Monday, 16 February 2009

What I have been up to...

It's been a busy couple of months, working on two book chapters and one journal article. This impending spring will be focussed upon completing my comprehensive exams and perhaps I will leave book-like reviews or something here as I work through my reading lists.

Below are the abstracts of the pieces I have been working on:

Accepted: ABSTRACT #1 (Submission for the International Journal of Social Robotics)

Looking Forward to Sociable Robots

This work examines humanoid social robots in Japan and the North America with a view to comparing and contrasting the projects cross culturally. In North America, I look at the work of Cynthia Breazeal at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her sociable robot project: Kismet. In Japan, at the Osaka University, I consider the project of Hiroshi Ishiguro: Repliée-Q2. I first distinguish between utilitarian and affective social robots. Then, drawing on published works of Breazeal and Ishiguro I examine the proposed vision of each project. Next, I examine specific characteristics (embodied and social intelligence, morphology and aesthetics, and moral equivalence) of Kismet and Repliée with a view to comparing the underlying concepts associated with each. These features are in turn connected to the societal preconditions of robots generally. Specifically, the role that history of robots, theology/spirituality, and popular culture plays in the reception and attitude toward robots is considered.

Accepted: ABSTRACT #2 (Submission for "Essays on Monsters and the Monstrous." Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2009)

Abject Cyborg Woman
The female-monster is frightening for different reasons than her male-monster counterpart. Barbara Creed argues that woman is typically defined in terms of her sexuality, signaling the centrality of gender to the understanding of female monstrosity. This work considers the hypersexual, dangerous, and disruptive female cyborg figure, a film icon that has endured in the cultural imaginary for decades. Creed uses the term ‘monstrous feminine’ to describe an array of frightening female representations that range from the vampire and the witch, to the monstrous primordial mother, and notes, “[critical] neglect of the monstrous feminine in her role as castrator has led to a serious misunderstanding of the nature of the monstrous woman in the horror film and other popular genres such as film noir and science fiction.” This essay addresses this neglect, and considers the female cyborg in relation to feminine monstrosity and abjection. Following Creed, this work draws upon Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject as well as Sigmund Freud’s concept of the castrating woman. This paper shows that Creed’s list of monstrous women should be expanded to include yet another monstrous female, the cyborg, both abject and monstrous.

ABSTRACT #3 (Looking for new publishing options)

Pathological Machines: Gender Representation and the Female Cyborg
Sean Redmond distinguishes between a humanist and a pathological cyborg. Redmond argues that the humanist cyborg works in collaboration with human beings and longs to understand the emotional complexity of humanity, yet never seems to quite achieve unity of “the corporeal to the technological.” Star Trek’s Data may be thought of as the exemplary humanist cyborg. Conversely, the pathological cyborg is relentless in its “will to power…The pathological cyborg wants nothing more than the complete genocide of the human race.” Pathological seems to best describe the dominant representation of the female cyborg on film and in television, most often characterized as hypersexual, dangerous, and disruptive. This work briefly traces the representational history of the female-machine (e.g. mythological creature, mechanical artifact, literary figure, filmic image), broadly outlining an enduring cultural presence that stretches from antiquity to our contemporary moment. Then, drawing upon Jeffrey Cohen’s seven theses of monstrosity and the connection of the feminine to monstrosity generally, I argue, following Barbara Creed, that the female cyborg is a monstrous figure and that she that differs in significant ways from her male counterpart.


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