Sitting on the porch, listening to Haraway explain her ideas over a background of singing birds and buzzing insects, it's hard not to feel she's talking about some parallel world, some chrome-and-neon settlement in a cyberpunk novel. "We're talking about whole new forms of subjectivity here. We're talking seriously mutated worlds that never existed on this planet before. And it's not just ideas. It's new flesh."
But she is not talking about some putative future or a technologically advanced corner of the present. The cyborg age is here and now, everywhere there's a car or a phone or a VCR. Being a cyborg isn't about how many bits of silicon you have under your skin or how many prosthetics your body contains. It's about Donna Haraway going to the gym, looking at a shelf of carbo-loaded bodybuilding foods, checking out the Nautilus machines, and realizing that she's in a place that wouldn't exist without the idea of the body as high-performance machine. It's about athletic shoes.
"Think about the technology of sports footwear," she says. "Before the Civil War, right and left feet weren't even differentiated in shoe manufacture. Now we have a shoe for every activity." Winning the Olympics in the cyborg era isn't just about running fast. It's about "the interaction of medicine, diet, training practices, clothing and equipment manufacture, visualization and timekeeping." When the furor about the cyborgization of athletes through performance-enhancing drugs reached fever pitch last summer, Haraway could hardly see what the fuss was about. Drugs or no drugs, the training and technology make every Olympian a node in an international technocultural network just as "artificial" as sprinter Ben Johnson at his steroid peak.
If this sounds complicated, that's because it is. Haraway's world is one of tangled networks - part human, part machine; complex hybrids of meat and metal that relegate old-fashioned concepts like natural and artificial to the archives. These hybrid networks are the cyborgs, and they don't just surround us - they incorporate us. An automated production line in a factory, an office computer network, a club's dancers, lights, and sound systems - all are cyborg constructions of people and machines.