Cyborgs in the Everyday: Masculinity and Biosensing Prostate Cancer



Haddow G, King E, Kunkler I & McLaren D (2015) Cyborgs in the Everyday: Masculinity and Biosensing Prostate Cancer. Science as Culture, 24 (4), pp. 484-506.

An in vivo biosensor is a technology in development that will assess the biological activity of cancers to individualise external beam radiotherapy. Inserting such technology into the human body creates cybernetic organisms; a cyborg that is a human–machine hybrid. There is a gap in knowledge relating to patient willingness to allow automated technology to be embedded and to become cyborg. There is little agreement around what makes a cyborg and less understanding of the variation in the cyborgisation process. Understanding the viewpoint of possible beneficiaries addresses such gaps. There are currently three versions of ‘cyborg’ in the literature (i) a critical feminist STS concept to destabilise power inherent in dualisms, (ii) an extreme version of the human/machine in science-fiction that emphasises the ‘man’ in human and (iii) a prediction of internal physiological adaptation required for future space exploration. Interview study findings with 12 men in remission from prostate cancer show a fourth version can be used to describe current and future sub-groups of the population; ‘everyday cyborgs'. For the everyday cyborg the masculine cyborg status found in the fictionalised human–machine related to issues of control of the cancer. This was preferred to the felt stigmatisation of being a ‘leaker and bleeder’. The willingness to become cyborg was matched with a having to get used to the everyday cyborg's technological adaptations and risks. It is crucial to explore the everyday cyborg's sometimes ambivalent viewpoint. The everyday cyborg thus adds the dimension of participant voice currently missing in existing cyborg literatures and imaginations.

in vivo biosensors; patient ambivalence; qualitative research; everyday cyborg; masculinity and stigmatisation

Science as Culture: Volume 24, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2015
Publication date online03/09/2015
Date accepted by journal19/05/2015
PublisherTaylor and Francis

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Dr Emma King
Dr Emma King

Health Services Researcher, NMAHP