Cybernetic Hate Crimes?

Perlow’s article considers in passing the notion of human cybernetic augmentation. Specifically, Perlow references the question of “Who will the cyborgs be?” raised by Donna Haraway. He ponders whether the better question might be “Who will be cyborgs?” (Perlow 246) While the notion of cyborgs may seem an outlandish concept drawn straight from the pages of a science fiction novel, the questions Perlow considers are in actuality quite important to modern society.

Perlow’s brief discussion of the issue of human cybernetics reminded me of a story in the news which transpired last summer. Employees of a McDonald’s restaurant in France assaulted a researcher of human cybernetic enhancement, Canadian professor Steve Mann, wearing an eye-mounted camera similar in nature to the Google Glass device. What made this story particularly noteworthy was the motive for the assault; the employees found his eye-mounted camera unsettling and attempted to remove it. Several news outlets deemed the incident “the world’s first cybernetic hate crime”. In this case, science fiction may have correctly anticipated a pressing societal issue in the near future. The science fiction genre of “cyberpunk” situates itself in an often-dystopian future where cybernetic enhancements have become a very real part of everyday life for humanity.  Such cybernetic enhancements lie at the heart of the Deus Ex video game series, a prominent example of the cyberpunk genre in contemporary society. The Deus Ex series explores the nature of human bodily augmentation, positioning the augmented in opposition to people and organizations who fear and mistrust them.

While such games may seem to be no more than the product of a particularly vivid imagination, the Steve Mann incident in France suggests that certain cyberpunk ideas of social conflict may be realized in the not-too-distant future. As digital technology increasingly manifests in interactions with the human body,  how will society be impacted?



Perlow, Seth. “On production for digital culture: iPhone Girl, electronics assembly, and the material forms of aspiration.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 17, no. 3 (2011): 245-269.
Photo of Steve Mann used with permission from the Wikimedia Commons.

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