Running Cyborgs

My research question is: How has technology advanced our bodies in running?

My first source is Sport, Technology, and the Body: The Nature of Performance, written by Tara Magdalinski. This book closely describes the relationship between sports, technology, and the body illustrating the expectations of “physical modifications” achieved with technology. Being a glorious athlete isn’t produced without having a superior diet, an extensive training routine, and it certainly isn’t done without the assistance of machines. As athletes get more competitive and reach the Olympics, their team becomes constructed of “auxiliary staff,” meaning physiologist, biochemists, psychologists, amongst others who push their limits to their full potential to reach the gold. Magdalinski addresses the cultural controversies that are brought up when athletes use enhancements to create these inorganic hybrid bodies. In her third chapter, The Nature of the Body, Magdalinski addresses the cultural notion that we live in an era that has become more ‘body conscious.’ “First, it suggests that the ‘natural body,’ which requires protection from corruption and intrusion, simply does not exist, and second it acknowledges, that whilst issues of purity and authenticity may be written onto ‘natural,’ athletic bodies, they are indicative of broader ideological concerns, including gender, nation, and identity (33).” Magdalinski argues that we no longer poses organic bodies and we have allowed the body to be socially constructed into mechanical bodies. Her arguments addressing the corruption of the body from technology brings up several good points within the sport of running because due to the cultural pressures, runners have some of the most intense meticulous training regimens than any other athlete. They have been closely under surveillance to become none other than a mechanical body, enhanced by different nutritions, built up from various routines, and created for the gold.

My second source is Body Like a Rocket, written by Sarah McCullough, in this journal she examines the interactions with our body and technology, specifically with the Speedo Lzr Racer swimming suit. Analyzing the blurred boundary that athlete cyborgs create by being identified as both natural and technology, especially when technology is utilized as a tool to reinforce femininity we see how the production of dominance in sports culture. Optimizing human performance has now become notion to continue the pollution of human bodies, but rather than polluting the body, McCullough argues that technology produces the ‘natural’ instead of contaminating a previous ‘material reality.’ Without bodies technology cannot function, and without the technology bodies cannot advance, which is why the technology in the Lzr Racer was incredible and a necessity to all competing swimmers in the Olympics. “Traditionally, sport clothing has moved toward being less restrictive, allowing freedom of movement through loose- fitting designs and the integration of Lycra, Spandex, or other synthetic elastic materials (12).” This coincides with my previous source explaining that similar to the Lzr Racer runners also wear complex materials as if they’re ‘second skins’ to reduce the air resistance as they run. Spandex has been highly known for being worn by the best runners, it’s this form of technology that advances their bodies over others.

My third source approaches technology from a different stance point. In the Feminist Press Issue of Women’s Studies Quartly, Rayvon Fouché’s article on “Aren’t Athletes Cyborgs?: Technologies, Bodies, and Sporting Competitions,” she addresses our bodies as cyborgs who are ‘embraced’ in sporting competitions for producing ‘unnatural performances,’ she writes to explain the need to remove the concept between gender differences and focus on the cyborg. She references Magdalinski explaining the ideology behind equality in sports, but as Fouché argues is a myth. She begins to elaborate that we are beginning to approach an era that the competition isn’t between the athletes participating in the sport, but instead the scientist, engineers, and designers behind the technology. “Competitive advantages can be acquired in many ways, but the history of the sport in the twentieth century has been about gaining a competitive edge through the use of technoscientific artifacts attached the body or integrated into the body or change in body mechanics (282).” We all strive to have an advantage over our opponent and we all get furious to the revelation of someone’s deception with doping, or even failed gender tests, but with Fouché’s argument we can surpass this frustration and focus on the importance of cyborg athletes. She refers back to the controversial case of Caster Semenya, she brings up emotional trauma that Semenya had to endure but also the contentious allegations that she was too masculine for the athletic world. Fouché provides an exceptional point, “the body is expected to perform like a machine, but maintain its human qualities (290).”  Runners have to push their bodies to extreme measurements to reach the capacity to compete professionally; they have to put all other distractions aside, and live to run. Which is why Fouché s argument, focusing on the cyborg athlete is important, athletes have become the machines we build and update as time goes on with the latest technology. Focusing on race, gender, or even sexual preference is a waste of time, when those values don’t perform within the competition.

With all three of these sources including others, I have realized that technology has advanced and impacted our bodies in many more ways than just physically. It has constructed the framework of several sporting events and the cybernetic athletes that we send to these competitions. As I did my research there wasn’t an abundance of recourses about technology, but as I continued to do my search I began to realize that I needed to focus less on the applications that we used to advance ourselves, but also open myself up to the idea that are body has become a machine. Through Magdalinski’s source I was able to connect the pressures that are brought on by technology, but with McCullough’s and Fouché’s sources I am able to interpret that technology can progress our running bodies to another level of a superhuman athlete.

Magdalinski, Tara. Sport, Technology and the Body: The Nature of Performance. London: Routledge, 2009. Print.

McCullough, Sarah. “Body Like a Rocket: Performing Technologies of Naturalization”thirdspace: a journal of feminist theory & culture [Online], 9 7 Apr 2010

Rayvon Fouché

Women’s Studies Quarterly 
Vol. 40, No. 1/2, VIRAL (SPRING/SUMMER 2012) , pp. 281-293

Published by: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York

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2 Responses to Running Cyborgs

  1. This definitely pushes that concept that a cyborg is not necessarily between man and machine as much as man and science. Even using a scientifically designed supplement program would constitute this incorporation. Although, incorporating scientifically determined organics would be a better alternative to a mechanical appendage.

    Clifford Mitchem
    Advocare Distributor
    Nutrition + Fitness = Health

  2. Sarah McCullough says:

    I’m glad you found Rayvon Fouché’s piece. I’ve met him, but hadn’t gotten a chance to read this piece yet. These conversations about the liminality of techologies and bodies is an important site for consideration, not only in sport but in all aspects of our lives, given the immense influence of technology in our world. I’m glad you are getting a chance to read some of the latest work on the subject! I am, of course, positioned to be generous and energized by these conversations. 🙂

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