Humanness

Technology is used as a prostheses and supplement which ‘could become a sign of excess and enhancement.’ (Geary, p30, 2002). Certain drugs and medications are methods used to increase the cognitive ability of an individual with a disability or mental illness. These enhancements can also be used on ‘improving the cognition of a cognitively normal person.’ (Farah, M,J). Nootropics such as mental enhancements have been proven to increase the brains capacity and make individuals focus more. Students taking exams are an example of the use of nootropics in turn giving them aspects of the idea of super human. Another aspect of cognitive enhancement can be used in treating mental illness such as schizophrenia and these may be seen as mind prostheses.

The stereotype for a ‘normal’ image immediately stigmatizes those who don’t conform to the stereotype, particularly those with impairment, even if it doesn’t affect the day to day activities such as individuals with a mental illness. ‘Medically the term a ‘human being’ should be defined by the presence of an active human brain.’  (Goldenring, 1985). This leads to questioning the concept that people with a mental illness don’t conform to the idea of having a normally functioning brain in turn making them appear less like a conventionally definition of what a human being is. Cognitive enhancements allow these people to have a normally functioning brain allowing them to fix the problems they are having with their brains. ‘People with mental health problems are the subject of social oppression, exclusion and discrimination.’ (Vandekinderen, p12, 2012). They are no seen as being conventionally normal to the social construction of what a normal person is. Everett Hughes, a sociologist, formulated a concept called a ‘Master Status’ which is a person’s most defining characteristic in a society. (Khan, S, 2014). Disability or impairments are often seen as an individual’s Master Status despite all their other qualities. Using and treating these mental impairments allows the person to have a normal brain by letting their other characteristics shine through. They are seen as something the world needs to fix in order to become a ‘normal’ human being.

‘For Holgersen, technology as an appendage of his body is an everyday reality.’ (Geary, p31, 2002).  We have become so used to technology as a prostheses it has become part of our everyday with very little questioning. When someone is ill the automatic response is to try and fix the problem through technology and medication. People with mental health such as schizophrenia form a separate reality in which they are seeing things that may not be true. They need medication in order to come back into this reality. Whereas people who are normal use these cognitive enhancements to create a super reality as what they can do while on these drugs are beyond the realistic strengths in which a normally functioning brain can. This leads to the questioning of the control we have over our own bodies and minds if the cognitive enhancements are producing different realities and is technology controlling our concept of reality and humanness?

REFERENCING

Farah, M,J. Cognitive Enhancements. Centre of Neuroscience and Society. [Video]. Available from: http://neuroethics.upenn.edu/portfolio-items/cognitive-enhancement-martha-farah-phd/ [Accessed on: 17/10/2014]

Goldenring, J.M., 1985.  The brain-life theory: towards a consistent biological definition of humanness, [e-journal] 11 (4). Abstract only. Available on: Journal of Medical Ethics.< http://jme.bmj.com/content/11/4/198.short> [Accessed on: 15/10/2014].

James Geary (2002) chapter 6 “Touch” from The Body Electric: An Anatomy of the New Bionic Sense, London: Wiedenfeld and Nicholson

Khan, S. (06/12/2013). Slide Share: Master Status. Available From: http://www.slideshare.net/samadkhan39/master-status [Accessed on 16/10/2014]

Vandekinderen, C. 2012. Mapping Encounters: Tracing Otherness and Chasing Humanness. A Critical Disability Studies Perspective on Mental Health Care Realities and Constructions. P13

Discourse Analysis

Coloured televisions were originally established in the 1960’s and were seen as an exciting and popular new media for the era of late modernity to gain. When they were first introduced they were quite high priced and gained you social dominance and cultural capital within a community. By having a coloured television when they first came out showed your wealth and power in your society. My dad’s granddad was wealthy and seen as a prominent figure in the community and one of the first to purchase a coloured television. He and his family used to drive to his granddads ‘large house on top of a hill’ to watch the Match of the Day and the Snooker in colour. This was seen as an exciting and new phenomenon due to the fact that it seemed like a luxury to be able to afford a coloured television and although not wealthy himself he could gain a part of this social dominance by being related to someone who owned a lot of cultural capital. As coloured televisions became more popular and consumerism became more apparent the ideal audience for coloured television moved to the working class. Due to the fact the majority of the working class, such as my dad, couldn’t afford a television, payment plans were enforced such as renting a TV and paying monthly for it.  The introduction of this scheme can be seen as an introduction to the idea of popular culture and consumption of the working class. This in turn reduces the importance and cultural dominance of owning a coloured television.

The ideology of national identity came to light quite apparent while interviewing my dad. He had always been very patriotic towards his country and he clearly remembers watching when England won the world cup in 1966 on a black and white television. ‘As England scored their winning goal everyone was dancing in the streets and waving their flags while chanting England England.’ The world cup was a regularly viewed experience in my dad’s household. As England got further and further into the competition my dad’s sense of national identity seemed to grow. You could argue that by having a TV and watching the experience as it happened increased his identity in terms of his patriotic views to England.

My dad’s dad can be seen as representing a hegemonic stereotype of masculinity. One way, in relevance to the aspect of the television, in which he reinforces this stereotype was through the programmes they watched which, according to my dad, was predominantly sport related. When they first got their television the idea of family values increased as they would all sit down in front of the television with their tea and watch shows as a family. However their household was very male dominated and patriarchal themes came to light. The men in the house got to choose what they wanted to watch while my dad’s mum used to wait on them hand and foot ‘bringing them tea and toast.’ My dad’s mum and dad both conformed to their traditional stereotypical roles which in turn reinforced my dad’s father’s social dominance.

Auto-Ethnography

While travelling on a long bus journey or just at home relaxing I will browse through my phone and look at all my apps. One app that I realise that I am constantly looking at is the Daily Mail online. As I took part in an auto-ethnographic analysis of this app different things came to light. As you open the app you get presented with different types of media such as the top news stories, sports and the showbiz section. I found that nearly every time of opening this app I would automatically click on the ‘UK and Showbiz’ section. I discovered that the majority of the articles contain information on what celebrities are wearing, their new bikini photos and the ups and downs of relationship dramas. Normally I wouldn’t read too much into the contents of the articles however while conducting this research it allowed me to question its cultural context.

Merleau-Ponty’s argues that the mind and body are inseparable and they work in conjunction with each other. Your experiences within the world, through institutions especially, are what allow your mind to tell your body how to react. ‘Many of our actions, particularly everyday routine actions, are pre-reflective: they are the product of habit rather than conscious reflection.’ (Cavel, p13, 2008). Cultural constructions are an evident aspect to shaping your habits and allowing you to react to the society that you live in. Growing up within a contemporary culture you are constantly bombarded with images, adverts, television programmes all discussing the idea of how women should look.

Throughout the years people and companies have started to question the creation of the idealistic women through campaigns such as Dove the ‘Evolution of Beauty.’ However the contents of the showbiz section in Daily Mail Online reinforces the idea that women should care about how they look through emphasizing the importance of the way women, especially celebrities look. The constant cultural pressure to look a certain way affected me personally in a way that affects many young girls through the concept of makeup. As I grew older the importance of make up to my day to day life became more apparent. The older I got the more I would experiment with different types of make ups to see what suited me best. The way I use make up and the Daily Mail Online have become so natural to me I forget the hidden messages that they convey. These allow me to conform to the cultural pressure by wanting myself to look a certain way. Putting Merleau-Ponty’s argument about our experiences in the world allowing our mind to tell our body how to react and that our consciousness has an object of desire allows me to question the way I look at the articles in the Daily Mail Online.  I have become so used to seeing these images on a daily basis that I haven’t realised that by putting on make-up and by reading these articles I have been subconsciously conforming to the social norms of a contemporary society.

Mediated Lives

The way information is conveyed is forever changing and developing. It can be argued that this has been shaped from the bible which is historic and fundamental to the aspect of religion, to contemporary technology such as the internet. Due to the changes in technology, information can be expressed through different mediums. One of the newest instalments of the changing technology is the creation and use of apps. Apps such as google maps and mobile banking are both updated versions of how information can be transmitted. Google maps can be seen as a restructured version of a paper map however this technological improvement allows you to access more information about your route such as where the traffic is going to be. Different forms of information are continuously changing and improving.