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Futures. Vol. 27. No. 4, pp. 409-421. 199’ Elsevier Science Ltd Pnnted in Great Britain 0016-3287195 $10.00 + 0.00


ANTHROPOLOGY FUTURE New technologies of culture
Arturo Escobar



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Computer, information and biological technologies are bringing about a fundamental transformation in the structure and meaning of modern society and culture. Not only is this transformation clearly susceptible to anthropological inquiry but it constitutes perhaps a privileged arena for advancing anthropology’s project of understanding human societies from the vantage points of biology, language, history and culture. This article reviews the types of cultural analyses that are being conducted today in the social nature, impact, and use of new technologies and suggests additional contexts and steps toward the articulation of an ‘anthropology of cyberculture’.

While any technology can be studied anthropologically from a variety of refers specifically to new technologies in two perspectives, ‘cyberculture” areas-artificial intelligence (particularly computer and information technologies), and biotechnology.’ It would be possible to separate out these two sets of technologies for analytical purposes, although it is no coincidence that they have simultaneously. While computer and information achieved prominence technologies are bringing about a regime of technosocinlity,’ a broad process of sociocultural construction set in motion in the wake of the new technologies, a new order for the production of biotechnologies are giving rise to biosociality,’ life, nature and the body through biologically based technological interventions.
Professor Escobar may be contacted at the Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts. Amherst, MA 01003, USA (Tel: +l 413 545 01 11 ; fax: +l 413 545 2326). The author thanks David He5s for useful information on aspects of this article. It has been enriched by conttnuing conversations on technology with Alelandro Piscitelli. Some aspects of this paper are treated at greater length In ‘Welcome Current Anthropohgy 35(3), pages 21 l-2 31, to Cyberia: Notes on the Anthropology of Cyberculture’, 1994.


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These two regimes form the basis for what I call cyberculture. They embody the realization that we increasingly live and make ourselves in techno-biocultural environments structured by novel forms of science and technology. Interest in science and technology on the part of social/cultural anthropologists has been growing steadily in recent years. Steps have already been taken towards building an institutional presence for the anthropology of science and technology within the American Anthropological Association. 5 Several panels related to STS issues were held at the 1992 and 1993 AAA meetings.6 Topics of interest to anthropologists in recent years have included ethnographies of scientists, studies of reproductive and medical technologies, topics in gender and science, ethics and values, and science and engineering education. The more fashionable studies of computer and biological technologies, virtual reality, virtual communities and cyberspace are attracting increasing attention. An effort to theorize the anthropology of science and technology is also under way and promises to become a salient trend within the discipline in the near future.’ Although most anthropological science and technology studies have taken place in highly industrialized countries, increasing attention to issues in Third World countries can be expected, given that the globalization of cultural and economic production relies more and more on the new technologies of information and life. Whether it is in the domains of biotechnology-driven development, information or warfare, the encounter between North and South continues to be heavily mediated by technologies of manifold kinds. Recently, the impact of technologies such as television and videocassettes on local notions of development and modernity and their effect on longstanding social and cultural practices have been approached Once seen as producing worldwide homogenization and ethnographically.’ generalized acculturation, cosmopolitan science and technology are now viewed in terms of their real or potential contribution to the formation of hybrid cultures and to processes of self-affirmation through selective and partially autonomous adoption of modern technologies.Y There is also hope that advances in biotechnology might be used by local groups in biodiversity-rich regions of the world to defend their territories and articulate novel economic and cultural strategies. As David Hess argues, lo however, the effect of cosmopolitan technologies on Third World groups remains insufficiently understood, particularly from the vantage point of the cultural politics they set in motion, including issues of cultural destruction, hybridization and homogenization, and the creation of new differences through forms of connectedness fostered by the new technologies-another aspect of what Arjun Appadurai calls ‘global ethnoscapes’.” Work on these issues is advancing rapidly, particularly in connection with the redefinition of development.‘2

The anthropological


Anthropological reflection on the relation between culture and technology is of course not new. The impact of Western technologies on cultural change and evolution has been a subject of study since the early 195Os.‘-’ Questions of technological control and political economy have been broached. Nevertheless, studies of material culture and technology have suffered from dependence on what a reviewer of the field recently called ‘the standard view of technology’ (based on a decontextualized teleology that goes from simple tools to complex machines). Only with modern science and technology studies has the possibility arisen to see science and technology in relation to complex sociotechnical systems. This ‘lays the



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foundation once again for fruitful communication among social anthropologists, ethnoarchaeologists, archaeologists, and students of human evolution’.‘4 It also fosters exchange between anthropologists and other disciplines involved in these studies, such as philosophy, cognitive science and linguistics. In the First World, attempts at articulating an anthropological strategy explicitly centred on new information, computer and biological technologies has just begun. An important precursor in this regard was Margaret Mead’s work in the context of the emergence of cybernetics during the World War II and up to the middle of the 1960s.15 At the beginning of the 199Os, it is possible to identify three different proposals. The first, by the anthropologist David Thomas, builds on the growing literature on the notions of ‘cyberspace’“’ and ‘cyborg’-broadly speaking, a mixture of human and machine. Arguing that advanced forms of Western technology are bringing about a ‘rite of passage’ between industrial and ‘postorganic’ societies, between ‘organically human and cyberpsychically digital life-forms as reconfigured through computer software systems’, Thomas” calls on anthropologists to engage ‘virtual worlds technologies during this early stage of speculation and development’, particularly from the point of view of how these technologies are socially produced. From print-based paradigms of visual literacy to the virtual worlds of digitalized information, we are witnessing a transition to a new postcorporeal stage that presents great promise in terms of creative social logics and sensorial regimes. Cyberspace affords unprecedented possibilities for anthropologists in terms of realizing this promise. The second project, ‘cyborg anthropology’, formally launched with a two-panel session held at the annual meetings of the AAA in San Francisco in December 1992, takes as science and technology studies, in particular feminist ones, as a point of departure. While its domain is the analysis of science and technology as cultural phenomena, the main goal of cyborg anthropology is the ethnographic study oi the boundaries between human and machines thare are specific to late 2Oth-century societies. Believing that anthropos as the subject and object of anthropology must be displaced, the emerging cyborg anthropologists argue that human and social reality is as much a product of machines as of human activity, that we should grant agency to machines, and that the proper task for an anthropology of science and technology is to examine ethnographically how technology serves as agent of social and cultural production. I8 Critical positions regarding these two projects are beginning to be articulated, most notably in visual anthropology. Given the importance of vision for virtual reality, computer networks, graphics and interfaces, and for imaging technologies-from satellite surveillance, warfare and space exploration to medical technologies such as tomography and the visualization of the foetus”‘-it is not surprising that the branch of anthropology most attuned to the analysis of visuality as cultural and epistemological regime has been the first to react to uncritical celebration of cyberspatial technologies.“’ Claims by cybcrspace designers that the new technologies will ‘make the body obsolete, destroy subjectivity, create new worlds and universes, change the economic and political future of humanity, and even lead to a posthuman order’, are for these critics at best wishful thinking motivated by the seductiveness of virtual reality and like technologies and at worst misguided efforts at engineering social reality.” So, thev argue, is the seemingly exclusive focus on a cyborgian society mediated by human-machine interactions. Rather than developing a new anthropological subdiscipline, Gray and Driscoll prefer to speak of an ‘anthropology of, and in, cyberspace’. This third project would


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study technologies in the cultural contexts from which they originate and in which they operate, including their continued links to the dominant values of rationality, instrumentality, profit and violence. It is no coincidence, these writers suggest, that virtual reality-one of the recent developments at the heart of the cyberspatial movement-has been and is likely to continue to be circumscribed by military and economic interests and that, despite its much touted potential for liberatory and humanizing purposes, the military and profit-oriented applications will undoubtedly remain dominant. Their prescription is for examining these technologies from the perspective of how they allow various groups of people to negotiate specific forms of power, authority and representation. One of the most fruitful insights is that technoscience is motivating a blurring and implosion of categories at various levels, particularly the modern categories that have defined the natural, the organic, the technical and the textual. The boundaries between nature and culture, between organism and machine are ceaselessly redrawn according to complex historical factors in which discourses of science and technology play a decisive role.‘2 ‘Bodies’, ‘organisms’, and ‘communities’ thus have to be re-theorized as composed of elements that originate in three different domains with permeable boundaries: the organic, the technical (or technoeconomic), and the textual (or, broadly speaking, cultural). While nature, bodies and organisms certainly have an organic basis, they are increasingly produced in conjunction with machines, and this production is always mediated by scientific narratives (‘discourses’ of biology, technology, and the like) and by culture in general. Cyberculture must thus be understood as the overarching field of forces and meanings in which this complex production of life, labour and language takes place. For sorne,‘j while cyberculture can be seen as the imposition of a new grid of control on the planet, it also represents new possibilities for potent articulations between humans, nature and machines. The organic, these critics suggest, is not necessarily opposed to the technological. Yet it must also be emphasized that new knowledge and power configurations are narrowing down on life and labour, such as in the Human Genome Project. Indeed, the new genetics, linked to novel computer techniques, its promise most eagerly visualized in the image of the biochip, might prove to be the greatest force for reshaping society and life ever witnessed in history. In the future, nature will be known and remade through technique; it will be literally built, in the same way that culture is, with the difference that the making of nature will take place through the reconfiguration of social life by micropractices originating in medicine, biology and biotechnology.‘” The corollary of these analyses is the need to pay attention to the social and cultural relations of science and technology as central mechanisms for the production of life and culture in the 21 st century. Capital, to be sure, will continue to play a crucial role in the reinvention of life and society. The worldwide spread of value today, however, does not take place so much through the direct extraction of surplus value from labour or conventional industrialization as by the further capitalizing nature and society through scientific R&D, particularly in the areas of artificial intelligence and biotechnology. Even the human genome becomes an important area for capitalist restructuring and, thus, for contestation. The reinvention of nature and culture currently under way-effected by/within webs of meaning and production that link science and capital-must therefore be understood according to a political economy appropriate to the era of cyberculture. Anthropologists need to begin in earnest the study of the social, economic and political practices related to



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the technologies produced.

through which life, language and labour are being articulated and

Areas for ethnographic


General questions to be raised by the anthropology of cyberculture include the following: what new forms of social construction of reality and of negotiation of such constructions are being created or modified? How are people socialized by their routine experience of constructed spaces created by new technologies? How do people relate to their technoworlds (machines, reinvented bodies, and natures)? if people are differently placed in technospaces (according to race, gender, class, geographical location, ‘physical ability’), how do their experiences of these spaces differ? Finally, would it be possible to produce ethnographic accounts of the multiplicity of practices linked to the new technologies in various social, regional and ethnic settings? How do these practices relate to broader social issues, such as the control of labour, the accumulation of capital, the organization of lifeworlds, and the globalization of cultural production? Several areas, or domains of ethnographic investigation, can be distinguished, and refined as the research advances: The production and use of new technologies. Here anthropological research would focus on scientists and experts in sites such as genetic research labs, high-technology corporations, and virtual reality design centres, on the one hand, and the users of these technologies, on the other. Ethnographies in this domain would generally follow on the footsteps of the handful of ethnographies of modern science and technology conducted to date,15 science and technology theorizing, particularly in relation to anthropology,*’ and feminist studies of science and technology,‘7 although they will have to be resituated within the conceptual space of the anthropology of cyberculture. A handful of ethnographic studies of this kind are already under way. A salient aspect of research in this domain is the ethnographic account of the production of subjectivities that accompanies the new technologies. That the computer is ‘an evocative object’, a projective medium for the construction of a variety of private and public worlds, has been shown bv Sherry Turkle.‘” As the computer culture spreads, Turkle shows in a pioneering study, more and more people start to think of themselves in computer terms. Computers are changing notions of identity and the self in ways that are little understood. Cyberculture is indeed creating a host of veritable ‘technologies of the self’ that go beyond the view of self as machine, and the cultural productivity of these notions can only be assessed ethnographically. Virtual worlds, for instance, such as the use of anonymous computer role-playing games (MUDS) as ther-apeutic media, can be a way to move out of the self and into the world of social interactions. Although these media are frequently thought of negatively, Turkle’? recent work indicates that they can become instruments for reconstructing identities in interactive ways and sources of knowledge about other cultures and the outside world. There is also a global component to the production of subjectivities that needs to be explored. What is the meaning of the globalization of Nintendo and Sega, for instance, in youth culture worldwide? How are computer games ‘consumed’ in societies that have different cultural codes? The appearance of computer-mediated communities, such as the so-called virtual


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communities and, generally, what one of the most creative computer environment designers has called ‘the vibrant new villages of activity within the larger cultures of computing’.30 Anthropological analysis can be important not only for understanding what these new ‘villages’ and ‘communities’ are but, equally important, for imagining the kinds of communities that human groups can create with the help of emerging technologies. Again, research in this area is just beginning. We can anticipate active discussion on the proper methods for studying these communities, including questions of online/offline fieldwork, the boundaries of the group to be studied, interpretation and ethics. A variant of this line of research is what Laurelj’ termed ‘interface anthropology’. The creation of human-computer interfaces has been treated narrowly as a problem of engineering design which attempts to match tasks to be performed with the tools at hand. Yet the key question of the distinct user populations for whom the technologies are intended is often ignored or inferred from statistical information, and the critical question of what the technology in question does to users and what it allows them to do is never raised. Children, teachers, computer game designers and users, fiction writers, architects, community activists and others (without even mentioning cross-cultural design) all have different needs and approaches regarding these basic questions. An ‘interface anthropology’ that addresses this lack would focus on user/context intersections, finding ‘informants’ to guide the critical (not merely utilitarian) exploration of diverse users and contexts. Studies ofpopular culture ofscience and technology, including the effect of science and technology on the popular imaginary (the set of basic elements that structure a given discourse and the relations among them) and popular practices. What happens when technologies such as computers and virtual reality enter the mainstream? The rise of a ‘technobabble’j2 is only the tip of the iceberg with regard to the changes that are taking place at this level. For the Argentinean cultural critic Beatriz Sarlo,j3 the principal need in this regard is to examine the aesthetic and practical incorporation of technology into daily life. At the level of popular sectors, the technological imaginary elicits a reorganization of popular knowledges and the development of symbolic contents that, while undeniably modern, differ significantly from those intended by scientists. This has to be taken into account in the study of technoliterate practices that enable people to relate actively to new technologies.34 The growth and qualitative development of human computer-mediated communication, particularly from the perspective of the relationship between communication, language, social structures and cultural identity. While computer-mediated communication shares many features with other forms of mediated communication well studied by linguists and linguistic anthropologists, such as telephone and answering machine messages, it also differs in important respects. Human interaction through computers must be studied not only from the of the transcuItural/trans-situational principles perspective and ‘discourse strategies’j5 governing any type of human interaction, but also in terms of the specificity of the communicative and linguistic practices that arise from the nature of the media involved. Three dimensions of the process of construction of computer-mediated communicative communities are particularly relevant in this regard:3h (a) the relationship between machines and social subjects as producers of discourse at the threshold of the birth of an international ‘cyberliterate’ society; (b) the question of the creation and distribution of and access to the ‘authorized’ or



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computer-mediated communication ‘legitimate’ mastery and manipulation grants particular

codes and languages whose groups of practitioners symbolic

authority and control over the circulation of cyberculture; (c) the role of computer-mediated communication in establishing links between, giving cohesion to, and creating continuities in the interactional history of group members, side by side with telephone conversations, regular mail, and face-to-face interaction. This might include research on talk, interaction and technology in work and leisure contexts, and on the shaping and reshaping of social and cultural boundaries both between a given computer-mediated community and other communities and within such communities. The political economy of cyberculture. Anthropologists have paid close attention in recent decades to the analysis of communities in historical and global contexts.” Cyberculture presents new challenges for the continued articulation of an anthropological political economy. What has been variously called ‘the silicon capitalism’, and ‘the information economy’ entails deep changes order’, ‘microchip in capital accumulation, social relations and divisions of labour at many levels. What is the relationship between ‘information’ and ‘capital’? Is it appropriate to akin to a mode of postulate, as some do, j8 the existence of a ‘mode of information’ production? How can we theorize the articulation between information, markets and cultural orders? The shift to new information technologies marked the appearance of more flexible, decentralized labour processes highly stratified by gender, ethnic, class and geographic factors. This ‘post-Fordist regime ‘j9 elicits novel articulations of global capital with local cultures; we are witnessing ‘the production of cultural difference within a structured system of global political economy’.40 In what specific ways are these global processes mediated and constituted locally? What happens to local notions of development and modernity as new mechanisms of local-global interaction take shape? The appearance of a ‘society of control’4’ and of calls for institutional ethnographies cyberocracy, or ‘rule by way of information’,4’ conducted from the perspective of the political economy of information. What are the major institutional sites within which and from which key informational categories and flows are created and put into circulation? What perspectives of the world do these categories represent, and how do they enact mechanisms of ruling that depend on certain groups’ relation to the mode of production of information? from computer-mediated production of These ethnographies would move information to its reception and use, investigating at each level the cultural dynamics and politics that ‘information’ sets into motion. As is information, science and technology have become crucial to capitalism in that the creation of value today depends largely on scientific and technological developments. The concrete forms of the scientific appropriation of life and labour by capital exhibits novel features such as the ever tighter imbrication of academy and industry in the biotechnological field.13 These new forces are bringing about a ‘biorevolution’ in the Third World: ‘New technical forms . will significantly change the context within which technological change in the Third World is conceptualized and planned. We suggest that the cluster of emergent techniques generically called as “biotechnology” will be to the Green Revolution what the Green Revolution was to traditional plant varieties and practices’.“” Plant genetics, industrial tissue culture, and the use of genetically manipulated microorganisms represent unprecedented interventions in the context of Third World development. Corporations are already in the lead with regard to R&D. A\ the analysis of corporate



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behaviour by these researchers show, the prospects for the Third World are ominous, because corporations simply do not care about Third World interests. Finally, the restructuring of the macroeconomic and political relations between rich and poor countries in the wake of cyberculture must be considered. As some argue, high technology is resulting in a ‘new dependency’ of technology-poor countries on the leaders in the innovation of computer, information and biological technologies. 45 Third World countries, according to these authors, must negotiate this dependency through aggressive technological modernization coupled with social reforms. From an anthropological perspective, this suggestion is problematic; it amounts to the continuation of the post-World-War-11 policies of ‘development’ which have had for the most part deleterious effects on the economies and cultures of the Third World.46 Like development, technologies are not culturally neutral. Are there different possibilities for Third World societies-other ways of participating in the technocultural conversations and processes that are reshaping the world? How can social movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America articulate policies that allow them to participate in cybercultures without fully submitting to the rules of the game? Will most social groups in the Third World be in the position even to know the possibilities afforded by new technologies? A more general question is whether Third World governments would be interested in constructing the technological imaginaries that will be required for access to the new technologies from the perspective of more autonomous design:47 ‘there will not be a genuine social transformation without transforming the relation between society and the technologies it incorporates’.48 To start paying attention to Third World technological innovation is a first step towards gaining ‘technological self-esteem.’ A more general question is whether the new technologies can be conceptualized in ways that do not reduce them to their role in economic development, and another is what cybercultures mean from different Third World perspectives. Of special importance in discussing these issues in the Third World is the role of women in the electronics industry worldwide. The development of cyberculture rests, in many ways, on the labour of young women in North American, Japanese and European electronic enclaves in South-east Asia, Central America and other parts of the Third World.49 There is every reason to believe that electronics will continue to be favoured in industrial schemes in the Third World, under the aegis of multinational corporations, and there is also every reason to believe that young women will continue to be seen as the ‘ideal’ labour force by these industries. The effects of this process on the dynamics of gender and culture are enormous, as the few studies of maquiladoras and sweatshops conducted to date have shown. Feminist anthropology and political economy have a great deal to contribute to this fundamental aspect of the construction of cyberculture. The anthropology of the future must contribute to in-depth studies of the class, gender and race aspects of the making of cyberculture and challenges to it, including analyses of technoscientific elites, on the one hand, and of the potential of individuals, groups and social movements to articulate parallel or alternative technologies, ways of knowing, and social relations of science and technology. Anthropological studies of cybercultures can help us to imagine contexts in which possibilities for relating to technoculture that do not exacerbate the power imbalances in society might emerge. Technology, Technological utopia and the future innovations and dominant worldviews generally transform each other



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so as to legitimize and naturalize the technologies of the time, Nature and society come to be explained in ways that reinforce the technological imperatives of the day, making them appear the most rational and efficient form of social practice. in the modern age, this mutual reinforcement has resulted in the universalization of the European technoscientific imaginary. For some, the visualization of a post-technoscientific society would depend on the ability to set limits to this technological imperative; it would be a matter of studying closely the reach of technoscience, deciding which domains should be defended from it, and demarcating appropriate technical domains and styles of competence.50 Whether or not this position is viable or even useful, new languages are needed that allow different groups of people (experts, social movements, citizens’ groups) to reorient the dominant understanding of technology. Some of these languages are being crafted within science itself (ecology, feminist science, non-Western scientific traditions, the science of complexity). Some are being imagined from philosophy and other fields, and I would like to conclude by referring to two authors who have attempted to give us a view of the future that technology is likely to bring on us. For Felix Guattari,” the new technologies are facilitating a new look into life. In the visionary pages written shortly before his death, he acknowledged that information, computer and biological technologies still reinforce for the most part the alienating and retrograde system of capitalist modernity; yet he also adumbrated the possibility that they might provide grounds for new creative, self-referential subjectives. This, for Guattari, is a historical possibility that has to be fought for; to become real, it requires the actualization of rights to singularity and alterity, new types of North-South relations, and a radical democratization of gender relations. What he called ‘ecosophical practices’ include profound transformations of economics, urban and rural ecologies, science, and ways of thinking-a question not of simple-minded self-management and autonomy but a social complexity that undermines the hegemony of techno-capitalist valorization. Here may lie yet another way of being welcome to cyberculture. Jacques Attali52 sees in the millennium’s end the dawn of a new mutation. The market form has been generalized and the world tends to become structured around two dominant geographical spaces-the European space, including East and West, and the Pacific space, including the USA-with a large periphery under the influence of either of the dominant spaces. More interestingly, the world economy will be fuelled, according to Attali, by the production of /nomad ob;ects, portable objects capable of supporting most life activities without the need for ties to place or social group. Nomad objects will become essential not only in information and communications but in most domains of daily life, including health, food, education and surveillance. These objects will be increasingly ‘intelligent,’ allowing users unprecedented independence. ‘This is the order we see in the making: people, as much as objects, will be nomads, without stable home or family; they will carry with them, on them, everything that constitutes their social \,alue’.53 Prostheses and artificial organs, genetic engineering, instruments of self-diagnosis and self-learning will create life as object. Everything-genes, life-forms-will be patentable. People will be produced as commodities.


Drugs will be the only form of nomadism available to the millions excluded from the market of objects. The world will be increasingly divided between ‘luxury and ‘nomads of misery’, mostly in the nomads’, in the dominant countries, periphery, who will try to migrate to the dominant spaccas. This division will be reproduced in the periphery. New walls will be erected between North and South,


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between rich and poor: ‘Many countries in the dominant spaces will try to stop the movements of people [from the periphery]; they will try to defend their identity . . . A new dictatorship is upon us, the refusal to acknowledge and welcome the Other. The rich will shelter themselves in their riches and will justify exclusion as an excess of mobility. To be a citizen of these countries will again require the justification of a racial order’.54 We only need to recall Somalia and Rwanda to realize how close we are to this order. Attali, however, sees reasons for hope. It is possible that the same economic system will produce a peace economy. This will require unprecedented creativity in all domains of economic and social life. This creativity will have to face the crucial problems of the age-malnutrition, pollution, genetic engineering, the arms race and drugs. The dominant countries will have to learn how to welcome change, how to facilitate the access to nomad objects to all in all corners of the globe--the access to health, knowledge and culture, to human dignity. Only in this way can they hope to defend the nomad object par excellence, the Earth. The young will invent their ways of nomadism in freedom. An overall project, however, will be needed in order to give meaning to the nomad age and reconcile modernity with spirituality. Only a new set of planetary institutions, democratically elected, might succeed in steering the species towards a globality and worldliness that opposes creativity to violence and to the senseless piling up of nomad objects. Utopian? Certainly. But let us keep in mind that ‘it is with utopia that philosophy becomes political, taking to its extreme the critique of its era . . . utopia designates the conjunction of philosophy with the present’.55 Utopias of society and technology? Perhaps. Is anthropology prepared for the task?




Anthropology, it continues to be said, 56 is still enframed within the overall order of the modern and the savage, the civilized self and the uncivilized other. If it is to ‘reenter the real world’ and ‘work in the present r,57 it will h;ve to deal with the steady march of cyberculture. Cyberculture, moreover, offers a change for anthropology to renew itself without again reaching, as in the anthropology of this century, premature closure around the figures of the other and the same. These questions, and cyberculture generally, concern what anthropology is about--the story of life as it has been lived and is being lived today at this very moment. What is happening to life in the late 20th century? What is coming in the next?

Notes and references From an etymological perspective, the terms ‘cyberculture’, ‘cyberspace’, ‘cyberocracy’, and the like are misnomers. In coining the term ‘cybernetics’, Norbert Wiener had in mind the Creek word for ‘Pilot’ or ‘steersman’ (kibernetes); in other words, there is no Greek root for ‘cyber’. Given the wide acceptance of the prefix ‘cyber’, I use cyberculture here as an element of analysis. lt is not apparent why computer and information technologies both fall under the rubric of artificial intelligence. To the extent that computers can be thought of as today’s dominant intellectual technologies, it is valid to propose that ‘all informatics may be thought of as artificial intelligence’. (P Levy, ‘La oralidad primaria, la escritura, y la informdtica’. David y Goliath, 58, 1991, pages 4- 16). Allucquere Cruz,

Groupfor the Study of Virtual
1991. editors,

Rosanne Stone,

‘Virtual Systems: The Architecture of Elsewhere’, Systems, Center for Cultural Studies, University

unpublished of California,


Paul Rabinow, ‘Artificiality
S Kwinter,

and enlightenment: from sociobiology /ncorpora!ions (New York, Zone Books, 1992),

to biosociality’, pages 234-252.

in j Crary and



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The first step was taken at the 1992 annual meeting of the Society for the Social Studies ot Science, where a group of American anthropologists (Michael Fischer, Sharon Traweek, Rayna Rapp, David Hess, Lisa Handwerker, Shirley Coresntein, and David Hakken) met to discuss strategies ior establishing a Committee on Science and Technology within the AAA. This process is detailed in the 1992 edition of the Social/Cultural Anthropology of Science and Technology Newsletter, edited by David Hess. 6. Panels at the 1992 meetings included cyborg anthropology, cultural perspectives on computing, cultural barriers to technological innovation, virtual communities, consequences of interactive information technology on culture and education, and cyborgs and women (in honour of Donna Haraway). For a directory and bibliography of anthropological science and technology studies, see D Hess, editor, The Social/CulturalAnthropology ofScience and Technology’, Social/Cultural Anthropology of Science and Technology Newsletter, 1992; D Hess and L Layne, editors, Know/edge andSoc-iety, Vol9, The Anthropology of Science and Technology (Greenwich, JAI Press, 1992); B Pfaffenberger, ‘The social anthropology of technology’, Annual Review of Anthropology, 21, 1992, pages 491-516; D Hakken, n.d., ‘Has there been a computer revolution! An anthropological approach’, Journal of Computing and Society, 1(l),pages 11-28; S Traweek, ‘An introduction to culture, gender, and social studies of science and technology’, /ourna/ of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 17, 1993, pages 3-25; D Hess, ‘If you are thinking of living in STS: a guide to the perplexed’, in Cyborgs and Citadels: Anthropological interventions into Technoc-ultures (Santa Fe, NM, School of American Research, in press). 8. Lila Abu-Lughod, ‘The romance of resistance’, American Ethnologist, 17(l),1995, pages 401-455; Gudrun Dahl and Annika Rabo, editors, Kam-ap or Take-off: Local Notions of Development (Stockholm, Stockholm Studies in Social Anthropology); Nestor Garc-ia Canclini, Culturas hibnd‘~h: estrategias para entrar y salir de /a modernidad (Mexico, Grijalbo, 1990). The case of the Kayapo in the Amazon rainforest, who have become adept at using video cameras, 9. aeroplanes, and revenues from gold mining in their struggle for cultural autonomy, is already becoming legendary. David Hess, kience and Technology in a Multicultural World (in press). 10. 11. Arjun Appadurai, ‘Global ethnoscapes’, in Richard Fox, editor, RecapturingAnthropology: Work,ng in the Pre5ent (Santa Fe, NM, School of American Research, 1991). pages 191-210. World (New York, Columbia Untversity Press, 12. D. Hess, Science and Technology in a Multicultural 1995); Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development: Thp Making and Unmaking of the Third World (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Pres\, 1994). 13. Among the best known studies is Godelier’s (1971) work on the effect of the introduction of steel axes on Australian aborigines and the Baruya of Papua New Guinea. M Codelier, “‘Salt currency” and the circulation of commodities among the Baruya of New Guinea’, in Studie* in Econom!c Anthropology, edited by George Dalton (Washington, DC, American Anthropological A%oc.iatlon, 1971). For an excellent discussion of earlier studies, see Hess (1995). ‘The social anthropology of technology’, Annu,r/ Review ofAnthropology, _?I, 14. Bryan Pfaffenberger, 1992, page 513. 1.5. Mead was an active participant in the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics (M Mead, H L Tauber and Heinz von Foerster, editors, Cybernetic-s (5 volumes) (New York, Josiah Macy Jr Foundation, 1950-1956) as well as a central figure at the founding of the American Society for Cybernetics (M Mead, ‘Cybernetics of Cybernetics’, in Purposive Systems, edited by Heinz von Forrster (New York, Spartan Books, 1968), pages 1~ 14. The life of this illustrious ‘cybernetics group,’ whit h included besides Mead, Gregory Bateson, Heinz von Foerster, Norbert Wiener and Kurt Lrwin, among others, is chronicled in a recent book (S Heims, The C, bernetjcs Group (CambrIdge, MIT Press, 1991). Itshould be pointed out that the Macy conferences took place in the context ot the Cold War, the first wave of computer technology, and the development of general \vstem\ theory. Today’s historical and epistemological context is quite different. first coined by W Gibson, Neuromanref (New York, Bantam Books, 16. The term ‘c-yberspace’, 1984) and introduced to intellectual, artistic, and academic c irclcs in the collection by M Benedikt, editor, Cyberspace: The First Steps (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1991), refers to the growing networks and systems of computer-mediated environments. For introductions to the concept of c yberspace, see H Rheingold, Virtual Reality [New York, Simon and hchuster, 1991) and A R Stone‘. ‘Virtual systems: the architecture elsewhere',Manuscript, Group for the Study of Virtual Sy\trnrs, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1991; A R Stone, ‘Virtual svstcms’, in Inc-orporationc, c~t1lti.d bv J Crary and S Kwinter (New York, Zone Books, 19921, pages 6011-62.5. 17. David Thomas, ‘Old ntuals for new space: rite, of passage and Willi.~m Gibson’s cultural model r)i in Benedikt, editor, op tit, reference 16. page 3 I. cyberspace’, is based on the paper presented at the panel ‘Cvborg anthropology I: on tht, 18. This destriptlon by Garv Lee Downey, Joseph Dumit and Sarah production of humanity and its boundaries’, Co/rur,~/ Anthropo/qq\~, I~uL), 19'15,pages 264&L(~‘). Williams. ‘C‘yhorg Anthropology’,



and the future:

A Escobar


20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

Manual de Landa, War in the Age of intelligent Machines (New York, Zone Books, 1991); Lisa Cartwright and Brian Goldfarb, ‘Radiography, cinematography, and the decline of the lens’, in Crary and Kwinter, editors, op tit, reference 4, pages 190-201; Barbara Duden, The Woman Beneath the Skin (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1990). Benedikt, editor, op tit, reference 16; Howard Rheingold, Virtual Reality (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1991). Chris Hables Gray and Mark Driscoll, ‘What’s real about virtual reality? Anthropology of, and in, cyberspace’, Visual Anthropology Review, 8(2), 1992, page 39. Donna Haraway, Symians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York, Routledge, 1991). /bid; Rabinow, op tit, reference 4. Ibid. Bruno Latour and Steven Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts (Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1979); Emily Martin, The Woman in the Body (Boston, MA, Beacon Press, 1987); Shiv Visvanathan, Organizing for Science (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1985); Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1988); Sharon Traweek, Beamtimes and Lifetimes: 7he World of High-energy Physicists (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1988); Dorin Kondo, Crafting Selves (Chicago, IL, The University of Chicago Press, 1990). David Hakken, ‘Has there been a computer revolution? An anthropological approach’, Journal of Computing and Society, 7 (I), nd, pages 11-28; Pfaffenberger, op tit, reference 14; David Hess and Linda Layne, editors, ‘The anthropology of science and technology’, Know/edge and Society, Volume 9 (Greenwich, CT, JAI Press,l992); Hess, op tit, reference 10. Haraway, op tit, reference 22; Mary Jacobus, Evelyn Fox Keller and Sally Shuttleworth, editors, Body/politics: Women and the Discourses of Science (New York, Routledge, 1990); Judy Wajcman, feminism Confronts Technology (University Park, PA, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991); Evelyn fox Keller, Secrets of Life, Secrets of Death: Essays on Language, Gender and Science (New York, Routledge, 1992). Sherry Turkle, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1984). Sherry Turkle, ‘Living in the MUDS: multiplicity and identity in virtual reality’, presented at the panel ‘Cyborg Anthropology II’, 9lst Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco, 2-6 December, 1992. Brenda Laurel, editor, The Arf of Human-Computer Interface Design (Reading, MA, Addison Wesley, 1990), page 93. /bid, pages 91-93. John Barry, Technobabble (Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1991). Beatriz Sarlo, La imaginacidn fPcnica: suerios modernos de /a cultura Argentina (Buenos Aires, Ediciones Nueva Visibn, 1992). Technoculture (Minneapolis, MN, University of Constance Penley and Andrew Ross, editors, Minnesota Press, 1991); John Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture (Boston, MA, Unwin Hyman, 1989); Paul Willis, Common Culture (Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1990). John Cumperz, Discourse Strategies (Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1983). Celso Alvarez, personal communication, 1992. Eric Wolf, Europe and the People Without History (New York and Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1982); William Roseberry, Anthropologies and Histories: Essays in Culture, History, and Political Economy (New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1992). Mark Poster, The Mode of Information: Pos&tructura/ism and Social Context (Chicago, IL, The University of Chicago Press, 1990). David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford, Basic Blackwell, 1989). Alan Pred and Michael Watts, Reworking Modernity: Capitalism and Symbolic Discontent (New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1992), page 18. Gilles Deleuze, ‘Control y devenir: entrevista con Toni Negri’, translated by Edgar Garavito El Espectador, Magazin Dominica/ (Bogoti), No 5 11, 7 February 1993, pages 14- 18. David Ronfeldt, Cyberocracy, Cyberspace, and Cyberology: Political Effects of the Information Revolution (Santa Monica, CA, The Rand Corporation, 1991). Paul Rabinow ‘Severing the ties: fragmentation and dignity in late modernity’, in David Hess and Linda Layen, editors, Knowledge and Society: The Anthropology of Science and Technology, Volume 9 (Greenwich, JAI Press, 1992), pages 169-187. Frederick Buttle, Martin Kenney and Jack Kloppenburg, ‘From green revolution to biorevolution: some observations on the changing technological bases of economic transformation in the third world’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, 34, 1985, page 32. Manuel Castells and Roberto Laserna, ‘The new dependency: technological change and socioeconomic restructuring in Latin America’, Socio/ogica/ Forum, 4(4), 1989, pages 535-560;



28. 29.

30. 31. 32. 33. 34.

35. 36. 37.

38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43.





and the future: A ko/~,r~-

46. 37. 48. 49. 50.

51 52. 5.3. 54. 55. 56. 57.

David Smith, ‘Technology and the modern world system: some reflec.tions’, Science, Tee-hnn/qq << Mmw~ V&es, 18(2), 1993, pages 186-195. Escobar. oo cit. reference 12. Judith S&i, ‘Los cambios tecnol6gicos y 5~1s Impactos: un largo camino hacla la construtclhn solidaria de opportunidades’, Fermenturn (Caracas), Jl6;71, 1993, pages 124- 150. Ibid. oaee 138. Aihwa Ong, Spirit5 of Resistance and Capitalist Discrplme (Albany, YY, SUNY Press, lY87); Mari.l Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on d World Scale (London, Zetl Books, 1986). Manuel Medina, ‘Nuevas tecnologias, evalucicin de la investigac ibn tecnolbgica y gesticin de riesgos’, in J Sanmartin, S H Cutcliffe, S L Goldman and M Medina. editors, btodios whrr .5x icdxl y Tecnologb (Barcelona, Anthropos, 1YY21, pages 163& 194. Felix Guattari, constructivismo guattariano (Cali, Universidad del Valle Press, 199.1). Jacques Attali, Milenio (Barcelona, Seix Barral, 1991). I am using the Spanish version of the book. The original, entitled Lignes &horizon, WJS published in 1990 in Par15 by Llbrairie Artheme Favarrd /hid, page 26. /hid, page 86. Cilles Deleure and Felix Guattari, Que es /a ti/osoiia! (Barcelona, Anagrama, 1993), page 101. Ralph Trouillot, ‘Anthropology and the savage slot: the poetic-s and politics of otherness’, In Richard Fox, editor Recapturing Anthropology (Santa Fe, School of Americ-an Rsearch, 1991). pages 17 44. Fox, op c‘it, reference 56.
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