Reading Reflection #3

The smartphone, a device that’s small enough to fit into a back pocket of a pair of pants, has rapidly inserted itself into people’s lives, making them dependent on it for communication, entertainment, and personal information. The newer or more advanced versions, iPhones specifically, have changed the way society interacts among themselves and machines.

Digital participation across these mobile devices, that are constantly connected to the internet, have sparked a new way to communicate. Texting and instant messaging have become key in one’s digital identity, allowing them to share ideas with each other, without ever physically saying them. If one does not have a smartphone, they are, oftentimes, left out of the loop, since so much information is shared online, as location and time are smaller factors. This interplay between organism and machine have taken away the value of face-to-face interactions. It has transformed this part of everyday life into virtual content, contributing to online personas. Similar to the relationship between children and the game Nintendogs, society has taken advantage of the capabilities of smartphones leading one to question, “Are humans completely human or are part cyborg?” (Ruckenstein, 2013).

Although this new form of building relationships with each other has taken away people’s voice, physically, it hasn’t taken away their character. Smartphones may influence people to share content or participate more on social media, such as Facebook’s message “What is on your mind?,” but it does not control the content. This is because every user has agency over the device and is able to express and control what they upload to the internet (Thomas, 2013).

Once content is online, the agency is now held by the smartphone and it’s program, as, for example, Facebook has the ability to decide what pops up first on another user’s homepage. This is where the virality and virality 2.0 come into play, allowing and encouraging people to like, reshare, and respond to posts (Payne, 2012). This remediation of online content stems from people’s initial participation, engaging and further defining their own digital identities.

This whole process of sharing information digitally, interacting with online content, and building or nurturing relationships with other people all come from the interplay between organism and machine. To pose the question, “how human are people?,” brings up the concept of a cyborg, introducing it a neutral and genderless being. When using a smartphone, unless specified through text or photos, one possesses an unknown set of characteristics, like gender, offering some sort of fluidity. It then acts as a metaphor for the inability to determine the differences between machines and humans (Haraway, 2000). Although originally used as a segue to discuss feminism, this cyborg also represents the dependencies and agencies between organisms and machines, as smartphones have become an enormous part of defining one’s own identity, physically and digitally. It, inadvertently, turned into one of Barthes myths, originally, a symbol of feminism transformed into a metaphor for the ambiguity between the human body and what has been inscribed by technology.

Barthes, R., & Lavers, A. (1972). Myth Today. Mythologies. (pp.107–145), New York: Hill and Wang.

Haraway, D. (2000). A cyborg manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century. The Cybercultures Reader (pp. 291–322). London: Routledge.

Payne, R. (2012). Virality 2.0: Networked promiscuity and the sharing subject. Cultural Studies (pp. 1–21) London: Routledge.

Ruckenstein, M. (2013). Playing Nintendogs: Desire, distributed agency and potentials of prosumption. Journal of Consumer Culture, (0)0, 1–20.

Thompson, J. (2013). Games, Glitches, Ghosts: Giving Voice to Enchantment in the Gamic Assemblage. The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge, and Society (pp. 85–93) Texas: The Technology Collection.

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