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Study information

Cyborg Studies

Module titleCyborg Studies
Module codePHL2096
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Astrid Schrader (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

How should we think about the relationship between humans and increasingly powerful technology? What’s so special about humans anyway? Using the figure of the cyborg, a hybrid of machine and organism, we will analyse and reflect upon a wide range of topics related to both technology and the place of humanity in the world. You will be encouraged to critique the principles of humanism and invited to develop them in new directions. Discussions of posthumanist theories and their ethical and political implications will be considered alongside empirical studies drawn from science and technology studies, environmental studies and the arts. The module consists of seminar-based discussions of pre-assigned readings. There are no prerequisites and it is suitable for non-specialist students in the social and natural sciences, the humanities and engineering and is highly appropriate for students following interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The social sciences have traditionally been 'humanist' disciplines, in as much as their empirical and theoretical focus is on human individuals, their interactions with one another, social groups and social structure. This module aims to develop a less anthropocentric or 'posthumanist' sensibility. With the figure of the cyborg, the cybernetic organism, a hybrid of human, animal and machine, as its icon, it explores the co-evolution of humans, machines, sciences and natures.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Critically assess and analyse relations between people (individuals and social groups), animals and machines
  • 2. Demonstrate a clear understanding of theoretical perspectives appropriate to the analysis of these relations and exemplify with a range of contemporary and historical examples

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate awareness and understanding of a range of philosophical, social scientific, and historical perspectives.
  • 4. Identify the core theoretical assumptions and premises of these disciplines.
  • 5. Apply theoretical and interpretive perspectives to the task of ethical, political and social analysis
  • 6. Demonstrate appreciation of the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of different and competing philosophical, social scientific, and historical perspectives

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Reflect on, and examine, taken-for-granted social, cultural and ethical assumptions, beliefs and values
  • 8. Analyse, evaluate, and communicate a range of explanatory and interpretive theoretical perspectives; assess evidence, marshal facts and construct arguments

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • What is human exceptionalism?
  • How did we become posthuman?
  • Are you a cyborg?
  • What’s transhumanism?
  • Cyborg politics 
  • Human-machine interfaces and interactions 
  • Cyborgs in military
  • The history of cybernetics
  • Notions of agency, subjectivity, and self  
  • New materialisms

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Weekly 2-hour lectures/seminars or 1 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar. Weekly 2-hour lectures/seminars or 1 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar.
Guided independent study66Weekly reading and working through assigned articles and book chapters
Guided independent study62Essay writing

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 x reading responses (200 words each)800 words1-8Verbal feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002,200 words1-8Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay Essay (2,200 words)1-8August/September reassessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to redo the assessment(s) as defined above. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Sample reading:

Bostrom, Nick (2005a) “A History of Transhumanist Thought”, Journal of Evolution and Technology 14/1: 1-25.


Culture 17 (3): 445-65

Ferrando F (2013) Posthumanism, Transhumanism, Antihumanism, Metahumanism, and New Materialisms: Differences and Relations. 82:26–32

Gray, C.H., S. Mentor, and H. J. Figueroa-Sarriera (1995) ‘Cyborgology: Constructing the Knowledge of Cybernetic Organisms,’ in C. Gray et al (eds.), The Cyborg Handbook (New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 1- 14.

Haraway, D. ([1985] 2016). "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and SocialistFeminism in the Late Twentieth Century." In Manifestly Haraway. Donna Haraway and Cary Wolfe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hayles, K. (1999)  How we became posthuman: Virtual bodies in cybernetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press: prologue and conclusion

Jane Bennett (2010) ‘The Agency of Assemblages and the North American Blackout’ Public

Karen Barad, “Agential Realism: Feminist Interventions in Understanding Scientific Practices,” in The Science Studies Reader, edited by Mario Biagioli, (Routledge, 1999), 1-11.

Pickering, A. (2013) The Cybernetic Brain, Blackwell Publishing.

Suchman, L. (2007) Human–Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions, revised edn. (New York: Cambridge University Press). 

Wiener, N. (1961 [1948]) Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 


Key words search

Cyborg, Posthumanism, Philosophy, Ethics, Anthropology, Sociology.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date