Cyborg Babies and Cy-Dough-Plasm Ideas about Self and Life in the Culture of Simulation
In Cyborg Babies: From Technosex to Technotots, Robbie Davis-Floyd and Joseph Dumit (eds.). New York: Routledge, 1998.
The genius of Jean Piaget (1960) showed us the degree to which it is the business of childhood to take the objects in the world and use how they "work" to construct theories-- of space, time, number, causality, life, and mind. Fifty years ago, when Piaget was formulating his theories, a child's world was full of things that could be understood in simple, mechanical ways. A bicycle could be understood in terms of its pedals and gears, a wind-up car in terms of its clockwork springs. Children were able to take electronic devices such as basic radios and (with some difficulty) bring them into this "mechanical" system of understanding. Since the end of the 1970s, however, with the introduction of electronic toys and games, the nature of objects and how children understand them have changed. When children today remove the back of their computer toys to "see" how they work, they find a chip, a battery, and some wires. Sensing that trying to understand these objects "physically" will lead to a dead end, children try to use a "psychological" kind of understanding (Turkle 1984:29-63). Children ask themselves if the games are conscious, if the games know, if they have feelings, and even if they "cheat." Earlier objects encouraged children to think in terms of a distinction between the world of psychology and the world of machines, but the computer does not. Its "opacity" encourages children to see computational objects as psychological machines.