquire human status. Subsequently, this existence is realized through objects like photographs and other artifacts and thought to be valid. Replicants are thus assuming an objective reality, a proof of their humanness based on various objects, evidences of a pastlifethatactuallyexistasexperiencesofpeoplebeforethem,soultimatelyaconstructed humanness. In our world, interestingly enough, we are assuming ideas, thoughts and experiences of other people to express our own existence, embedding them into our own reality and identity, creating a mixture of different identities that ultimately is thought to be our own identity (Figure 2). In Facebook alone there are 350 millions of uploaded multimedia material online; mostly fusions and parts of other peoples ideas (songs, pictures, slogans etc) that ultimately construct our own self image among our friends, our own identity in

thisspace.Originalityindigitalspaceislostandreplacedbymediaproductsthatarenotour own,butneverthelessitisus.

CaseStudy
Facebook
Neo:Iusedtoeatthere.Reallygoodnoodles.Ihavethesememoriesfrommylife.Noneof themhappened.Whatdoesthatmean? Trinity:Thatthematrixcannottellyouwhoyouare. TheMatrix(Silver&Wachowski,1999)

In social media sites like Facebook, there is a vast number of multimedia uploads every single second. These media objects (video clips, songs, words, photos) are referrals to the self of the user, creating an online aura of existence in his network of friends (Kaplan, 2012), an identity. Some of these uploads are creating a reference to the emotional state of the user, some others to his sense of identity and some others are referring to places from the real world something that is also making a statement about their identity at least aimed to the persons that are known from the physical world. In social media sites like Facebook,wecanarguethattherearemanylevelsonecanbeperceivedasacyborg.Firstof all, holding an electronic mobile device that enables access to your facebook account and network automatically enables the coexistence of the user into two states: a physical state and a digital one, but again not as two separate entities in one instead as a singular entity not entirely physical and not entirely digital: Walking down the street with your facebook account logged in, taking pictures and automatically uploading them onto your profile, or making statements in your digital network about how you feel or where you are, or whatareyoudoinginaparticulartimeinthephysicalworld,youareneitherwhollyinthe physical nor wholly immersed in the digital world. You are a cyborg, an organism dependant on and responsive to the digital and the physical reality simultaneously. That, I believe is something that augments the physical and the digital reality. For example uploading a picture of you in your favorite place in your facebook account, enriches your identity in the cyberspace, as the objects like a picture work as a symbolic element referring to ones sense of self (Zittoun et. all, 2003). At the same time, being visible to your digital network of friends enables you to be in multiple positions at the same time, being sensed by your friends network while being away from them physically. But this cyborg self, I believe, doesnt augment ones reality only in a positive way. Owning a shattered sense of self (Turkle,1999) while interacting with multiple contexts at the same time, brings us back to Kenneth Gergen (1991) and the multiphrenic self. According to Gergen, while interacting with multiple contexts nearly at the same time, the postmodern man has lost its unique sense of self under a multicolored veil of everchanging identities and roles that thediversepostmodernlifeintroduces.Atthesametimehearguesthat,whileimmersingin an iconic world (in his case the: the television in this essays case: the internet) we find ourselves interacting with the new contexts introduced by this world, so that we are further more fragmented and alienated. Ultimately we are getting so much immersed in our multiple identities, so that we lose contact with our true sense of self. In the case of the Facebook,wecametothepointwhereweactuallynearlydontknowifourprofileisamore real version of ourselves than our physical self. According to Sherry Turkles latest book

alone together (2011), young people of the so called digital generation, are so much more used in digital interaction than in physical interaction, that this phenomenon creates problems in their physical interaction with people in the physical world. This suggests that because our online sense of self is based on multimedia content (Kaplan, 2012), we are in danger that we would create a sense of self based just on media products, and ultimately get alienated from our physicality. As with the Replicants in the Blade Runner example, our identity in the social networks becomes a mixture of memories of someone elses: Our identity is based on the lyrics of a song we have shared among our digital network, written by someone else but reused and referred to us, as the implanted memories and the photographs of different people were used as materials of existence for replicants in the movie, indistinguishable by their own existence, so that they become their own reality and selfunderstanding. Moreover, spending more time interacting through our digital self, we will ultimately get to a point where we will acquire more digital memories (more memoriesofinteractinginthedigitalworld),thanphysicalmemories.Andsinceoursense and conceptual understanding of the reality of the outside world, is in a big part based on ourmemory(Hart,2007),weultimatelywemightcometobelievethatourdigitalpersonais morerealthanourphysicalone. Apart from this pessimistic aspect held for SNS identities, there is also a notsodark idea of how digital identities work in the cyberspace. If we see digital identities from the philosophical angle of Harraways cyborg, the cyborg entity is free from any pseudo universalrealitiesthatforcethesubjectintoablackandwhitethinkingtiedintoabeliefthat there is a natural and an artificial self. This counteressentialist subject of Harraway, accepts the blending as the only true original. If we apply this model of thinking into digital identities in Facebook, the lines between the physical and the artificial identity are blurred, and the real physical self becomes just another image of the collage that resemblestheself(Turkle,1999).Moreoverifweseemoreclearlyintoidentitytheories,the self was always mediated through the realm of civilization and thus artificiality. Electronic media are thus no different from any other humanmade media existed long before electricity. Early psychologists, such as George Herbert Mead, introduced the theory that human self is formed as a reflection of our subjectivity into an objective level of social meanings and constructs (Bruner, 1986). Additionally, social psychologists acknowledge the role of symbolic objects objects with socially assigned values in the way we assign meaningtoourownselvesandformingouridentity(Zittounet.al,2003). In the real world for example, clothes are manmade, technological objects that beyond their utilitarian value they serve as a communication medium for our identities, just as an electronic, multimedia product would do in Facebook. We wear black in a funeral or a costume in a wedding, we accept predetermined civilization values assigned arbitrarily to objects in order to communicate our statuses, emotions and identities. In other words, we inevitably are and we always were partly synthetic even outside the electronic space and the Facebook. So what makes the electronic persona more useful in a sense is the vast communicating options you have while immersed in the digital space. The hybrid of digital/physical self, maybe more effective in communicating its real identity than the physical self alone, because it has a much larger pool of meaning ascribed objects to choose from, and thus you are able to get and to give a more accurate sense of the self and the identity of you and the other people (Figure 2). According to studies, online users of virtual worlds were more likely to portray their avatar according to how they felt about an idea or how they were related to a social stereotype than how they actually were physically in the

physicalworld(Kafai,Fields&Cook,2007).Theabovementionedstudymayalsoconfirmthe idea that the use of artificial iconic objects to communication and expression of the self could be more real than the physical interaction, because they enable the transformation of the self more easily and more freely than in the physical world, to a version of how we actuallyfeelaboutourselves.

Epilogue
While there are endless opinions and perspectives that one can see the role of the cyborg model in our society, the only sure is that cyborg model is a model embedded well into our postindustrial world. In its abstract meaning, in our multicentered and multicultural world, dominated by media production and consumption, cyborg might be an inevitable result for thehumancondition. In its more literal sense, we become more and more cyborgs each day: technology and humanityarecomingphysicallydaybydaynearerandnearer.Nowadaysitwouldbeeasyto see a continuous trend to make technology mobile, coming with us. Mobile technology and connectivity is always on development all around us with a greater than ever rate. The desktop computers of the 80s were replaced by laptop computers in the 90s and the 00s that ultimately were replaced by smart phones by the end of the last decade. In the current decade we see augmented reality devices taking over, such as Google Glass that will augment reality in a more literal sense enabling multiple perspectives of reality literally coexistingwiththephysical. ConnectCompeteCollide Intoyourbody,underyourskin,beyondyoursenses Wheredoesrealitystop...Andthegamebegins? eXistenZ(Cronenberg,1999)

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Zittoun, T., Duveen, G., Gillespie, A., Ivinson, G., & Psaltis, C. (2003). The use of symbolic resourcesindevelopmentaltransitions.Culture&Psychology,415448.

Figures

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