Cyborg fandom

  • Feb. 10th, 2010 at 12:33 PM
crypto: Amy Pond (Default)
In reading the post/poll by [personal profile] alixtii  on fanworks and transformativity, I wanted to link to a recent piece by Rebecca Tushnet: Hybrid Vigor: Mashups, Cyborgs, and Other Necessary Monsters (link goes to her blog post, which links to the PDF). She draws upon Donna Haraway's classic "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" to suggest the outlines of an answer to the question, does remix matter?:

Can we assess transformativeness at all, or do we need to throw up our hands in despair? cyborgs are like digital artists )This is a helpful metaphor because one challenge of defending women's fanworks before the law is to protect them from charges of over-investment, incoherence, or unintelligibility from outside.

I love Haraway's essay, which has had a huge influence on me (including inspiring my own fannishness for cyborgs). And I like the rich and messy possibilities that Tushnet opens up by aligning remix culture with Haraway's cyborgs. The last sentence in particular evokes for me this bit from Haraway's essay: "The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence."

There's a fitting slippage or ambiguity in Tushnet's evocation of Haraway as to whether the figure of the cyborg describes the creator or the fanwork -- or, by extension, what Haraway might call a network of material-semiotic actors which circulate around sites of fannish production (see her The Promises of Monsters: A Regenerative Politics for Inappropriate/d Others).

In other 'greatest hits from '80s-ish critical theory', I was thinking that Stuart Hall's concept of articulation might offer some opportunities to thinking about transformativity in the context of vidding, and specifically the juxtaposition of music and images. Here's Hall in an interview edited by Lawrence Grossberg (On Postmodernism and Articulation [PDF]):a linkage which is not necessary, determined, absolute and essential for all time )
The political and theoretical context for Hall's use of the term 'articulation' is rather different from current discussions of remix culture and copyright law, but there are some interesting potential intersections and affinities, as with Haraway's cyborgs.