Recently my computer started acting strange. The hard drive seemed to be malfunctioning. Every time I tried to open up my file explorer it seemed to take millennia to pull up my documents. What even more bizarre is that when I went to boot my machine it sometimes failed to boot from my Solid Sate Drive (on which my operating system is). I tried disconnecting cables and re-arranging them in different orders to no avail. I had to manually boot from my SSD multiple times. Even my BIOS options were of no help to me. But the strangest thing of them is isn’t actually about my computer’s hardware or software troubles. It’s how I reacted and felt about the situation.
You see, to me this computer is more than a machine. I didn’t walk into a store and pick this one off the shelf. Instead I researched parts and pooled my precious money to find the most efficient build that was tailored to my needs and desires. I waited and watched as parts went on sale and snatched them up. I gathered everything I needed, and then I sat down and put it all together. I didn’t just purchase this computer. I BUILT this computer. To me this computer is my creation and ultimately a part of me. I’ve put effort into this mechanical marvel to make it what it is today. So when it started breaking down I was distraught. Flashes of rogue, virus like data from unknown sources coursing through my poor computers circuitry came to the forefront of my mind. I felt like a mother with a sick child, helpless to do anything about it because I did not understand the problem.
My (old) hard drive
Paralyzed with fear I found a temporary solution, to disconnect my computer’s hard drive from the rest of the hardware. My computer worked once more! But it didn’t have the memory unit that stored all my old documents and pictures. I was unable to access the memories stored on that drive if I wanted the rest of the computer to work. In essence I was now living with an amnesiac who could not remember anything from before. At this point I figured out that if I ever wanted my computer to work again I would have to replace the hard-drive. Replace my computer’s memories. I was truly upset that my computer was all messed up. That hard drive had been with me for 5 years. It had so many memories on it from my high-school and early college. And it was in that state of emotional turbulence that I started to ponder how strange it was that I felt this way about a computer.
Harraway would not be surprised by my reaction. She would argue that this computer is my chosen cyborg kin. Since cyborgs group based on affinity and not on blood, this computer is the equivalent to a cyborg family. But I wonder what she would say about me creating the computer. I wonder if she would argue that I didn’t in fact create it at all. Perhaps I chose the parts but its emergent behavior is what makes the machine what it is. That is assuming she would continue to draw the distinction between the computer and my ‘self’ anymore. I think that Harraway would say that the computer is part of me, and that together we are cyborg. Therefore then perhaps my feelings of fear and anxiety are not because I think my computer is sick but rather because it’s malfunctioning indicates that I am sick. I’m interested in how Cary Wolfe would interpret my feelings for this human and mechanical bond. I think perhaps he would say that feeling is the feeling of responsibility that I have to my mechanical monstrosity. I created the machine, it is my job to fix it when it breaks down.