techno-memories

For my Internship class I'm teaching we've been reading and watching films that center on technology. I suppose most of them qualify as science fiction. Today we're watching "Bladerunner". This is the second time I've watched it in weeks and today something that feels significant occurred to me. There are a several scenes where "memories" are discussed. And the contemporary film "The Island" explores similar questions about memories.

Memories are incredibly powerful. We all think our memories, our "experiences" are unique, specific. These two films, and I'm sure many others, call this assumption into question. In the films, the "non-humans" are "implanted" with memories, memories they think are unique and specific to them. When their human-ness is called into question, they say, "but I have a mother."

If as Haraway suggests, we're already becoming cyborgs, is this why we we're drawn to memoirs? To "true stories"
Shit. There's something more here, something about culture and our need to posess our memories, to revel in them, to re-member. Does it remind us somehow of our personhood, to remember? Machines, and technology remember, too. My browser remembers the sites I visit, remembers passwords for me, etc. So is it WHAT we remember that we think defines us? Is this why we get defensive when social constructionist theories suggest much of our experience is constructed? I don't mean to suggest our material conditions and experiences don't count. I think we're afraid of them "not counting". If films and texts are supposed to allow us to get as close to our fears as possible, does science fiction push us closer to our fears, too close for comfort, perhaps?

Laura Mulvey suggests in her landmark essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" that there is a pleasure involved in looking at other people's bodies. But what if these other bodies are not human or at least portrayed as non-human? Haraway says her "Cyborg Manifesto" is "an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction" (273). For Sci-fi and for Haraway, one of those boundaries is human/cyborg. This is played out beautifully in both "The Island" and "Bladerunner."

Haraway describes the cyborg as irreverent, "oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence." The non-humans (clones) in "The Island" break this cyborgian tradition as they are portrayed as innocent to the world since they've been sheltered and protected in this laboratory. However, once they enter the "real world," the world outside, they are only intent on one thing "survival." Funny, how "human" they become.