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Joe Kalicki December 4, 2012 Joshua Mehler ENC3021 The Cyborg, Media, and the Confluence of Technology and

Representation We live in an age where information is king and the technology companies who provide and present this information are not only important as a beneficiary to society and its infrastructure, but are extremely economically important as well. Google and Apple are respectively two of the most valuable companies in the world, and barring a bubble burst like one that occurred in the late 90s they will remain so until they are overtaken by someone who possesses more advanced or impressive technology. The idea behind interpreting modern media delivery systems and the rhetorical value behind it was established by Marshall McCluhan, with his book Understanding Media, in which McCluhan establishes that media is simply “any extension of ourselves” or “any new technology”. These forms of media dictate the way we communicate and provide structural boundaries due to the limitations of various types of various mediums. Pairing McCluhan’s views on media with the idea of the impending integration of knowledge databases and machinery that assists us in communication and learning with humans as described by Donna Harraway, we can look at a piece of modern technology and interpret a lot about rhetoric in modern society and also speculate on where we are headed. Notably, we see how communication has become far more centric around visual delivery systems and that the idea of emphasizing minimalism, simplicity, efficiency has become an increasingly monumental

task and key in creating quality tools for us to use. My artifact is a promotional video released by Apple on their website for their recently revamped Macbook Pro. The five minute long video details the new technology included in the newly released device. I chose this as it is an icon of industrial design that houses the smoothest information convergence on any piece of technology that has ever existed. Never has a family of technologies so continuously merged a human’s consciousness across several screens and provided a “cooler” (in McCluhan’s terms) form of media like the Macbook Pro, iPhone, and iPad have. Furthermore, it opens up a gateway of communication through easily produced videos, virtual messages, and even face to face communication between two individuals who are possibly tens of thousands of miles away from one another. The laptop has become a literal extension of many people’s existence (including myself) and I am more than ever a cyborg (having a mechanical leg and my livelihood being entirely depending on the advancement of technology helps the analogy). Our phones and laptops are becoming our eyes, ears, and to an extent, our brains. Myself and others use these interconnecting interfaces to share data with millions of people and receive information an equal number of sources. Rhetoric’s successes and failures are highly dependent on the medium by which they are delivered. In the video, the first emphasis is on newness and the willingness to change and move forward in able to create more efficient systems. Jonathan Ive who is speaking in the intro, not only designed most of Apple’s products over the last ten years, but notably came up with the iconic design of the original iPod, which was viewed as something that would kill the music collection. Many people throughout history have feared the progression of technology and it’s trend to turn traditional mediums outmoded and unnecessary. Plato believed that the use of

writing would “kill the living memory” and that overall it was a bad thing for rhetoric and knowledge as he associated writing as invention that led to myth (myth can be extrapolated to “speculation”) which sat in opposition to knowledge, truth, and Socratic dialectic. What Plato refused to acknowledge (and to be fair, he didn’t have the historical perspective to back this claim up) is that we rely on information delivery advances to improve as a society and more specifically improve in rhetorical delivery. If anything, the information which Plato views as potentially fallacious is able to be vetted more easily when you have access to more sources of knowledge. Easier distribution of knowledge occurs with technology that expedites the source of knowledge for the recipient. Writing and the descendent technologies are more efficient and consistent than word of mouth and mind. You can constantly refer to written material and reinforce your memory, whereas memory only degrades and often times fails because we are, at the moment, still humans with occasionally faulty wiring. A more educated populace more readily receives rhetoric of all types, as they need less explained to them and can handle more advanced references that save the rhetor time. It is imperative that we don’t let prejudices and fears overrule our desire to advance or we will reach an impasse of pointless uncertainty that will ruin the advancement of human society. The next key element of the ad is the new Retina display, which is the most clear and lifelike display that has ever existed. Provided that the source image is a high enough resolution, you literally cannot see the pixels with the naked eye on the screen and text is sharper than it is when printed traditional with traditional ink methods on physical paper. This is important and distinguishable from traditional laptop screens If Marshall McCluhan were to be alive today,

he’d probably be intrigued by such a technology as it is both incredible hot and cold at the same time. It is only as “cool” as the input the user chooses to apply, however, at the same time it is has the capacity to be incredibly “hot” and provide a completely passive experience. I’d argue that the best and most engaging technologies or mediums provide the user with the choice so that they can control the balance between passively and actively receiving and sending information. An overlooked aspect of rhetorical study (particularly in McCluhan’s case) is the desire of the recipient; no one wants to be engaged one-hundred percent of the time and maintaining that balance will often lead to the brain becoming more receptive when more high engagement is needed. Too much engagement and stress doesn’t create a resilient brain. The binary driven nature of the world is present even in this case where we need the downtime to reflect on what we had previously engaged with. Much like his example of the lightbulb (“a lightbulb creates an environment by it’s mere presence” (McCluhan 8)) which McCluhan asserts is a medium by it’s ability to allow people to communicate in an environment that previously isn’t utilizable; the screen itself creates an neutral space upon which the user decides the delivered content. The screen is a two-dimensional entity that takes up almost no space, but has infinite depth. Most modern technology is like this and in the intention of rhetorical studies, the importance of what goes on that screen is key. The graphical user interface design holds the brunt of responsibility for being easily manipulatable and being designed in a user friendly manner. Information (and therefore rhetoric) delivery is no longer static. It is by necessity dynamic. A prime example of this is the difference between a Wikipedia page and an encyclopedia page. A Wikipedia page is a never ending series of links. It is a veritable web of interconnected parts. The

encyclopedia page is static and the ability to link one concept to another is dependent on the knowledge and deductive skills of the user. I would assert that the best form of media This screen in the mind of Harraway is an interesting entity in that it can be viewed as an ideally infinite extension of our field of vision. This particular screen is also so accurate in its representation, that it is essentially indistinguishable from a physical object and can reasonably be viewed as an extension of reality. If Harraway says that pleasure is to be found in the confusion of boundaries, then a computer screen is the ultimate confusion of boundary as the boundaries are non-existent and the space within is merely dependent on the hardware that is the source of the input. Harraway would agree that these devices are the key to freedom of information. Harraway would argue that openness and freedom of information and integration with technology and machinery is key to breaking away from the patriarchal gender binary driven system that Harraway writes against. Once our minds are separated from the bodies which we’ve used to split and differentiate ourselves, we would have no reason to purposely segregate ourselves (at least by the basis of something as arbitrary as gender). Plato would argue that knowledge is based in recollection, not in learning. Were he able to understand the workings of a computer, he would be intrigued by the modern laptop’s (and notably this Macbook Pro) capability to have extremely advanced RAM and solid state memory. Never before has information been accessible this fast. We are steadily nearing the ability to emulate the nanosecond response times of synapse-to-synapse connections in the human brain (this concept being known as the Singularity). What he in particular would be concerned by is the use of these devices as replacement for our own knowledge. However, I believe that much like Harraway, he would fully support total, indistinguishable integration of a machine with the

human brain, as he is more concerned with recollection than with learned or observed knowledge. What is interesting is that he often admits that his own memory is flawed, so he would likely be completely okay with his brain being replaced by a more efficient system. As previously stated this is yet another step in the direction of Harraway’s integrated human. One of the biggest selling points behind Apple’s computers is the availability of applications that can create breathtaking media. The application itself is McCluhan “cool” as it requires the direction of the individual to create the eventual series of photos or video. The importance of this is the ability for anyone to create rhetoric that is visually effective in a way that hasn’t been possible unless you possessed thousands of dollars of equipment, software, and had the experience to work the complicated software that was never intended for amateurs. The user interface design has become so much accessible due to study by researchers in interactive design and the ability and desire to have the screen that allows the exact representation of what the GUI designer wants. While McCluhan may think that most video media is passive and “hot”, the remainder of society has benefitted greatly from the medium and it has allowed us to communicate and quickly educate utilizing all of the mediums humans have worked to perfect: writing, photography, videography, and audio recording, all wrapped up into a package that utilizes many senses. Anyone who can use a computer can sit down at iMovie on an Apple laptop and intuitively figure out how to make a video. It absolutely has pitfalls that can lead to impartial and inaccurate representation of a message, such as selective editing that can take source footage and alter it in ways that skew its original. So barring interference from those with malicious intent and assuming McCluhan’s mantra of “the medium is the message” is to be taken seriously,

then the medium being more easily controlled and manipulated can only be a positive thing and should lead to more and more direct and intentional use of rhetoric. What must be taken away from the Apple promotional video is that we are approaching an era where communication is only capped by one’s own imagination. We no longer live in a time where the song in your head or the movie you envision is separated from you by the canyon of expert knowledge and equipment. Prices are dropping, acceptance is rising, and technology is increasing it’s abilities every year. Harraway’s vision of a cyborg is here, but rapidly becoming more and more exaggerated. Plato will continue to be proven short-sighted as knowledge across the world becomes more shared and more easily checked. We must be sure to remove the blinders of fear and push forward to enhance communication as far as possible.

Bibliography McCluhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. N.p.: McGraw-Hill, 1964. Print. Harraway, Donna. "Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s." The Socialist Review 80 (1985): 60-108. Web.