A Short Introduction to Cyborg Anthropology

Caseorganic, Cyborg AnthropologistA cyborg (shorthand for “cybernetic organism”) is a symbiotic fusion of human and machine.

Humans have always developed technologies to help them survive and thrive, but in recent decades the rapid escalation and intensification of the human-technology interface have exceeded anything heretofore known. From satellite communications to genetic engineering, high technologies have penetrated and permeated the human and natural realms.

The Augmentation of Biological and Mental Landscapes

So profoundly are humans altering their biological and physical landscapes that some have openly suggested that the proper object of anthropological study should be cyborgs rather than humans, for, as Donna Haraway says, we are all cyborgs now”.

Time and Space Compression

The distance between individual and community will continue to decrease, and those products and services which decrease the amount of time and space it takes to create an action will be the most successful. Actions and devices will become lighter and lighter, and the social will continue to become more and more mobile. The convergence of various technologies will result in rapid learning and communication never imagined before.


This topic is not able to be fully explained in a blog post. Because of that, a new wiki has been created full of resources and information at CyborgAnthropology.com. Also see the new book A Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology – A Field Guide to Interface Culture.


Amber Case is a founder of CyborgCamp, which will be held in Portland, Oregon on Nov. 22, 2008. You can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic.


She recently spoke at Portland’s Interactive Convergence Conference on “From Telephone to Tweetup: An abbreviated history of technology and social exchange“.

Download the Thesis on Cell Phones and Technosocial Sites of Engagement

You can download her thesis on Cell Phones and Cyborg Anthropology here. It is titled “Cell Phones and their Technosocial Sites of Engagement”.

24 thoughts on A Short Introduction to Cyborg Anthropology

  1. This was a well defined walk through of Cyborg Anthropology. You mention augmentation a lot during the post – but it seems more of replacement of existing (often failing or missing) organic parts. It also seems that there would be the desire to enhance the performance of current organic structures to augment normal activities (such as athletes). Does Cyborg Anthropology cover this as well and if so what is your take on the desire for enhancement vs replacement?

    Oh and btw I’d love to read a copy of your thesis.

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  3. When I first heard you use the term “Cyborg Anthropologist”, I didn’t really get it. I’m so glad you wrote this post that explains it for us cyborg anthropology dummies. I guess I kind of dismissed this as something that was way above my head and it didn’t seem that important to me. But in fact, this is very interesting and important stuff and you certainly have my attention now.

    It was interesting for me to realize we are all cyborgs (I am a little further along, my body is full of screws and plates). How we interact with machines and technology in many ways defines who we are. I’m excited to read your thesis and learn more.

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  13. hey there! remember me from Portland? How much of Haraway’s cyborg manifesto was literally about technological augmentations and how much of it was a metaphor for conceiving of hybrid selves as a way around the battles of identity politics in feminism? (does the category woman represent you? are you a real lesbian? are you a real black woman? etc)

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  19. What an interesting topic to study. I love it. Just as we are at a stage in our evolution where it is no longer distant science fiction but we can feel it encrouching our lifestyles.

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