Cyborgs & the Truth of the Metropolis
I think over the course of the next week it will become painfully obvious that I enjoyed Shields’s “Flanerie for Cyborgs” article tremendously. It captured a bit of my somewhat simplistic preference for the view of cyborg as, if not citizen, then traveler, one constantly seeking “the truth of the flux of the public space” (Shields, 210). This “space” is not necessarily a public square, subway, school, or cemetery, but “the truths of genetic space”. This view of cyborg is expansive (merely being a cyborg implies that) as it allows for the appropriation of space beyond previous limitations; it turns its gaze both inward (biological, psychological) and outward (networks, presence, “nodes of power”). All are embodied by the cyborg. The cyborg observes and alters these “places”, enacts “shifts in preoccupations”, defines ideology, changes “Home” (Shields, 212).
I am greatly drawn to this “truth in the flux” notion; a cyborg inhabits, investigates, and interacts with constant flux, a negotiation of a particular space at a particular time. This cyborg embraces (and I am getting away from Shields here) the flux, the fluidity of association and redefinition of nodes, constructs, ideologies. The heightened “powers” of the cyborg signals shifts in perception, consciousness, and observation in the individual; those same “powers” mediate change on the node/construct level. Let me let Shields speak properly, though:
Anticipating the hard-boiled hero of the detective novel, the ﬂâneur pursued clues to the truth of the metropolis, attempting to think through its historical speciﬁcity, to inhabit it, even as the truth of empire and commodity capitalism was hidden from him (Messac, 1929: 425, cited in Benjamin, 1999: M13, 2):
The eye is drawn to this man who walks right through society’s laws, its pitfalls, the treason of his accomplices, like a savage of the New World amongst the reptiles, the ferocious beasts and enemy peoples (Shields, 210).
Clues to the truth of the metropolis. A soothsayer? A mystic? A cipher? A detective, an artist, a monk, a philosopher? All roles that I could imagine ascribing to the cyborg as they redefine boundaries, limitations merely by not observing them. A savage of the New World, savage in its primacy, a kid in a candy store, a bull in a china shop. Things get broken as they are in opposition, perhaps too fragile too survive the flux. Unraveling the truth of the Metropolis and embracing the fact that maybe, just maybe, it might all turn out to be a house of cards.
I will stop. Just a great article.