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Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

Welcome to Cyberia: Notes on the Anthropology of Cyberculture [and Comments and Reply] Author(s): Arturo Escobar, David Hess, Isabel Licha, Will Sibley, Marilyn Strathern, Judith Sutz Source: Current Anthropology, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Jun., 1994), pp. 211-231 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2744194 Accessed: 25/08/2010 19:21
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CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 35, Number 3, June I994 ? I994 byThe Wenner-Gren All rights reserved Research. Foundation for Anthropological 0OII-3204/94/3503-OOOI$2.50

in theLatin sityofCalifornia, Berkeley (Ph.D., i987). He taught StudiesProgram oftheUniversity American ofCalifornia, Santa thefaculty inat Smithin I989. His research Cruz,before joining terests are theanthropology ofdevelopment, ofsocial movements, and ofscienceand technology. Amonghis publications are (coedited withSonia Alvarez)The MakingofSocial Movementsin LatinAmerica:Identity, and Democracy Strategy, Westview (Boulder: Press,i992) and Encountering Development: TheMakingand Un-making of theThirdWorld (Princeton: Princeton University Press,in press).The present paperwas subin finalform mitted I VIII93.

Significant changes are takingplace in both the characand ourunderstanding teroftechnology ofit. Computer, and biological technologies are bringing information, transformation in the structure abouta fundamental and meaningofmodernsocietyand culture.Not onlyis this transformation inclearlysusceptibleto anthropological quirybut it constitutesperhaps a privilegedarena for huadvancinganthropology's project of understanding man societies fromthe vantage points of biology,lanand culture.This paperreviewsthe types guage,history, of culturalanalysis that are being conducted today on the social nature,impact, and use of new technologies and suggestsadditional contexts and steps toward the of an "anthropology articulation of cyberculture."'l As a new domain of anthropologicalpractice, the is particularly studyof cyberculture concernedwith the in thenatureofsocial lifeare beingbrought cultural constructionsand reconstructions Significant changes on which aboutby computer, information, and biological to technologies, the new technologiesare based and which theyin turn that-some argue-a new cultural theextent order, "cyberculhelp to shape. The point of departureof this inquiry intobeing.This paperpresents of ture," is coming an overview thetypes ofanthropological analysesthatare beingconducted in is the belief that any technologyrepresents a cultural theareaofnew technologies and suggests additional the invention,in the sense that it bringsfortha world; it stepsfor articulation ofan anthropology It buildsuponsciofcyberculture. out ofparticular culturalconditionsand in turn ence,technology, and society studiesin variousfields and on crit- emerges to create new ones. helps Anthropologists mightbe parical studiesofmodernity. The implications oftechnoscience for well preparedto understand these processesif ticularly bothanthropological theory and ethnographic research are explored. theywere to open up to the idea that science and technologyare crucial arenas forthe creationof culturein is AssociateProfessor ARTURO ESCOBAR at ofAnthropology must ventureinto this today's world. Anthropologists SmithCollege(Northampton, Mass. OIO63, U.S.A.). Bornin worldin orderto renewtheirinterest in the understandat theUniversidad I95I, he was educated del Valle (Cali, Colomof and cultural and culturaldiversity. ing politics change and the Univerbia) (B.S.,I975), CornellUniversity I978), (M.S.,

Welcome to Cyberia
of Notes on the Anthropology Cyberculture

by Arturo Escobar

Modernity, Technology,and the Social Sciences

in the social studyoftechnology New trends are dramatconventional notionsin the field.In conicallychanging ventionalapproaches,technology is narrowly identified with tools or machines and the historyof technology ofthese instruments withthe history and theirprogresin contributing sive efficacy to economic development As a formof "applied science," technoland well-being. ogy is held to be autonomous fromsociety and valueneutral;since it is seen as neithergood norbad in itself, it cannot be faultedforthe uses to which humans put it.2The underlying is thatscience and technology theory induce progress autonomously-a beliefrepresented by
informaprovided me withuseful Terry i. David Hess andJennifer helpand suptionon aspectsofthispaper;I thankthemfortheir "cyberculture," an etymological theterms perspective, port. From In coinandthelike,aremisnomers. "cyberocracy," "cyberspace," Norbert Wiener hadin mindtheGreek "cybemetics," ingtheterm in otherwords, work for "pilot" or "steersman"(kybernmtes); of Giventhewide acceptance thereis no Greekrootfor"cyber." I will use cyberculture hereas an elementof the prefix "cyber," analysis. that by the technology assessment was modified 2. This posture in the earlyI970S and has since become an important emerged moreoften thannotthepurpose however, field. As critics observe, oftechnologies assessment is not the reorientation oftechnology ofhumans totheactualorpotentially dangerous buttheadaptation reveals(Sanmartin and Ortii992). theassessment effects




Volume 35, Number 3, June1994 regulated according to flexible technosocial arrangeconmentswhich,withincertainstructural constraints, stitute social closure around concrete developments. have gone beyond this to assert that Some researchers actors in natureand machines have become important the historical processes that determinetechnological change.3 Besides the methodologicaldecision to look closelyat the technologiesthemselvesand the systemsthat surround them-a step with which anthropologists could has introcertainly sympathize-social constructivism duced severalsuggestive conceptualinnovations.One of these is the notion of "interpretive flexibility," which refers to the fact-long known to anthropologists-that different actors ("relevant social groups," in the constructivists' in parlance)interpret technologicalartifacts different ways. The purposeofanalysisis seen as identithevarioussocially relevantgroups, thevariability fying in theirinterpretations of the technical entityin quesis tion, and the mechanisms by which such variability reduced and closure achieved around a given option. This would explain why particular technologies are adopted and not others.The result of all this research is a multipath and multilevel evolutionarymodel of technological change. In Callon and Latour's "action-network theory," research and development are similarly studied in terms of the way in which actors-human and nonhuman-struggleto identify the problemto be solved (San Martlnand Lujan I992). Despite its importance and visibility, social constructivism has aroused controversy and critique.That the constructivists seek to explain why technologies arise and certain social constituenciesprevail but not the effectsof specific technologies on people, power and communitiesis seen by some as an easy structures, and perhapsirresponsible formof relativism;theyalso remain silent on the "irrelevant"social groupswhich are nevertheless affected by technology (WinnerI993a). In a more philosophical vein, according to the same take for grantedthe deeper critic,the constructivists culturalbackground that shapes technologicalinterpretationand practice.To look at interpretive is flexibility appropriate "up to a point,"but withouta parallelanalysis ofthe meaningsthatparticular technologicalaccomhave forpeople it "soon becomes moral and plishments political indifference" (WinnerI993a:372). From a different it is said that social constructivism perspective, the role of science in technologicaldevelopunderplays ment and minimizes the effect of otherfactorsin that processsuch as the economy,the media, and the public sector(Sanmartln and Ortl I 992). At the veryleast,anal3. This in no way pretends to be an exhaustive accountof the constructivist approach, whoseproponents do notnecessarily constitutea homogeneous group.Amongthe most-cited worksby these authorsare Knorr-Cetina and Mulkay (i983), Latourand Woolgar(I979), Bijker, Hughes,and Pinch (i987), Latour(i987, withconstructivism are Michael Callon,H. M. Collins,Thomas Hughes,and John Law. For reviewsof theseworks,see Winner

the metaphorof "the arrowof progress."The arrowof progress, which pervades studies in a varietyof disciplines,embodiesan evolutionary determinism thatgoes, roughly, fromscience to technology to industry to market and,finally, to social progress. Prominent exceptions to this technologicalimperativeare foundin the work ofradicalcriticsoftechnologicalsocietyfrom Heidegger and Ortega y Gasset to Marcuse, Illich, Mumford, and Ellul. Scholarsofmanypersuasionsarguethatthe eventsof the I96os heraldeda new understanding of science and technology. The emergenceof "big science," the spread of consciousness about the negative effects of nuclear and industrialtechnologiesand the concomitantrise of appropriate-technology movements,and the appearance of a class of expertsin science and technologypolicy and assessment were among the factorsthat led to a new questioningof the traditionalview of science and as independent of socioeconomic and polititechnology 'cal contexts(Sanmartln and Lujan I992). New views began to be crafted bothwithintechnoscientific communities and in the social sciences. In the latter arena, an entirefieldof teachingand researchtook shape around but interrelated two different projects:science and technologystudiesand science, technology, and societyprograms.These projectshave become institutionalized in various forms,including associations such as the National Association forScience, Technology,and Society (NAST), the Society forSocial Studies of Science (4S), and the Society forPhilosophyand Technology (all in the United States). and societyprograms Science, technology, alreadyexist in many universitiesof the world, albeit with no orientationbeyond the aim of analyzing sciunifying ence and technologyas complex enterprises shaped by socioeconomicand politicalprocesses.Science and technologystudies(STS), moregenerally, attemptto explain the implicationsofthe constitution ofscience and technologyas dominantformsof knowledgeand practicein modernculture.The analysis sometimes leads to consideration ofethical and political questions to "help orient our understanding in huof the place of technology man affairs" (WinnerI993a:364). It is widely held that science and technologystudies have radically altered past approaches to technology,displacing the linear view of technologicalchange and openingup powerful that are resulting in a veritabletheoresearchprograms reticalrenewal.At the heartofthisrenewalis the methcultivatedespecially odology of social constructivism, by sociologistsand historians;in orderto studyscience and technology as social constructs, scholarshave taken to researchlaboratories, interest and technology groups, historicalarchiveswith new eyes. Constructivists demonstrate to the technologicaldeterminism that,contrary ofpast times,contingency and flexibility are the essence of technological change; by showing that social processes are inherentto technologicalinnovations,they deal a fatalblow to the alleged separationof technology fromsocietyand of both of these from nature.The general belief is that science and technologysystems are

i988), and Woolgar (i988, i991). Other importantnames associated and Medina (i992).


of Cyberculture The Anthropology I 2I3

with ysis oftechnosocialclosuremust be supplemented ofthepersonaland social questionsabout the suitability by the technologiesunder considerpracticesinformed seem ation-questions that, again, the constructivists Some of the critiquesreviewedabove are considered philosophical,and poststrucin other anthropological, studiesofscience and technology. Foranthropolturalist as the backogists,inquiryinto the natureofmodernity ground for current understanding and practice of In this anthrois of paramountimportance. technology pologyis closer to the philosophythan to the new socia is in factfostering ologyof technology.Cyberculture of the question of modernityin freshreformulation and epistemologwaysno longerso mediatedby literary ical considerations.Whetherour era is postmodernor as some modified modern("late," "meta-," or "hyper-," have proposed)is a question that cannot be answered ofthe presentstatusofscience and prior to investigation To the extentthat science and capital still technology. as organizing principlesof dominantsocial orfunction ders,some insist,we have not yettaken leave ofmodermodes of operationdenity,despite the unprecedented veloped by both of these principlesin recentdecades.4 According to Foucault (I973), the modern period of life, labor, broughtwith it particulararrangements of practices and language embodied in the multiplicity which life and society are produced,regulated, through and articulatedby scientificdiscourses. In what ways does cyberculture continueto act on these domains?Are thesystemsthataccountfortheproduction oflife(body, the economy),and lanself,nature),labor (production, guage (discourse,communication,the speakingsubject) modified? WhetherFoucaultian biobeingsignificantly politics and disciplinarygrids are being supersededby technology and genetic engineeringis a matter for mightbecome guests of heated debate. Anthropologists honorin this debate. Modernityhas been characterizedby theoreticians

to overlook (MedinaI992).

in Foucault's of capital and life is captured 5. This imbrication oftwoprocesses: in terms of"bipower," whichhe explains notion effected bythenormalizaofthehumanbody, an anatomo-politics ofpopulalife, and a bio-politics ofeveryday tionand disciplining mechaand administrative regulatory, by planning, tion,effected See also Guattari(i992) and Deleuze and nisms (i980:I35-59). (i987). Guattari andeighttookoff in theseventies oftechnology 6. The philosophy in thisregard werethecreation ies (see Mitchami990). Important and Technology StudiesCenterin of Carl Mitcham'sPhilosophy de ValenPolit6cnica group at theUniversidad a similar and technological New York, ofbiological transformations 4. That therecent forPhilosophy and Technology. and cia (INVESCIT),and the Society in cultural are not the resultof a radicalshift arrangements knownas "cyberpunk" has beenon the ofsciencefiction but a deepening oftheprocessofmod- 7. A genre structures epistemological ofWilliamGibson'sNeuromancer, in thelate i8th risesincethe I984 publication and creation oflife-worlds thatstarted emization ofthecyberspatial era.Foran introthepointoforigin collection Incorpora- considered oftherecent century is thepointofdeparture While some see in see McCaffrey (is9i). and Kwinter The pointhas also been madeby ductionto cyberpunk, i992). tions(Crary oftheReaganyears, thewayin which a veiledcritique cyberpunk Rabinow (Igg2a).

oftaken(I989) in termsofthe continuousappropriation cultural backgroundsand practices by exfor-granted plicit mechanisms of knowledge and power. With modernitymany aspects of life previouslyregulated by traditional norms-health, knowledge,work,the body, bydisappropriated space,and time-were progressively formsof techcoursesof science and the accompanying nical and administrative Organic and meorganization. chanical models of physical and social life gave way to models centeredon the production and maximizationof life itself,includingthe coupling of the body and machines in new ways in factories, schools, hospitals,and familyhomes. There began an intimateimbricationof

suchas Foucault (I987), and Giddens (I973), Habermas

processesofcapital and knowledgeforthe simultaneous of value and life.5The spreadof the written production word,the preeminenceof the machine, the controlof timeand space, and the biologicaland biochemicalrevolutions of the past ioo years produced unprecedented which todayfindnew forms biotechnicalarrangements of expressionin cybercultural regimes. Althoughthe relation between science, technology, and culture has remained insufficiently theorized(Lecourt I992), science and technologyor, better,technoscience has been central to the modernorder.Heidegoftechnology as a paradigmatic ger'streatment practice ofmodernity remainsexemplary in this regard. Science forHeidegger, are ways of creating and technology, new of being. Modern science realities,new manifestations constructs necessarily ("enframes") natureas something to be appropriated, something whose energy must be released forhuman purposes. This is "the dangerin the utmostsense" to the extentthat enframing leads to destructive activitiesand, particularly, to the destruction of other,more fundamentalways of revealingthe essence of being ("poiesis") which Heideggersees present in the artsand in certainEasternphilosophies.Technolalso has an important ogyforHeidegger ontologicalrole in thattheworldbecomes presentforus through technical links of various kinds; it is through technicalpracoftheworldcomes to light ticesthatthe social character (Heidegger i962). More recently, some philosophers have judged technical rationalitythe primary mode of the traditionalpriknowingand being, thus reversing macy of science over technologyand theoryover practice (Medina and SanmartlnI989, Mitcham I99o).6 For these philosophers, the priority accorded science over technical creativity and theory has led modems to believe that they can describe nature and society acof practices, cordingto laws. Ratherthan as the effect natureand society appear as objects with mechanisms and are therefore treated instrumentally (Medina and SanmartlnI989). The new technologiesseem to deepen thesetrendsin ways thatare best visualized by contemporaryscience fiction.New science-fiction landscapes are populated with cyborgsof all kinds (human beings and otherorganismswith innumerableprosthesesand technological interfaces)moving in vast cyberspaces, virtualrealities,and computer-mediated environments.7




Volume 35, Number 3, June1994

tutionof a new order-which we cannot yet fullyconceptualize but must try to understand-through the transformation of the rangeof possibilitiesforcommuthe nicating, working, and being.Modernity constitutes "backgroundof understanding"-the taken-for-granted tradition and way of being in termsof which we interpretand act-that inevitablyshapes the discoursesand practicesgenerated byand aroundthe new technologies. The Nature of Cyberculture as This background has createdan image of technology a neutral tool for releasing nature's energyand augWhile any technologycan be studied anthropologically menting human capacities to suit human purposes(Heifrom a varietyof perspectives-the ritualsit originates, degger must be made explicitas I977). This background thesocial relationsit helps to create,thepracticesdevel- a steptowardsreorienting the dominanttradition. Some oped around them by various users, the values it fos- see theultimatepurposeofthisreorientation as contribters-"cyberculture"refers specifically to new technol- utingto the democratization of science and technology ogies in two areas: artificialintelligence (particularly and to the development of technologiesand technoliterand information and biotechnol- ate practicesbetter computer technologies) suitedto human use and humanpurIt would be possible to separateout these two sets poses than the presentones (Winograd ogy.9 and Flores I986, foranalyticalpurposes,althoughit is no WinnerI993a, Medina I992). oftechnologies coincidencethattheyhave achieved prominence simulGiven this brief presentation,anthropological retaneously.While computerand information technolo- search might be guided by the following overall ingies are bringingabout a regime of technosociality quiries: (Stone i99i), a broad process of socioculturalconstruci. What are the discoursesand practicesthat are gention set in motion in the wake of the new technologies, erated around/by What computersand biotechnology? are givingrise to biosociality(Rabinow domainsofhuman activity biotechnologies do these discoursesand pracI992a), a new orderforthe productionof life,nature, tices create?In what largersocial networksof instituand the body throughbiologicallybased technological tions,values, conventions, etc., are these domains situThese two regimes form the basis for ated? More generally, what new forms of social interventions. what I call cyberculture. They embody the realization construction of reality("technoscapes") and of negotiathatwe increasingly live and make ourselvesin techno- tion of such construction(s) are introducedby the new bioculturalenvironments structured by novel formsof technologies?How do people routinelyengage technoscience and technology. scapes, and what are the consequences of doing so in Despite this novelty, cybercultureoriginates in a termsof the adoption of new ways of thinking and bewell-knownsocial and cultural matrix,that of moder- ing? In what ways do our social and ethical practices nity,even though it orients itself towards the consti- changeas the projectof technoscienceadvances? 2. How can these practices and domains be studied in various social, regional,and ethnic bythemediais trou- ethnographically has grown andbeenpresented themovement and "theelec- settings? on cyberpunk thelead story instance, bling;see,for Whatestablishedanthropological conceptsand 8, I993, issue of Time. See methodswould be appropriate in the February underground" tronic to the studyof cyberculmediumof also Mondo 2,000, perhapsthe most visibleprinted and its User's Guide to the New Edge (i992). For a ture?Which would have to be modified?How, forincyberpunk, the body, stance,will notionsof community, fieldwork, see Rosenthal critical analysisofthesetrends, (i992). bytheir nature, produced andvirtual reality on cyberspace 8. The literature and writing be transvision,thesubject,identity, of formed bythegrandiosity is characterized andpractitioners chroniclers by the new technologies? ScottFisher designers, bytwoprominent itsclaims.Two examples, from 3. What is the backgroundof understanding reali"The possibilities ofvirtual maysuffice: Kruger, and Myron They which the new technologiesemerge?More specifically, ofreality. as thepossibilities areas limitless ties,it appears, that disappears-a doorwayto other which modernpractices-in the domains of life,labor, can providean interface worlds" (Fisher,quoted in Rheingold I99I:I3 I). More interesting, and language-shape the current design, understanding, to the idea thatthe sole and modes of relating attuned "We are incredibly Kruger: from What continuities to technology? conIt also creates is to solveproblems. ofourtechnology purpose thisaspectof do the new technologiesexhibitin relationto the modexplore We mustmorefully ceptsand philosophy. What kinds of appropriations, resistances,or will ern order? of technology because the next generation our inventions Itwillenter innovationsin relationto moderntechnologies(forinourbehavior. us,andperceive speaktous,understand every home and office. . . . We must recognize this if we are to stance, by minoritycultures) are taking place which and choose what we become as a resultof what we mightrepresent understand different approachesto and understandhave made" (quote in Rheingold I99I:II3, emphasis added). Some What happens to non-Western peral- ings of technology? revolution, to the industrial transformation likenthe current called spectivesas the new technologiesextendtheirreach? notbyoil butbya newcommodity thistime"fueled though artificialintelligence" (Kurzweil I990:I3). In 4. What is the political economy of cyberculture? technologies what ways,forinstance,are the relationsbetweenFirst and information whycomputer 9. It is not apparent To the extent intelligence. of artificial bothfallunderthe rubric in the light of the new dominant intellectual and Third World restructured ofas today's can be thought thatcomputers with forms What new local articulations technologies? may be it is valid to proposethat "all informatics technologies, ofglobalcapital based on hightechnology are appearing? thoughtof as artificialintelligence" (L6vy i99i:8).

buildBut while science-fiction writersand technology it remainsto ers are generally uncriticalofthese trends, be seen to what extentand in what concreteways the envisionedby them are in the process transformations ofbecomingreal. This is anothertask forthe anthropologyof cyberculture.8


ofCyberculture The Anthropology 12I

nization and generalized acculturation,cosmopolitan are now viewed in termsoftheir science and technology ofhybrid to the formation real or potentialcontribution of theirseculturesand to processes of self-affirmation lective and partiallyautonomous adoption.'3 There is mightbe used also hope thatadvances in biotechnology regionsof the world by local groupsin biodiversity-rich and articulatenovel economic theirterritories to defend and cultural strategies.As David Hess (I993) argues, however, the effectof cosmopolitan technologies on understood, ThirdWorld groupsremains insufficiently fromthe vantagepoint of the culturalpoliparticularly Project The Anthropological tics thattheyset in motion,includingissues ofcultural FORMULATIONS THEORETICAL and the and homogenization hybridization, destruction, on the partof social/ creationofnew differences Interest in science and technology formsof connectedthrough steadilyin re- ness fostered has been growing culturalanthropologists by the new technologies-another aspect centyears.Steps have alreadybeen takentowardsbuild- of what ArjunAppadurai (i99i) calls "global ethnoof scapes." Work on these issues is advancing rapidly, ing an institutionalpresence for the anthropology science and technology withinthe AmericanAnthropo- particularly ofdevelin connectionwiththeredefinition logical Association.'0 Several panels related to science opment (Hess I993, EscobarI994). and technologyissues were held at the I992 and I993 Anthropologicalreflectionon the relation between in cultureand technology to anthropologists AAA meetings."Topics ofinterest is ofcoursenot new. The impact of scientists, of Westerntechnologieson cultural change and evolurecentyears have included ethnographies topics tion has been a subject of studysince the early ig9os.14 and medical technologies, studiesofreproductive in gender and science,ethicsand values, and science and Questions of technologicalcontrol and political econstudiesofmateeducation. The more fashionablestudies of omyhave been broached.Nevertheless, engineering fromdepencomputerand biological technologies,virtual reality, rial culture and technologyhave suffered in- dence on what a reviewerof the field recentlycalled virtualcommunities,and cyberspaceare attracting to theorizethe anthropol- "the standard view oftechnology"(based on a decontexcreasingattention.An effort is also underway.'2 tualized teleologythat goes fromsimple tools to comogyof science and technology science and technol- plex machines).Only with modernscience and technolAlthoughmost anthropological ogy studies have taken place in highlyindustrialized ogy studies has the possibilityarisen of seeing science in relationto complex technosocialsyscountries, increasingattentionto issues in ThirdWorld and technology contextscan be expected,giventhatthe globalizationof tems. This "lays the foundationonce again forfruitful relies moreand more communicationamong social anthropologists, ethnoarculturaland economic production and studentsofhumanevoon the new technologies of informationand life. chaeologists, archaeologists, exchange I 992: 5I 3). It also fosters Whetherit is in the domains of biotechnology-driven lution" (Pfaffenberger or warfare,the encounter betweenanthropologists and otherdisciplinesinvolved development,information, between North and South continues to be heavily in these studies such as philosophy,cognitivescience, mediated by technologies of many kinds. Recently, and linguistics. In the FirstWorld,attemptsat articulating an anthrothe impact of technologies such as television and and mo- pological strategy explicitlycenteredon new informavideocassetteson local notionsofdevelopment have just besocial and cul- tion,computer, and biologicaltechnologies on long-standing and theireffect dernity in thisregard was Margaret precursor tural practiceshave been approachedethnographically gun.An important I990, Dahl and Rabo I992, GarciaCan- Mead's work in the contextof the emergenceof cyber(Abu-Lughod worldwidehomoge- netics duringWorldWar II and up to the middle of the clini I990). Once seen as producing i960s.15 At the beginningof the I99Os, it is possible machines,and biotechHow do automation,intelligent the laborprocess,the capitalizationof nologytransform nature,and the creationofvalue worldwide?If different groups of people (classes, women, minorities,ethnic placed in new technologigroups, etc.) are differentially theorizeand excal contexts,how can anthropologists Fiof technoculturalconstruction? plore this ordering nally, what are the implications of this analysis for a culturalpolitics of science and technology?
of the step was taken at the i992 annual meeting io. The first ofAmeriforthe Social StudiesofScience,wherea group Society (Michael Fischer,Sharon Traweek,Rayna can anthropologists andDavid Shirley Gorenstein, DavidHess,Lisa Handwerker, Rapp, on a Committee for establishing metto discussstrategies Hakken) withintheAAA. This processis detailed Scienceand Technology ofScience Anthropology oftheSocial/Cultural in thei992 edition editedbyDavid Hess. Newsletter, and Technology culcyborg anthropology, included i i. Panelsat the i 992 meetings to technological barriers cultural on computing, perspectives tural inof interactive consequences virtualcommunities, innovation, and and cyborgs forcultureand education, technology formation women(in honorofDonna HarawayJ. scienceand ofanthropological andbibliography 12. Fora directory studies,see Hess (i992), Hess and Layne(i992), Pfaftechnology and Hakken(n.d.). fenberger (I992), who have I3. The case ofthe Kayapoin the Amazonrainforest, from airplanes, andrevenues becomeadeptat usingvideocameras, beis already autonomy, in their forcultural struggle goldmining coming legendary. Aborigiofsteelaxes on Australian oftheintroduction theeffects discusnes andtheBaruya ofPapua New Guinea.Foran excellent see Hess (I993). sion ofearlier studies, on in the Macy Conferences I5. Mead was an activeparticipant in the (Mead ig50-56) as well as a centralfigure Cybernetics (Mead i968). of the AmericanSocietyforCybernetics founding group,"which included "cybernetics The life of this illustrious WieNorbert Bateson, Heinz von Foerster, besidesMead Gregory in a recent book is chronicled ner,and KurtLewin,amongothers, out thattheMacyConferences (Heimsi99i). It shouldbe pointed
I4. Among the best-known studies is Godelier's (I97I) work on




Volume 35, Number 3, JuneI994 to be articulated, ginning most notablyin visual anthropology.Given the importanceof vision forvirtualreality,computernetworks, graphics, and interfaces and for imagingtechnologies-fromsatellite surveillance, warand space exploration fare, to medical technologies such as tomography and the visualizationofthefoetus(Haramost attunedto the analysis of visualityas thropology a culturaland epistemologicalregimehas been the first to reactto uncriticalcelebrationofcyberspatial technol-

A brief reviewof recentguides to the Internet is foundin the Chronicle Decemberi6, i992, p. Ag. ofHigher Education, I7. This description is based on the paperpresented at the panel i: On the Production "Cyborg Anthropology ofHumanity and Its Boundaries," by GaryLee Downey,Joseph Dumit,and SarahWilliams(i992). Papers werepresented on suchtopicsas theparticipationofwomenin high-energy physicsin Japan, medicalimaging technology, science-fiction fandom, computer-assisted psychotherapy,"low-tech in theThird cyborgs" (cyborgs World), reproductive technology, and cultural constructions ofbiotechnology.

cyberspace designers that the new technologies will "make the body obsolete, destroysubjectivity, create new worldsand universes,changethe economic and politicalfuture ofhumanity, and even lead to a posthuman order"areforthese criticsat bestwishfulthinking motivated by the seductiveness of virtual realityand like technologies and at worst misguided efforts at engisocial reality neering (Grayand Driscoll I992:39). So, theyargue,is the seeminglyexclusive focus on a cyborgiansocietymediatedbyhuman-machine interactions.18 Ratherthan suggesting that a whole new anthropological subdisciplineis needed, Gray and Driscoll prefer to speak of "anthropology of, and in, cyberspace." From this perspective, would studytechnoloanthropologists gies in the culturalcontextsfromwhich theyoriginate and in which they operate, including their continued links to the dominantvalues of rationality, instrumentality,profit, and violence. It is no coincidence, these writers continue,thatvirtualreality-one of the recent developmentsat the heart of the cyberspatialmovement-has been and is likelyto continueto be circumscribedby military and economic interests and that,despite its much-touted potential for liberatory and humanizingpurposes, the militaryand profit-oriented applicationswill undoubtedlyremain dominant.Their is for examining these technologiesfrom prescription theperspective ofhow theyallow variousgroupsofpeotookplace in the context ofthe Cold War,thefirst wave ofcom- ple to negotiatespecificformsof power,authority, and puter technology, and thedevelopment ofgeneral systems theory. Today'shistorical andepistemological contexts arequitedifferent. representation. The anthropology ofcyberculture similarly i6. The term holds that "cyberspace"-first coinedbyWilliamGibson(1984) and introduced to intellectual, and academic circlesin we can assume a priorineitherthe existence of a new artistic, Benedikt's collection Cyberspace: TheFirst Steps(i9I (-refersto era nor the need fora new branchof anthropology. Inthegrowing networks and systems ofcomputer-mediated environthe deed, is in discipline principle well suited to what ments.As a spatialized, computer-mediated network of interacproject: tions,cyberspace is seen as "enabling fullcopresence and interac- must startas a rathertraditionalethnographic tionofmultiple users,allowing in the mannerof an initial culturaldiagnoinputand output from and to the to describe, fullhuman sensorium, permitting situationsof real and virtual sis,what is happening in termsofthe emerging practices realities, remote data collection and control through telepresence, and transformations associated with rising technoscienand total integration and intercommunication with a full range However, given that these developof intelligent products and environments in real space" (Novak tificdevelopments. unprecedented sites of articulaFor introductions to the conceptof cyberspace, see ments are increasingly i99i:225). and Stone (i99i, i992). For a presentation Rheingold (i99i) of tions of knowledge and power, it is also pertinentto globalcomputer networks, see Dertouzos(i99i) and Cerf(I991). raise the question of the theoreticaladequacy of estab-i8. ForRoseanneStone(I99I, i992), theemphasis on "postcorporality" arisesfrom thetraditional male discomfort withthebody. This bias will be corrected, Stone believes,when morewomen in the designofvirtualand cyberspatial participate technologies. Although this is beginning to happen,the resultsremainto be seen. Fromanother angle,it can be arguedthatthe emphasison transcending the bodyin the cybercontextis another aspectof disembodied "virtual theorizing" thatat timeshas tenuouslinks withreality (Tsugawai992).

to identify three different proposals. The first, by the David Thomas, builds upon the growing anthropologist literatureon the notions of "cyberspace"'16 and "cyborg"-broadly speaking,a mixtureof human and machine.Arguing thatadvancedforms ofWesterntechnology are bringingabout a "rite of passage" between and "postorganic"societies,between"organiindustrial cally human and cyberpsychically as digital life-forms reconfiguredthrough computer software systems," Thomas (I 99 I: 3 3) calls on anthropologists to engage "virtualworlds technologiesduringthis early stage of speculation and development," particularlyfrom the pointofview ofhow these technologiesare sociallyproduced. Fromprint-based paradigmsof visual literacyto the virtualworlds of digitizedinformation, we are witnessing a transitionto a new postcorporealstage that has greatpromiseforcreativesocial logics and sensorial regimes.Cyberspaceaffords unprecedented possibilities foranthropologists in termsof realizingthis promise. The second project,"cyborganthropology," formally launched with a two-panelsession held at the annual meetings of the AAA in San Francisco in December I992, takes science and technology studies,in particular feminist ones, as a point of departure. While its domain is the analysisofscience and technology as culturalphenomena, the main goal of cyborganthropology is the ethnographic studyof the boundariesbetween humans and machinesthatare specificto late-2oth-century societies. Believingthat "anthropos"as the subject and object of anthropology must be displaced, the emerging cyborg anthropologists arguethathuman and social realityis as much a productofmachines as ofhuman activity,thatwe should grantagencyto machines,and that the propertask foran anthropology of science and technologyis to examine ethnographically how technology servesas agentof social and culturalproduction.'7 Criticalpositionsregarding these two projectsare be-

wayI988, deLandaI99I, Cartwright andGoldfarb I992, DudenI99o)-it is notsurprising thatthebranch ofan-

ogies(e.g.,Benedikt i99i,

Rheingold i99i). Claimsby


2I7 of Cyberculture 2 The Anthropology

lished concepts in light of theirhistoricaland cultural specificity. One ofthemost fruitful insightsis thattechnoscience is motivatinga blurring and implosion of categoriesat the modern categoriesthat various levels, particularly the natural,the organic,the technical,and have defined thetextual.The boundariesbetweennatureand culture, betweenorganismand machine are ceaselessly redrawn accordingto complex historical factorsin which discourses of science and technologyplay a decisive role (HarawayI991 ). "Bodies," "organisms,"and "communities" thus have to be retheorizedas composed of elein threedifferent domainswithpermentsthatoriginate meable boundaries: the organic, the technical (or technoeconomic), and the textual (or,broadlyspeaking, cultural).While nature,bodies, and organismscertainly have an organic basis, they are increasingly produced in conjunctionwith machines, and this productionis always mediated by scientificnarratives ("discourses" of biology,technology, and the like) and by culturein must thus be understoodas the general.Cyberculture fieldof forcesand meanings in which this overarching complex productionof life, labor, and language takes place.Forsome(Haraway I99I, Rabinow I992a), while cyberculture can be seen as the impositionofa new grid ofcontrolon the planet,it also represents new possibilities forpotent articulationsbetween humans, nature, and machines. The organic,these criticssuggest,is not necessarilyopposed to the technological.Yet it must also be emphasizedthatnew knowledgeand powerconare narrowing down on life and labor,as in figurations theHuman Genome project;indeed,the new geneticslinked to novel computertechniques,its promisemost eagerlyvisualized in the image of the biochip-might proveto be the greatestforceforreshapingsociety and life ever witnessed. Nature will be known and remade through technique; it will be literallybuilt in the same way thatcultureis, with the difference thatthe making ofnaturewill take place through the reconfiguration of social lifeby micropractices in medicine,bioriginating ology,and biotechnology (Rabinow i992a). Evelyn Fox Kellersimilarly pointsout thatthe relationbetweennatureand cultureis likely to be radicalLy reconceivedto the extentthat molecular biologyis creatingthe sense of a "new malleabilityof nature." This is easily seen in the discourseon geneticdiseases (Keller I992b). The "rightto normal genes" mightwell become the battle cryofan armyofhealthexpertsand reformers deploying of a scope not witpracticesof biosocial transformation nessed since "the birthof the clinic" two centuriesago (Foucault I975). of these analyses is the need to pay atThe corollary tention to the social and culturalrelationsofscience and as centralmechanismsforthe production technology of lifeand culturein the 2Ist century. Capital, to be sure, will continueto play a crucial role in the reinvention of life and society. The worldwidespread of value today, however,takes place not so much by the directextraction of surplusvalue fromlabor or conventionalindustrialization as by the further capitalizationofnatureand society throughscientificresearch and development,

in the areas ofartificial and bioparticularly intelligence Even thehuman genomebecomes an importechnology. tant area forcapitalistrestructuring and, thus,forcontestation. The reinvention of nature and culture underway-effectedby/within webs ofmeancurrently ing and productionthat link science and capital-must be understoodaccordingto a political econtherefore to the era of cyberculture. omy appropriate Anthropologists need to begin in earnest the study of the social, economic,and political practicesrelatedto the technolwhich life,language,and labor are being ogies through articulated and produced.

Hess and LayneI992, Hess I993), andfeminist studies ofscience andtechnology (Haraway I989, I99I; Jacobus, Keller,and Shuttlewort 1990; Wajcman199I; Keller
I992a), although they would have to be resituated withinthe conceptual space of the anthropology of cyberculture.A handful of ethnographic studies of this kind are alreadyunderway.'9

As I have said, the general questions to be raised by the anthropology of cyberculture include the following: What new formsof social construction of realityand of negotiationof such constructionsare being created or modified?How are people socialized by their routine experience ofthe constructed spaces createdby the new technologies?How do people relate to their technoworlds (machines, reinventedbodies, and natures)?If people are differently placed in technospaces(according to race, gender,class, geographicallocation, "physical how do theirexperiences ability"), ofthesespaces differ? Finally,would it be possible to produce ethnographic accounts of the multiplicityof practices linked to the new technologiesin various social, regional,and ethnic How do these practicesrelateto broadersocial settings? issues such as the controlof labor,the accumulationof capital, the organizationof life-worlds, and the globalization of culturalproduction? One can begin to think of these questions in terms ofpossible ethnographic domains and concreteresearch strategies.Some clues concerningthese domains may be foundin currentresearchprojects.Several domains ofethnographic investigation can be distinguished as an initial approximation, to be refinedas the researchadvances: i. The production and use of new technologies.Here anthropological researchwould focus on scientistsand experts in sites such as genetic research labs, hightechnology and virtualrealitydesign cencorporations, ters,on the one hand, and the users of these technologies, on the other.Ethnographies in this domain would follow in the footstepsof the handfulof ethgenerally ofmodernscience and technology nographies conducted to date (Latourand WoolgarI979, MartinI987, Visvanathan I985, Latour I988, Traweek I988, Kondo I990), science and technologytheorizing, in relaparticularly tion to anthropology (Hakken n.d., Pfaffenberger I992,

biotechig. These includeDeborahHeath's studyofa molecular




Volume 35, Number 3, JuneI994

what these new "villages" A salient aspect of researchin this domain is the eth- not only forunderstanding studyof the productionof subjectivitiesthat and "communities" are but, equally important,for nographic the kinds ofcommunitiesthathuman groups accompanies the new technologies.That the computer imagining is "an evocative object," a projectivemedium for the can create with the help of emerging technologies. of a varietyof privateand public worlds, Again, researchin this area is just beginning.We can construction has been shown by SherryTurkle (i984). As the com- anticipateactive discussion on the propermethods for these communities,includingquestions of onputer culture spreads, Turkle shows in a pioneering studying study,more and more people come to think of them- line/off-line the boundaries of the group to fieldwork, selves in computerterms.Computersare changingno- be studied,interpretation, and ethics.22 and the selfin ways that are little untions of identity A variantofthis line ofresearchis what Laurel (i990: derstood. Cybercultureis indeed creating a host of 9I-93) has termed "interface anthropology." The creveritable"technologiesof the self" that go beyondthe ation of human-computer interfaceshas been treated view of self as machine, and the cultural productivity narrowly as a problemof engineering design which atof these notions can only be assessed ethnographically. tempts to match the tasks to be performed with the Virtualworlds,forinstance, such as the use of anony- tools at hand. Yet the key question of the distinctuser games (MUDs) as therapeu- populationsforwhom the technologiesare intendedis role-playing mous computer tic media, can be a way of moving out of the self and oftenignoredor inferred fromstatistical information, Althoughtheseme- and the criticalquestion ofwhat the technology intotheworldofsocial interactions. in quesTurkle's (i992) tiondoes to users and what it allows themto do is never dia are frequently thoughtofnegatively, teachers, computergame designers and recentworkindicatesthattheycan become instruments raised.Children, identities in interactiveways and users, fictionwriters,architects,communityactivists, for reconstructing needs and approachesregardsources of knowledgeabout otherculturesand the out- and othershave different side world.There is also a global componentto the pro- ing these basic questions. An "interfaceanthropology" thatneeds to be explored.What thataddressesthis lack would focus on user/context inductionofsubjectivities finding"informants"to guide the critical is the meaningof the globalizationof Nintendo,forin- tersections, stance,in youthcultureworldwide?How are computer (not merelyutilitarian)explorationof diverseusers and cul- contexts.23 games "consumed" in societies that have different turalcodes? 3. Studies of the popular cultureof science and techof space entails nology,includingthe effect To the extentthat the reconstruction of science and technology ofthe body,this also needs to be the- on the popularimaginary thereconstruction (the set ofbasic elementsthat and reim- structurea given discourse and the relations among orized. How is the body being reconfigured at the level of the relation them)and popularpractices.What happens when techagined throughinscriptions between body and machine? What would be a post- nologiessuch as computersand virtualrealityenterthe of the body in cyberspace, mainstream? structuralist understanding The emergenceof a "technobabble"(Barry both of I992) is only the tip of the icebergwith regardto the if this understanding is to avoid the trappings thefrontier (thebodythatcan or cannotbe transcended) and ofhumanism(thebodyone can "remake")?A fruit- WholeEarth'Lectronic Link(WELL), locatedin theSan Francisco ful theorizationof posthumanity mightlie in this area Bayarea,withsubscribers from manypartsof the UnitedStates. for The WELL maintains on themeaning ofvirdiscussions ongoing opportunities of inquiry.If new technologiesafford and the like. An multimedia, virtualreality, the reproductionof life throughmachines, must the tual communities, (Bessinger oftheWELL is in progress I993). computerbe included in the ensemble of reproductive ethnography inin virtual communities, ofethicsare significant 22. Questions What would "female body" mean froma cluding technologies? therelationdifferent personas, ofassuming thepossibility feminist perspectiveon these matters?20 ofone's thedisclosure and "real"personas, "virtual" shipbetween race,and class,andthepossisuchas one's gender, communi- socialmarkers, 2. The appearance of computer-mediated one's without making a community (observing of"lurking" ties,such as the so-calledvirtualcommunitiesand, gen- bility Thereis a richsetofconcerns knownto thoseobserved). what one ofthe most creativecomputerenviron- presence erally, (see Bessinger herebyanthropologists to be explored I993). Quesment designershas called "the vibrantnew villages of tions of exchangeof information from betweenanthropologists and those culturesofcomputing"(Laurel variouspartsofthe worldand betweenanthropologists withinthelarger activity withthe analysis can be important theyworkwithin the fieldtake on a novel dimension I990:93).21 Anthropological
of virtual BarbaraJoans'sethnography nologylaboratory (i992), in progress on reality designers (i992), and David West'sresearch on forinformation virtual reality users(personal communication; or contactDavid Westat "dmwest@stthomas.edu", thisproject, at theWELL). comon thebodyareJennifer Terry's (personal 2o. These thoughts munication). bygroups ofpeoplewhorelate .2I. Virtual communities areformed a computer mediumsuch as electo each othermainlythrough tronicmail and specializednetworks such as Peacenet,Econet, of academic,community, and business-based and a largevariety systems, usuallylinkedthrough bulletin boardsand conferencing is the Internet, Bitnet, and Usenet.A unique on-linecommunity In some situations, virtualcomnetworks. advanceof electronic an extenthanmerely becomepartof "the field"rather munities throughandothers to connect anthropologists sionofit. An effort to discuss the kinds of questions, out the world electronically anthropolfor etc.,thataremostrelevant conferences, ideas,books, ofArjun andCarol Appadurai thedirection wayunder ogyis under ofthejournalPublic Culture. Breckenridge ofuser fivephasesin the history (X990) distinguishes 23. Walker opercomputer anddials,(2) batch(a specialist (i) knobs interfaces: cards), atorrunning a stackofjobs on punched (4) (3) timesharing, windows.The nextphase will take the user menus,(5) graphics, the screento cyberspace, through "inside"the computer, directly space such as theone so to say.This will be a three-dimensional is thatit reality today.The hope ofdesigners achievedbyvirtual withactiveparticipation. will replacemorepassiveviewing


of Cyberculture The Anthropology 1.29

This mightinclude researchon interaction. changesthatare takingplace at thislevel. FortheArgen- face-to-face theprincipal talk,interaction, in work (Goodwin and and technology need in this regard is to examine the aestheticand prac- Harness Goodwin i992) and leisure contextsand on the tical incorporation of technologyinto daily life.At the shapingand reshapingof social and culturalboundaries level ofthe popularsectors,the technologicalimaginary both between a given computer-mediated community of popular knowledgesand the and othercommunitiesand within such communities. elicits a reorganization developmentof symbolic contentsthat,while undeni- A particularaspect of this area of research is hyperor transdiffer fromthose intendedby text-a computertextdesignedto be recreated ablymodern, significantly scientists. This has to be takeninto account in the study formed collaborativeacts involvingone person through operof the technoliterate practicesthat enable people to re- and an originaldatabase or manyusers performing late actively to new technologies (Penley and Ross ations upon a given text or texts-to the extentthat it studiesofpop- is the virtualenvironment Since the mid-ig8os,ethnographic of the hypertext that allows i99i). ular culture (FiskeI989, Willis i990) have been grap- a "matrix" of knowledgeableusers to interact(Barrett ofcul- I989, Piscitelli I99I).25 plingwith some of these issues. The imbrication A barelyexploredquestion in this domain is the hytural forms with social questions can be studied it can also be gleaned fromliterature pothesizedtransition to a postscriptural ethnographically; societyeffected and other popular productions,as the work of Sarlo by information technologies.If writingand its associdemonstrates.24 ated logical modes of thoughtreplaced oralityand its (i992), Seltzer(i992), and Jenkins (i992) and qualitativedevelopment ofhuman associated situationalways ofthinking, 4. The growth the information from age would be markingthe abandonmentof writingas communication,particularly computer-mediated the perspectiveof the relationshipbetween language, the dominantintellectualtechnology. In the same way social structures, and culturalidentity. thatwriting communication, information would inincorporated orality, While computer-mediated communicationsharesmany corporate an important cultural writing-but only after features with otherformsof mediated communication mutation.Theoretical and hermeneuticalknowledgewell studiedby linguistsand linguisticanthropologists, so closely linked to writing-would likewise enterinto such as telephoneand answeringmachine messages,it a periodofdecline or,at least, ofconversion to a secondin importantrespects. Human interaction aryform. also differs New ways ofthinking determined bythe operthrough computersmust be studied not only fromthe ational needs ofinformation and computation would be princi- instituted. perspective of the transcultural/transsituational Time would no longerbe circular(as in oralples and discourse strategies(Gumperz i983) govern- ity)or linear (as with the historicalsocieties ofwriting) but also in termsof but punctual. Punctual time and the accelerationof ining any typeof human interaction ofthe communicative and linguistic thespecificity prac- formation would entail that knowledgebe not fixed,as tices that arise fromthe nature of the media involved. in writing, but evolving,as in an expertsystem (Levy ofcom- i99i). Werethesemomentous Threedimensionsofthe processofconstruction changesto take place, communicativecommunitiesare partic- theywould pose difficult puter-mediated questions foranthropology, so ularly relevantin this regard(Celso Alvarez, personal dependent on writing and hermeneutical interpretation. betweenma- One thingseems certain:despitewidespreadarguments communication, i992): (a) the relationship chines and social subjects as producersof discourse at to the contrary, electroniccommunicationhas effected thethreshold ofthe birthofan international "cyberliter- basic changesin languageexperiencesand the construcate" society; (b) the question of the creationand distri- tion of events. "What is at stake are new languageforbutionofand access to the "authorized"or "legitimate" mations that alter significantly the networkof social computer-mediatedcommunication codes and lan- relations,that restructure those relationsand the subparticu- jects they constitute"(Poster i990:8). The understandguageswhose masteryand manipulationgrants lar groupsof practitioners and con- ingofthese changesdemandsventuring symbolicauthority intounexplored trol over the circulation of cyberculture;(c) the role domains of analysis. of computer-mediated communication in establishing 5. The politicaleconomyofcyberculture. Anthropololinksbetween,givingcohesion to, and creating continu- gistshave paid close attentionin recentdecades to the side analysis of communities in historical and global conities in the interactional ofgroupmembers, history regularmail, and texts(Wolfi982, Roseberry by side with telephoneconversations, i992). Cyberculture presents new challenges forthe continued articulationof political economy. What has been "theanthropology ofboyhood andado- an anthropological 24. Seltzer's bookexamines and the social and cultural variouslycalled "the silicon order,""microchipcapitallescenceat the turnof the century theFoucaultian ism," and "the information ofmen"' (p. 5) from technologies for'themaking economy" entails profound

tinian cultural critic Beatriz Sarlo(i992),

and docile bodies. of subjectivities perspective of the production of modern technologies Sarlo'sbook deals withthe introduction in thei9.2S and I93Os. One ofSarlo'sstrongest points in Argentina areintromoments at whichnewtechnologies is that, in historical ofa certain original as in thepresent, there is thepossibility duced, in connection construction withthem.Penleyand Ross's popular practices of groupssuch as hackers book examinesthe enabling ofthestudy of"textual fans. Jenkins's advocacy andscience-fiction writers userspoints andbycomputer poaching" byscience-fiction in thesame direction.

25. Alvarez claimsthatthecharacterization ofcomputer-mediated communicative groupsas "virtual"communities is a misnomer, sincefrom theperspective oflinguistic interaction, they are"real" A questionabouttheadequacyofthemodelofconcommunities. versation fordealingwith computers has been posed by Walker: witha computer "When youareinteracting youarenotconversing You areexploring withanother person. another world"(I990:443). forlinguistic Heremight lie some challenges anthropology.




Volume 35, Number 3, June1994

in the name of efficient biotechnology and rationaluse. Local communitiesand social movements are enticed to participate in these schemes as "stewards"ofnatural and social capital. Communities (or theirsurvivors) are ofa "modeofinformation"finally (Poster i990), theexistence acknowledged as rightful ownersof"the environHow can we theorizethe ment" only to the extentthattheyagreeto treatit (and akin to a mode ofproduction? and cultural themselves) as capital (O'Connor I993). The whole issue markets, articulation betweeninformation, rights"linked to Third World orders? The shift to new informationtechnologies of "intellectualproperty by multinamarkedthe appearance of more flexible,decentralized naturalresources-including the patenting by gender, ethnic,class, tional corporations laborprocesseshighlystratified of seeds and plant varietiesand subThis "post-Fordist regime"(Har- stancesderivedfrom stocksused by ThirdWorld"tradiand geographic factors. vey i989) elicits novel articulationsof global capital tional" societies-is emerging as one of the most with local cultures;we are witnessing"the production disturbingaspects of the ecological phase of capital of cultural difference within a structuredsystem of (ShivaI993, Kloppenburg Whatare theimplicai99i). global political economy" (Pred and Watts I 992: i 8). In tions of these developmentsforstudies of materialculwhat specificways are these global processes mediated tureand biological anthropology? Anthropol6gists have and constituted of ecosystems by locally? What happens to local notions maintained that the transformation of developmentand modernity as new mechanisms of capital is mediatedby the culturalpracticesof the spetake shape? cific societies in which such appropriation local-globalinteraction takes place The appearance of a "society of control" (Deleuze (Godelier i986). Today, genetic engineering, molecular or "rule by way of informa- biology, and thenew sciences ofnaturalproducts qualify I993b) and of cyberocracy, tion" (Ronfeldti99i), calls for institutionalethnogra- the concept of "mediation" in such a way as to make phies conducted fromthe perspectiveof the political established anthropologicalinsights no longer suffiWhat are the major institu- cient.26 economy of information. of the macroeconomicand tional sites withinwhich and fromwhich key informa- Finally,the restructuring tional categoriesand flows are created and circulated? political relations between rich and poor countriesin What perspectives of the world do these categoriesrep- the wake of cyberculture must be considered.As some resent,and how do they enact mechanisms of ruling argue, high technologyis resultingin a "new depencountrieson the leaders in that depend on certaingroups' relationto the mode of dency" of technology-poor These ethnographies would the innovationof computer, of information? and biological production information, move fromcomputer-mediated productionof informa- technologies(Castells I986, Castells and Laserna I989, at each level Smith I993). ThirdWorld countries,accordingto these tion to its receptionand use, investigating must negotiatethis dependency the cultural dynamics and politics that "information" writers, through aggressive technological modernization sets in motion. coupledwithsocial reAs is information, science and technologyhave be- form. Froman anthropological this suggesperspective, come crucial to capitalismin that the creationof value tion is problematic;it amounts to the continuationof and technologicalde- thepost-WorldWar II policies of "development"which on scientific todaydependslargely appro- have had for the most part deleterious effectson the velopments.The concreteformsof the scientific oflifeand laborby capital exhibitnovel features economies and cultures of the Third World (Escobar priation of academy and in- I994). Like development, such as the ever-tighter imbrication technologiesare not culturally dustryin the biotechnologicalfield (Rabinow i992b). neutral. Are theredifferent about a "biorevolution" possibilitiesforThirdWorldsociThese new forcesare bringing in the ThirdWorld: "New technicalforms. . . will sig- eties-other ways ofparticipating in the technocultural nificantly change the contextwithinwhich technologi- conversations and processes that are reshaping the cal change in the Third World is conceptualized and world?How can social movementsin Asia, Africa, and tech- LatinAmericaarticulate planned.We suggestthat the clusterof emergent policies thatallow themto parniques generically called 'biotechnology' will be to ticipatein cybercultures withoutfullysubmitting to the the Green Revolution what the Green Revolutionwas rules of the game? Will most social groupsin the Third to traditional plant varieties and practices" (Buttel, Worldbe in a positioneven to know about the possibiliPlant genetics, ties afforded An especiallyimi985:32). Kenney,and Kloppenburg by the new technologies? industrial tissue culture, and the use of genetically portantquestion is whetherThird World govemments representunprecedented will be interested in constructingthe technological manipulated microorganisms in the context of Third World developinterventions its Global thatthe WorldBank,through to 26. It is no coincidence ment.Corporations are alreadyin the lead withregard Environment Facility(GEF), is leadingefforts forthe conservaresearchand development.As the analysis of corporate tion of biologicaldiversity. In Latin America,Colombia,Brazil, behaviorby these researchers shows, the prospectsfor andMexicoalready haveGEFprojects for their tropical rainforests. arein themaking in themostbiodiverse envisim- OtherGEF projects theThirdWorldare ominous,because corporations ronments oftheworld(all ofthemin theThirdWorld). The strugply do not care about ThirdWorldinterests. betweencorporations, social movements, and statesoverthe In the case of regionswith high biological diversity, gle resources oftheseareasis intense; it is thebasisfor a multibillionthe biophysical milieu (nature) is increasinglyrepre- dollarindustry. So is the struggle overthepatenting ofgenesand sentedas a reservoir of value in itselfto be exploitedby life-forms.

changes in capital accumulation, social relations,and divisionsof labor at many levels. and What is the relationshipbetween "information" "capital"? Is it appropriateto postulate, as some do


The Anthropology of Cyberculture I 22I

"imaginaries"thatwill be requiredforaccess to thenew technologiesfromthe perspectiveof more autonomous design (Sutz I993): "there will not be a genuine social transformation without transforming the relation between society and the technologiesit incorporates"(p. I38). To startpayingattentionto Third World technological innovationis a first step towardsgaining"technological self-esteem." A more general question is whether the new technologiescan be conceptualizedin ways thatdo not reduce them to theirrole in economic development, and anotheris what cybercultures mean fromdifferent ThirdWorldperspectives. Of special importancein discussing these issues in the ThirdWorldis the role of women in the electronics industry worldwide.The developmentof cyberculture rests,in many ways, on the labor of young women in and EuropeanelectronicenNorthAmerican,Japanese, claves in Southeast Asia, Central America, and other partsof the Third World (Ong I987, Mies i986). There is everyreason to believe that electronicswill continue to be favoredin industrialschemes in the ThirdWorld and there underthe aegis ofmultinationalcorporations, is also everyreason to believe that youngwomen will continueto be seen as the "ideal" labor forceby these industries. The effects of this process on the dynamics of genderand cultureare enormous,as the few studies ofmaquiladoras and sweatshopsconductedto date have and political economy shown. Feminist anthropology to this fundamental ashave a greatdeal to contribute of cyberculture. pect of the construction can contribute to in-depth studies of Anthropologists and race aspects of the makingof cythe class, gender, bercultureand challenges to it, including analyses of technoscientific elites, on the one hand, and of the potentialof individuals,groups,and social movementsto articulateparallel or alternativetechnologies,ways of and social relationsof science and technology knowing, (Darnovsky, Epstein,and Wilson i99i). Anthropological can help us to imaginecontexts studiesofcybercultures in which possibilitiesforrelatingto technoculture that do not exacerbatethepowerimbalancesin societymight emerge.

and Rethinking Technology?Anthropology Complexity

Technological innovations and dominant world views each other so as to legitimateand generallytransform naturalizethe technologiesofthe time.Nature and socithe techetycome to be explainedin ways thatreinforce nological imperativesof the day, making them appear formof social practice. the most rational and efficient In the modern age, this mutual reinforcement has resulted in the universalizationof the European technoscientificimaginary.For some, the visualization of a post-technoscientific societywould depend on the ability to set limits to this technological imperative; it shouldbe a matterof studying closely the reach oftechnoscience,decidingwhich domains should be defended from it, and demarcating appropriate technicaldomains

and stylesofcompetence(Medina i992). Whether or not this positionis viable or even useful,new languagesare 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). One such new languagewhich is rapidlyachievingprestigeis the languageof complexity. According to thosedevotedto thisenterprise, developments in thermodynamics and mathematicsduringthe past 2o years (the thermodynamics of irreversible phenomena and the theoryof dynamical systems)forced scientiststo recognizethat the separationbetween the physicochemical and the biologicalworlds,betweenthe "simple" and the "complex," and between "order" and "disorder"is neitheras sharp nor as greatas was once thought. The discoverythat "inert" matterhas properties that are remarkably close to those of life-forms led to the postulate that life is a property not of organic matter ofmatter perse but ofthe organization and hence to the concept of nonorganiclife (de Landa i992). In a similarvein,scientistsbeganto pay attention to thefact thatsimple systemssuch as a simple chemical reaction and a mechanical pendulum can generate extremely complex behaviors,while extremelycomplex systems can give rise to simple and easily quantifiablephenomena.27 The realizationthat eventspreviouslyconsidered outside the purview of science because they could not be describedby systemsof linearequations were in fact centralto the universe led this group of scientiststo launch the theorization of complexity as the crucial scientific researchprogram forthe last decades of the 2oth and many decades to come.28 century Much as the designers ofthenew technologies believe thattheyare changing the world,so the scientistsworking on the developmentof the science of complexity have no doubt that theyare on the thresholdof a great scientific revolution. Insteadofemphasizingstability in nature and societies, they emphasize instabilitiesand in lieu of reversible fluctuations; linear processes,nonare placed at the heart of linearityand irreversibility scientific inquiry. Similarly, "conservative systems" theirsur(physicalsystemsconsideredin isolationfrom roundings) have givenway to "self-organizing" systems, staticequilibriumto dynamicequilibriumand nonequiorderto chaos, fixedelementsand quantitiesto librium, and possibilities,and prediction to explanation. patterns
27. The examples mostcommonly given aretheso-called chemical clockfor thefirst typeofsystem and solitons andtsunamis for the second. on complexity has been spearheaded bythe SantaFe 28. Research Institute, established mostly by physicists and economists in the However, some of the basic ideas go back severaldemid-ig8os. cadesto workdonein systems scienceand systems in philosophy the I950S and I96os, ecology, and theearly biology, mathematics, theories ofself-organization and Stengers i983). (suchas Prigogine Mostoftheseprecursors areoverlooked in theotherwise informativeaccountof the history and workof the Santa Fe Institute by Waldrop(i992). An introduction to complexity forreaders with some yearsof college science is foundin Nicolis and Prigogine to chaos and self-organization are de (i989). Usefulintroductions Landa (i992), Hayles (i99i), and Kauffman (i99i).




Volume 35, Number 3, June1994 stricted to complexity. Maturana,Varela,and coworkers (Maturana and Varela I987, Varela, Thompson, and Rosch 1991) have made self-organization (the autoof theirtheoretical poiesis of the living)the cornerstone Foucault's (I972) conceptualbiologyand epistemology. ization of discursiveformations can likewise be seen as a theoryof the self-organizing characterof knowledge systems.Perhapsthe most thorough view of the pervaofself-organizing sive character processesis the workof it Deleuze and Guattari(I987; Deleuze I 993a). Whether is in the domains ofinertmatter(geology), the sciences, political economy, or the self, what these researchers findat workis "machinic" processes,stratifications and territorializations that develop into the structures we Technologyhas been essential to the appearanceand Modern structures consolidationof modernstructures. belong with the line, boundary-making, disciplinarity, unity, and hierarchicalcontrol. Fractals, chaos, complexity,nomadologywould perhaps dictate a different dynamicsand arrangement oflife:fluidity, multiplicity, plurality,connectedness,segmentarity, heterogeneity, resilience;not "science" but knowledgesofthe concrete and the local, not laws but knowledge of the problems and the self-organizing dynamics of nonorganic, and social phenomena.Thereis some awareness organic, among scientistsof complexitythat they are reversing a centuries-old dualisticattitudeofthe West,the binary logic, the reductionist and utilitariandrive.Some have a link with Easternthought(Varela,Thompattempted son, and Rosch i99i). These scientists (in contrastto the poststructuralist philosophers)still, however,place too much emphasis on orderand generallaws and have perhapstoo quickly joined in the intellectualgame of applyingthe ideas of complexityto social phenomena such as economies,social orders, evolution,and the rise and fallofcivilizations.Their tendency to produceovertheoriesthatwould link thephysical, encompassing biological, social, and culturalworlds withoutmakingexplicit the epistemological processes and assumptions involved in this endeavor is troubling (see Winner Complexity,in otherwords,needs to be anthropologized,but at the same time it may offer insightsto ang993b).32 know.3'

The science of complexity has also replaced i gthcentury physicswithmodernbiologyas a model; it studies physicalphenomenaas complexbiologicalprocesses and employskindsofanalysisthatare based on the concreteand the heterogeneous rather than on the abstract, the homogeneous,and the general.Whereas Cartesian epistemology and Newtonian science sought to model theorder ofthingsaccording to laws, the science ofcomplexity-althoughstill searching fora generallaw ofpattern formation for all nonequilibriumsystems in the universe-espouses a pluralistic view of the physical thanstructures, world,webs rather and connectionsand transgressions instead of neat boundariesisolatingpristine systems. The popularity achieved by fractalsand chaos theory (a relativelysmall subset of complexity)in the midI980s helped immenselyto put these developmentson themap forthe larger public. Chaos became the signifier formany things,few of which perhapshad to do with the actual scientificwork going on. This popularity raises an importantquestion recentlytaken up by a groupof literary theorists:the extentto which science and culture intertwinein the production of popular imaginaries. Chaos theory,according to these theorists (Hayles iggia, b), echoes and participatesin culturalcurrents such as poststructuralist theory and postmodernism.The birthof chaos and complexityis not ofthe historicalferment whichgave rise to independent "thepostmodern condition":a worldthatwas becoming at once more chaotic and more totalized, with small eventshavinggreateffects on the economy and the social order and withtheworldwidespreadofinformation. "Chaos" must thenbe seen as a forcethatis negotiated at diverse sites within the culture,including science, and postmodernism; it is partof the poststructuralism, in literature, postmoderncondition,whetherreflected the human sciences, or the science of complexity.29 Be that as it may, the science of complexityhas alreadydevelopedan impressivevocabularyand theoretical corpus (Nicolis and Prigogine i989:5-78). At the heart of complexityis the idea of self-organizing phenomena generatedby complex systems under certain conditions.30 The idea of self-organization is not re-

chaos)to at relating complexity 29. Another attempt (particularly in Macritique ofdeconstruction. systems thushave a historical dimension thehumansciencesis Argyros's (an "ontogeny," (199I) and Varela'sterminology). ofself-organization is intuitively simpleandtheo- turana 30. The concept sys- 3I. Deleuze and Guattari might lead certain An initialperturbation retically complex. ofthe opposethetree-the master trope In contrast whichis modemworld-to therhizome. and chaoticbehavior to thetree, therhizome temsintoa typeofnonequilibrium in all directions, In fact,recurrent patterns and self- assumesdiverse branches bulbs forms, not,however, total disorder. andforms ofconnection states(attractors), andtubers. Ithas different andheterogenemay appeararoundcertain organizing behavior principles riseto its ownstructure butalso breaking of a ity;it is multiple, giving into an ordered behavior energy turning partof the system's This structure is characterized downthatstructure to the "lines offlight" it contains. structure). new type(a dissipative according of "We are tiredof trees,"theywrite."We shouldstopbelieving andtheappearance in downofprevious symmetry bythebreaking can de- trees, too much.All of systems roots, and radicles. self-organizing They'vemadeus suffer multiple choices.In otherwords, Beyond arborescent on them,from out ofthesame initialconditions. cultureis founded to linguisvelopdifferent patterns biology bifurcations towards tics" (I987:I5). a certain point,these systemscan undergo in theSciencesofComplexity is dictated bychance 32. See theSantaFe Institute a givensolution Studies multiple statesorsolutions; of and,for ofcomplexity beforehand. evolution an application Anysubsequent and cannotbe predicted to economics, Andertheory will depend on thechoicemadeat a bifurca- son,Arrow, and Pines (i988). Workin complexity thesystem, however, continues at a pace,including areassuchas artificial passagetowards rapid life, adaptive tionpoint.Bifurcation pointsmarkthe system's computasince tionalmodels,autocatalysis, innovation and diversification, neuralnetworks, cellularautomata, theyrepresent complexity: forchange.Self-organizing emergence, and coevolution. theyentailnew solutionsor pathways


The Anthropology of Cyberculture | 223

of this century, been again reaching,as in the anthropology thropology. Anthropological questionshave hardly with the ex- premature closure around the figuresof the other and tackled within the science of complexity, in progressof the theoryof the same. These questions, and cyberculture ception of a reformulation generally, is about: the storyof life as evolution to account for the role of learningand self- concernwhat anthropology organization(in addition to natural selection) and the it has been lived and is beinglived at this verymoment. to lifein the late 2oth century? articulationof a more complex concept of adaptation. Whatis happening What In fact,the Santa Fe Institute sees a good part of its is comingin the next? workas theunderstanding ofcomplexadaptivesystems. Althoughthereis some interestin culturalcomplexity, the question has not been broached to any significant degree. it can be argued, Anthropologists, have generally been attunedto the complexity of lifeand have resisted reducing it to magical formulasand laws. Nevertheless, DAVID HESS from the igth century through Malinowski,Boas, Bene- Departmentof Science and TechnologyStudies, dict,and Levi-Strauss to Geertz,the tendency to reduce RensselaerPolytechnicInstitute,Troy,N. Y. the manifoldcomplexityof culturalrealityto neat de- 12180-3 590, U.S.A. 23 XI 93 of institutions, scriptions patterns, structures, or exemplars has persisted.Only in recent years has this ten- Escobar's essay is a welcome addition to the rapidly fieldofanthropological/cultural/feminist/antidencybeen modifiedwith the developmentof formsof growing studies of science and techanalysis that emphasize partiality, finallyabandoning racist/anticolonialist/etc. nology.In just a few shortyears,studies of science and any pretenseat generallaws or objectiveaccounts. have gone Can the complexityenterprise-seeminglyso differ- technologywithin American anthropology entfrom conventionalscience,yetso clearlyentrenched froma somewhat backwater status to somethingof a in scientific un- fad. At any moment,the predictablebacklash/critique culture-help to reorient the prevailing appear,perhapsin this journal. So far,the of technology?The perspectivethat com- will probably derstanding stateplexityscientistsare attempting to bringto the scien- field seems to be in the phase of programmatic edited volumes, both of which tificcommunity and the public is indeed powerful, and ments and introductory helpfulat this point because theyserve to its influenceis likely to grow. Its implicationsforthe are probably of technosciencehave yet to be explored, connect and position what is still not even, to use the reorientation and this is true of poststructuralist theoryat this level STS phrase,a "cocitation cluster." as well. Is it possible to destabilize (destratify, deterrito- Escobaris in an especiallygood positionto contribute rialize)moderntechnosocial,politicoeconomic, and bio- to the process of mapping because of his expertisein social systemsas Deleuze and Guattari(I987) propose? global political economy and developmentpolitics. I The widespreadarticulation and adoptionoftechnologi- findthe sections of his essay on those topics the most and I look forward to readinghis forthcoming cal understandings and policies thatmightcontribute to exciting, people's autonomous lives and self-organizing experi- book. He has also done a crediblejob ofpointinganthroas he and othences are at best many years in the future. If we are to pologiststo some of the useful(although, theoretical problematic) believe those workingon new ways of understanding ershave noted,simultaneously the universe and social life-whether in science or in developmentsin the more generalfield of science and Those interthe humanities-a social "nomadology" of technology technologystudies beyond anthropology. maybe possible. Perhapsthe languageofcomplexity sig- ested in exploringthis area in more detail mightwant nals thatit is possible fortechnoscience(s) to contribute to consult, in addition to reviews alreadylisted, those and to thedesignofforms oflivingthatavoid the most dead- by Hakken(I993), Heathet aL (I993), Hess (n.d.), (I993). lifeand the worldin- Traweek eningmechanismsforstructuring I wish to build on Escobar's paper by focusingon the troduced bythe projectofmodernity. It is not a question and boundaries/ of bringing about a technosocialutopia-decentralized, questionof labels, institutionalization, self-managed, empowering-but one of thinking imagi- exclusions. As I understandit, the various versions of or the "anthropology of cybernativelywhethertechnosciencecannot be partiallyre- "cyborganthropology" oriented to servedifferent culturaland politicalprojects. space" emergedin a historicalcontextin which panels on science and technology were being rejectedby AAA committees. The renaming program and repositioning of the fieldvia the cyberpanels, without Primitives? with legitimation Anthropology together from increasing numbersofseniorpeople,helpedchange it continues to be said (e.g., Trouillot thatsituation.My understanding fromdiscussionswith Anthropology, is still enframed within the orderof the modern the panel organizersis that the term "cyborg" was I99I), and the savage, the civilized self and the uncivilized meantnot onlyas an ironicoxymoron (an anthropology other.If it is to "reenterthe real world" and "work in of the post- or technohuman)but also as a pointertothepresent" withfeminist, (Fox I99I), it will have to deal withthe wardaffiliation ethnic,and culturalstudsteadyadvance ofcyberculture. Cyberculture, moreover, ies perspectives on contemporarytechnoscience. In a chance foranthropology to renewitselfwithout other offers words,the termwas meantto broadendisciplinary





Volume 35, Number 3, fune I994

horizonsratherthan to exclude voices and limit fields logical analysis now being undertakenin the field of spir- social studiesofnew technologies. in thisrather ofdiscourse.I thinkmostparticipants Escobarappropriately would agree pointsto the paramountimportanceof inquiryinto the ited dialogue on the nature of cyborology science and technol- natureof modernity focuson cutting-edge thata narrow as the backgroundforthe current terms understanding ogy (especiallywhen it is definedin disciplinary and practiceof technology. He identifies runsthe riskof a set of importantquestions in the political economy such as computersand biotechnologies) leavingout of the discussion otherrelatedareas of cru- of cyberculture, forexample, the articulationof global and capitalwithlocal cultures, local notionsofdevelopment cial importance:to name a few, the environment justice movement,religion-science- and modernity, the environmental new mechanismsof local and global inand counterappropria- teraction, appropriations and the restructuring of macroeconomicand medicinehybrids, tions in the flows of cosmopolitan culture and local political relations between rich and poor countriesin In particular, he calls attenknowledge(includingareas coveredin the classical an- the wake of cyberculture. and material tion to the various possible ways in which ThirdWorld studies of ethno-knowledges thropological and new uses of conventional societies may participatein the technocultural culture),reconstructions process technologies (especially in the development context, that is reshapingthe world and asks whether social new managerial tech- movementsin Asia, Africa,and Latin America can dethe so-called low-tech cyborgs), tech- velop strategiesthat will allow them to participatein nologies in the workplace,and new reproductive Fur- cyberculture nologies (perhapsincluded under biotechnologies). without submittingto the rules of the thermore,discourse on the new can easily eclipse game imposed by the developing countries. In highthesequestions,so rarely much-needed studieson the veryold social technologies lighting attendedto in thefield thepa- ofsocial studiesof science and technology, ofexclusionthatcontinueto operatethroughout especiallyin Eurocentricworld of cyberspaceand techno- Latin America,Escobar suggeststhatresearchbe undertriarchal, Escoperspective, science.As all ofus know onlytoo well, formanypeople takento answerthem.Froma broader a point in the worldmost of Cyberiais a distantSiberialocated bar remarksthat technoscienceis increasingly of articulationof power and knowledge and therefore well above the global glass ceiling. Largelyout of a concernforquestions of exclusion,I new conceptsare needed to make clear its historicaland have tended to use more inclusive termssuch as "the culturalspecificity. His ideas on what mightconstitute studies of science and technol- an anthropology anthropology/cultural of cyberculture are suggestiveand inogy," sometimes even "of knowledge and artifacts."I sightful. have also helped connect researchersby joining with institution building,which in othersin subdisciplinary of the new AAA WILL SIBLEY the arcane virtualkinshipterminology Division II90 Cedar Ave., Shady Side, Md. 20764, U.S.A. now seems to be at a "General Anthropology than a bonafidesubdisciplinary 7 XII 93 committee"level rather "section" level. For many of the people who have been the developmentof a disciplinary My commentsin responseto Escobar's elegantlyencyinvolvedin the effort, site is a troubledbut welcome forumforthe exchange clopedic article must be viewed as only a modest and of ideas. Yet, although people may speak in terms of homely complement. The article greatlyexpands my ofrecentresearchand findings or work understanding byanthroofX" or an "X anthropology" an "anthropology in agreement with the matheyare not necessarily pologists.Since I findmyself on subdisciplinary committees, Many of jor thrustsof the article,my remarkswill reflectthe program. advocatinga specificsubdisciplinary coalition small partthat my own careerdevelopmentmay repreus are more interestedin cross-disciplinary includingworkingas/alongside sent in the directionof goals Escobar proposes. buildingand theorizing, Escobarnotes thatuntil recently in the few culturaland soactivists.I am especiallyinterested technoscience have interested themselvesmuch in componentin some of the recentproj- cial anthropologists activist/engaged ects, and I hope this directionwill continue to receive how technologyshapes and is shaped by the societal in any discussion ofthefield(e.g.,Downey, and culturalcontextin which it develops and changes. prominence Latin I agree,surmisingthat the stronger interestin technolDumit, and Traweek n.d.). Escobar,as an engaged, on the part of archaeologistsis in part,at least, a Americanintellectualwith an interestin development oqgy and politicaleconomyissues, promisesto playan impor- reflexof the factthat the archaeologicalassemblagereveals much about technology but oftenmuch less about tantrole in the ongoingdialogue. the societies and culturescarriedby the personsmaking the materialremains. now thatI did not pursue LICHA Lookingbackward,I regret ISABEL in printsome of my own interests more aggressively in Centrode Estudios para el Desarrollo, Universidad threedecades ago with my study technology, beginning Centralde Venezuela, Apartado Postal 6622, in Page, Arizona, of dam builders at the Glen Canyon I3 XII 93 Caracas,Venezuela. site. In a paper presentedduringthe annual meetingof Association (SibleyI96I) The major achievementof this article is the overview theAmericanAnthropological ofthekindsofanthropo- I describedthe ways in which the technologiesinvolved thattheauthorhas constructed


e Anthropology | 22 ofCyberculture Th

in buildinga major dam influencedthe social relationships developed by the dam builders. The purposive manner in which dam workers built and maintained criticalsocial relationships with key individualsspread overthebroadgeographical landscape fordam workwas quite contrastivewith the constructionof social nets by,forexample,urban workerswith the same skills. In the late I970S I workedformore than a yearin the Facilities RequirementsDivision of the U.S. Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA) in Washington, D.C., as a "sewer anthropologist." The Division managed a $5 billionfundforassistingmunicipalitiesin rebuilding theirsewer systemsunder the provisionsof the Clean WaterAct. In my workforthe EPA (described in partin SibleyI979) I was made aware ofthe reciprocallinkages between the developmentof sewer systems and conduits and the residentialdemography ofhuman populations.I was also introducedto the political side of sewers-the political problems and processes entailed in puttingsuch technologicalproductsin place and into use. Somewhat later,I presenteda paper (Sibley i982) on theretention in a Midwesterncountyofa "low-tech" system(septic tanks) to achieve social goals (exclusiveness,segregation, exclusion ofindustry and high-density housing).More "modern" conventionalgravitysewers were being promotedboth by developersand by public health officersconcerned with threats to health resultingfroma high rate of failureof septic systemsalreadyin place. One otherincidentmay exemplify the recencyof culturalanthropologists' interestin technology-an interest whichI believe is relatedto and a reflex ofthe legitimatingof researchwithin our domestic frontiers. The manifoldbarriersto research abroad have broughtannow doing research at home closely in thropologists contactwiththeirfellowhumansin a societyconstantly confronted by potent and rapidly changing technologies-for example, the computer-basedtechnologies which Escobar discusses at length. The legitimacyof domesticresearchas a route to the Ph.D. is reallyquite recent.In I970 I guided and encourageda Ph.D. candidate in his study of Alaskan carpenters'social adaptations to carpentrywork in a physical environment which caused theirwork to be intermittent. Had I not been a senior facultymember in the departmentinifnot imposvolved,I thinkit would have been difficult sible forthe studentto pursuethis dissertation research. Today, only two decades later, many students in the most prestigious graduate schools pursue domestic work. a commenton a complex set of issues Finally,I offer touchedupon gently by Escobar: should anthropological research about technology simplytheorizeand describe, or should it be prescriptive? Anthropologists complain from time to time that theirfindings are not listenedto bydecisionmakers.Is thisnot in partbecause theyhave failedto resolveforthemselvesthe question ofwhether theyremain"pure" and "scientific"or enterthe policy both theirfindings and the implications arena,offering of those findingsforpublic policy and social change?

While thereis dangerin overselling one's wisdom,I believe thatanthropologists should riskparticipating more fullyin public and policy debates about technology and its potent role in organizingand shaping human life. need to involve themselvesin Not all anthropologists public engagementsand missionizing,but we should hold those who choose such a route in esteem equal to that which we have traditionally accorded to "pure researchers."

DepartmentofAnthropology, University U.K. 25 XI 93 of Cambridge, Cambridge, I welcome this plea foran anthropologisation of complexity. It carries with it the acknowledgementthat need be neitherdenigrated norpraised.Both complexity are castigated forbeingcomplihappen.Anthropologists cated (whentheyshould be simple),obscure(whenthey should be clear),and thus in a worldoftheirown (when theyshould be in "the real world"). At the same time, would oftenwish to be subtle (rather anthropologists thancrass),to have pluralperspectives (rather thanunitaryones), and to followthrough interrelations between phenomena (ratherthan rely on stereotype). There is rhetoric attachedto the conceptof complexity thatperhaps a "science" of it would clarify. However, and this is Escobar's intriguing tale, a science ofcomplexity alreadyexists,and it is thathe would see anthropologised. Certainly thereis an aspect ofsuch concernsthatanthropologists would alreadyformulated do well to play back. My own plea would be to reinforce the message thatwe not confusecomplexity with scale that we observe or, if we wish to preservethe hybrid, the different workingsof each. There is nothingnecessarilytrivialising or aggrandising about being complicated/subtle. Yet we are accustomed to imaginingthe complex as itselfone end of a scale. To thinkthatone can move "from"the simple to the complex (as in developmentaltheories)or that one can reducethecomplex"to" the simple (as in appeals for communicationalclarity) belongto the same modernist rhetoric as imagininga historicalmove fromstatus to in theorganisation contract ofrelationships (anthropologists talk of simple and complex societies) or reducing societyto the behaviourofindividuals(whereit is societyitselfthat is complex and individualsseem less so). This is not of course to say that scale has no signifiLaw has observed(personalcommunicacance. As John tion),theinteresting questionis thepointat which scale is made significant works to sortphenomena/ and thus^ knowledgeby their different implications.It is one of the important devices which Latour(I993) asclarifying cribesto a world that thinksitselfmodern. But were we to locate complexitynot in its effects thatpro(how the worldappears)but in the instrument then the anthroduces that effect (human perception), pologistwould commentthatthereis no social lifethat is not complex,as indeed mightothers(see Munron.d.).




Volume 35, Number 3, fune I994 the cyborgs ties,from personseverywhere alreadymake out of theirdealings with one another;social relations are hybrid phenomena.Indeed, of the many reasons for anthropology to engagewith what Euro-Americans perceive as science and technology, one is to querythe ethnocentric rhetoric that celebrates the joining of life (body) and technology(machine) as though humanity were thereby to be transcended. This paper takes up an important critique,but to the move of asking what effect democratising cyberculture will have on "the Third World" I would add a further one: thatwe do not turnthis into anotherfrom-simpleto-complexgame. Social life,as Haraway (I988) might have said, only ever moves fromthe complex to the complex (fromthe concrete and heterogeneousto the concreteand heterogeneous). Cyberculture mightmake this newly evident;but by the same token,and forthe sake of argument, it would follow that therewas never any pre-cyberculture.

We would be dealing with a generalorganisational facand disposal of detail. Indeed,to ultyforthe production introduce my own clarification, I would prefer to deploy the conceptof "complexity"forthatproperty ofperceptionwhich conservesthe detail ofphenomenaregardless of scale. We see it in being able to see thingsclose to hand and faraway at the same time. We inscribeit in the effort it takes to writean ethnography, an effort that cannotbe measuredby whetherthe societyunderstudy is allegedlysmall-scale or large-scale. Fromthatpointofview, the vocabularythatimagines the instability and pluralismsto which decriptive effort gives rise as "transgressions" belongsto an olderpurificatory impulse,as ofcoursedoes theverydichotomising of two kinds of science ("sorting"science into new and old). I would ratherpursue Escobar's otherformulafor as complexity is evidentin the concrete analysis.Insofar and heterogeneous, then it is ubiquitous,as ordinary as it is extraordinary. We simplymake it visible in those that point to "the concrete" descriptions/interventions and to "heterogeneity." Technologyis one ofthe devices (makingthe world presentforus) that Euro-Americans use. Technologymakes explicitthe natureof currently the lived worldpreciselyin termsof the concrete(technologyworks)and the heterogeneous (it bringstogether different ordersof knowledge,mixes of materials and personnel,and so forth[see Mol and Law n.d.]). Thus the new reproductive technologiesmake explicita conceptualisationof kinshipas foundedin both natureand culture (see Franklin I993). Escobar's paper raises the of such devices. question of the culturalspecificity it was probably inevitable to see hybridisation as a higher-order fusingof technologyand culture as such. My only concernabout Escobar's otherwisefascinating of cyberculture, a concernhe himself conceptualisation raises with regardto scientistsof complexity, is that it is scaled-up.That is, the neologism is presentedas an encompassingsummaryof concreteand heterogeneous events-a gathering of everything that appears together new. Hence his hortation:"Anthropologists must ventureinto this world." Of course,except that,as he also implies,theyare alreadythere.They do not have to buy into the anticipatory effect of imaginingthat a culture is about to be "created"by science and technology. That is a real-worldfantasy(like the real world, culture is always elsewhere). Rather they might recognise in "technology" (an apparatus that at once makes the of thingsexplicitand is identifiable workings by how it works) the same figurethey are familiarwith in (say) the "participantobserver":simultaneouslythe register ofthe social lifethathe/shemakes visible and an interventionist in it, for every participantobservermust make social relations work. There is nothing "posthuman" about this complex figuration. Escobar argues that the issue is "the realizationthat we increasinglylive and make ourselves in technostructured bioculturalenvironments by novel formsof science and technology." Absolutely.But therealisation can only come fromexistingorganisationalcomplexi-

Comision Sectorial de InvestigacionCientifical CoordinadoraAcademica, Universidad de la Repu'blica,Eduardo AcevedoI494/1OI, II200 Montevideo, Uruguay. I5 XII 93 Perhaps the most valuable contributionof Escobar's "Welcome to Cyberia" is its understanding of technology in general and new technologyin particularas a cultural construction.This provides good groundsfor a generalanthropological approach to the evolution of technologyand to the way in which society, through community power,popularconcerns, and prevailing values, shapes the productionof technology. This point of is particularly departure withregard important to underWhen it comes to new technologies developedcountries. the underdeveloped world importsalmost everythingfromdevices to needs, fromtechnical systemsto systems of thought. Nevertheless,culturalinventionplays a determinant role in the concreteway in which technologyis perceivedand used. Many of the questions Escobar raises can be seen as crucialones fora researchprogram attempting to understandtherelationship betweensocietyand particular social groups and the intellectual and practical devices that permanentlyalter their routines, their acquired wisdom, theirhopes, and theirsense of belongingto a community.It is not easy to foreseewhetherthe answers to them will be universal or highly specific or whetherthey will at least clearly distinguishbetween and underdevelopment. development For some technologies, some featuresof the recipientsociety,and some questions,the answersfora highlyindustrialized counand an underdeveloped try one will probably be remarkably similar. For otherstheywill probablybe verydifferent. For example, the discourses generated around/by computers are probably almost identical around the Elites and bureaucracies worldwhile practicesdiffer.

Now that we seehybrids everywhere (Latour I993:43),


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private and public-everywhere deeply believe that fashion. This is done at severallevels: geographical (First and Worldand ThirdWorld;regionalvariationsand intensicomputersare the veryembodimentof rationality win- ties),technological(information, truth.Their discourse of infallibility-ultimately computer, and biologiningthebattleagainstchaos-is universal.But theprac- cal technologies),and disciplinary(social and human tice of these same elites could not be more different. sciences approaches,with anthropology somewherein In developedsituations,computersinvolvedan advance between). This approach has advantages (identifying to an auto- connections, from a fairly highlevel ofmanual complexity effects, and mechanismsthatmightotherera was quite wise remain invisible) and drawbacks (overgeneralizamated one. Entryinto the information by social, economic, and technical tion, lack of depth). Strathern is right,however,when smooth,prefigured none of she points out that my account of cybercultureis evolution.In situations of underdevelopment, these typesof evolution heraldedthe new informatics, "scaled up," too encompassing,thus undermining the and therefore practice carriesa heavy burdenreflected very principleof complexityit seems to invoke. The in the inefficiency and irrationality that persistalong- paperdoes not,however,tryto make a statementabout side an impressive amount of computer technology. a "total truth";it is an attemptto come to termswith When Escobar asks about the implicationsof the politi- new technologiesfromthe perspectiveof the historical of and geographicaleffectsof present-day cal economyof cyberculture and the transformation capitalism and It is impossibleto neglectthe universalizing values associated with the emergence of information modernity. technologiesfora culturalpolitics of science and tech- forceofmodernknowledgeand ofthe accumulationand he is in factaskingus to explorewith anthropo- circulationof capital. This forceis reflected in technonology, as well as in the structuring of sological tools two types of situation. Perhaps afterthe logical arrangements could cial labor.The challengeis to theorizesuch effects questionshave been answeredforeach a synthesis withbe produced showing an underlyingidentity.Surely, out overlookingthe manifoldformsthey take and the would remain.Fromthe par- endless variationsin which theyoperate. however,wide differences of a As one of a handfulof participants in the collective ticularlyappealingperspectiveof the construction to articulatean anthropology of science and techcultural politics of science and technology,one can effort nology,Hess is in an excellentpositionto contextualize mightbe. guess what these differences too any contribution to this enterprise. Since I have not parWhen people are too proud, too self-confident, close to blind faithin theirown technologicalomnipo- ticipatedin the meetingsof this groupduringthe past must fewyears,I welcome his clarifying remarkson my brief tence,a culturalpolitics ofscience and technology he says, were stressthe assessment side, rejectthe motto "What can account of them. These early efforts, horizonsrather than crebe done must be done," and raise consciousness about meant to broadendisciplinary theneed forsocial meaningand usefulnessin the activi- ate new fields,and this is still the state of affairs today. ties of science and technology.When people combine He also warnsus not to overlookthe need forcontinued in the blind admirationfor information technologieswith a studies of well-knowntechnologies,particularly deep convictionthat thereis no room forany creative ThirdWorld.I agree. I am less in agreementabout the technoloexerciseofthem,culturalpoliticsmuststresstechnolog- dangershe sees in focusingon cutting-edge and biological self-esteem, foster the capacityforinnovationwher- gies.On the one hand,a numberofcomputer everit can be found,and encouragepreciselythe belief ical technologiesare already vastly dispersed; on the about these techthat "What can be done must be done" as opposed to other,thereis a culturalparticularity to signal.As he insists,how"What has been done elsewheremust be boughthere." nologies thatis important addressedto anthropol- ever,thisfocusshouldnot be at theexpenseofanthropoEscobar'schallenge,primarily ogists,can be taken up by anyone involvedin research, logical studies of technologiesof otherkinds. and sociand action on science, technology, We also need, forinstance,more thorough reflection, retrospecstudiesofscience and techof the tivelooks at anthropological ety in this time of vertiginouschange,blurring and shifts in the nology.This is one of Sibley's strong boundaries betweennatureand artifact, points.The examthe "com- ple he gives of how sewer systems contributeto the social actorscapable ofdecisivelyinfluencing and if it is carried shapingof population dynamicsin cities raises a more mon wisdom." It is a work program, out the answersmay suggestan alternative way ofbeing generalquestion: the relationshipbetween technology how and modernity. welcomed to cyberculture. Rabinow (I989) has demonstrated planningpractices in French and North Africancities shaped the social productionof space, populations,and subjectivities, becoming instrumentalin creatingmoas a cultural order.To what extentshould the dernity study of "practices of reason"-practices combining truth and power-be incorporated into the anthropology of science and technology?Does a physicist,for inARTURO ESCOBAR focusofscience and a morelegitimate stance,constitute Mass., U.S.A. I5 I 94 Northampton, technologystudies than, say, the planner of a World of "Welcome to Cyberia" is its em- Bank-sponsored Whatview ofsciOne of the features development project? There would underliesuch a belief? phasis on looking at new technologiesin an integrated ence and technology





Volume 35, Number 3, fune I994

ofmodernity is a relationbetweenthe anthropology and therenever was a precyberculture, that social life has the anthropology of science and technologythat needs always been complex and technologyhas been part of that complexity-which is not the same as sayingthat to be workedout. One ofthe stronger thatemergesfrom the new technologiesare not fostering preoccupations importantculthe various comments is the differential treatment of tural transformations. As scholarly constructions, the science and technologyin First World as opposed to discourseon complexity and the anthropology ofscience Third World societies. Hess's notion of "low-tech" cy- and technology are attempting to catch up with the viof social and naturallife.In perhapsunborgsis a way of givingformto this difference; people brantcreativity in the Third World also "make cyborgs"out of their precedented ways, the new technologiesare facilitating dealings with one another, as Strathernreminds us. this new look into life. This latterpossibilityis adumbrated in the last writThis, of course,takes place through multiple technologies, "high" and "low" (by which I do not mean more ingsof Guattari (I993), particularly in his notionof a and less complex).The most generalpointin this regard postmedia society. Althoughhe acknowledgesthat inis made by Sutz. Again, she is in an excellent position formation, computer,and biological technologies still the alienatingand retrograde to speak on this issue as the coordinatorof a Latin forthe most partreinforce America-wide researchprojecton technology. The his- systemsof capitalist modernity, he sees them as also groundsfornew creative,self-referential toricalcontext, she says,requiresthatwe developdiffer- providing subent ways oflookingat technology in the ThirdWorldin jectivities.This, forGuattari,is a historicalpossibility of Latin Americanmo- thathas to be fought for;to become real, it requiresthe accordancewith the specificity Latin Americansubjectivitiesand structures- actualization of rightsto singularity dernity. and alterity, new fromgovernment and business groups to the popular typesofNorth-South relations,and a radical democraticlasses-dictate different relations to technology.The zation of genderrelations.What he calls "ecosophical of econconclusionis thatcriticalstudiesofscience and technol- practices" include a profoundtransformation ogy will have to develop different politics in Firstand omies, urban and rural ecologies, science, and ways ThirdWorldcontexts.The dominance of moderntech- of thinking-a question not of simple-mindedselfnological imaginariesin the firstcase calls forcritical managementand autonomybut of a social complexity studies and diagnoses; in the lattercase, studies might thatunderminesthe hegemonyof techno-capitalist valrevealthe technologicalcreativity thatis always associ- orization. The developmentof this complexitycan be advanced ated with global technologiesas a way offostering more autonomoustechnocultures. that make possible bifurcations by deterritorializations Strathern elaboratesher commentsaround the ques- ofexistingand potentialsingularities and the formation tions raised in the last part of the paper-the scientific of diversecollectivesubjectivities. Here may lie yet andiscourseon complexity. One of the features thatI find otherway of being welcomed to cyberculture. most appealing in Strathern's work is her remarkable abilityto expose the groundon which anthropologists stand. Everyanthropological inquiry,as she puts it in The Genderof the Gift,should be accompaniedby "an ofWesternknowledgepractices"(I988:xi). ethnography This endeavor requires approachingcreations such as the science of complexity"throughan appreciationof ABU-LUGHOD, LILA. I990. The romance of resistance. Amerithe culturesof Westernsocial science and its endorsecan Ethnologist I7:40I-55. in the description mentofcertaininterests ofsocial life" ANDERSON, KENNETH AND DAVID PHILIP, PINES. ARROW, Editors. I988. The economy as an evolving complexsystem. remindus withunusual cogencythat (p. 4). Her writings our ethnographic and scientific efforts are constructions New York:Addison-Wesley. "Global ethnoscapes," in RecapturAPPADURAI, ARJUN. I99I. oftheworld.Hence herdefinition ofcomplexity as "that ing anthropology: in thepresent. Working Editedby Richard ofperception which conservesthe detailofpheproperty Fox,pp. i9i-2io. SantaFe: SchoolofAmerican Research. I99I. A blessedragefororder. Ann nomena regardless of scale.... We simplymake it visi- ARGYROS, ALEXANDER. Arbor: University ofMichigan Press. ble in thosedescriptions/interventions thatpointto 'the Editor. I989. The society BARRETT, EDWARD. oftext.Camconcrete'and to 'heterogeneity."' bridge: M.I.T. Press. This is a needed corrective forboth scientistsof com- BARRY, JOHN. I99I. Technobabble. M.I.T. Press. Cambridge: plexity(many of whom are still committedto realist BENEDIKT, MICHAEL. I99I. Cyberspace: The first steps.CamM.I.T. Press. bridge: who persist in a epistemologies)and anthropologists KRISTA BETH. I993. Virtual communities, postwith its anach- BESSINGER, modernist of complexity, understanding organic anthropology, and thenew social relations ofcyberronistictales of simple and complex societies. It is this space.MS, Department ofAnthropology, SmithCollege, invites us to anthropologicaltraditionthat Strathern Northampton, Mass. discardonce and forall by rethinking the relationship BIJKER, W. P., T. P. HUGHES, AND T. PINCH. Editors. I987. The social construction of technological systems: New direcbetweenethnography and complexity-a theme she aptionsin thesociology and history oftechnology. Cambridge: parentlydevelops in her latest book, Partial ConnecM.I.T. Press. ofread- BUTTEL, FREDERICK, MARTIN KENNEY, AND JACK KLOPPENtions (i992), whichI havenothad thepleasure teaches us that BURG. I985. FromGreenRevolution ing.Fromthisperspective, anthropology to biorevolution: Some

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M.I.T. Press. i99i. The embodiedmind. Cambridge: SHIV. forscience.Delhi: Oxi985. Organizing VISVANATHAN, Unitechnology. confronts JUDY. i99i. Feminism Press. StateUniversity Park:Pennsylvania versity The emerging sciM. MITCHELL. i992. Complexity: WALDROP, ence at theedgeofchaos. New York:Simonand Schuster. glass,"in The art the looking WALKER, JOHN. I990. "Through Laurel, interface design.EditedbyBrenda ofhuman-computer Mass.: Addison-Wesley. pp. 439-48. Reading, Commonculture. Boulder: Westview I990. PAUL. WILLIS, Press. theblackbox and LANGDON. I993a. Upon opening WINNER, and thephilosophy of it empty: Social constructivism finding and Human Values i8:362Science,Technology, technology. 378. New . I993b. Ifyou likedchaos,you'lllove complexity. I4, p. I2. YorkTimesBook Review,February AND FERNANDO FLORES. i986. UnderWINOGRAD, TERRY, and cognition. Norwood:Ablex. computers standing history. i982. Europeand thepeople without WOLF, ERIC. ofCalifornia Press. University Berkeley: idea. London:TavSTEVEN. i988. Science:The very WOOLGAR, istock. in social studiesofscience. . i99i. The turnto technology and Human Values i6:20-50. Science,Technology,






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