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Study information

Cyborg Studies

Module titleCyborg Studies
Module codePHL3096
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.

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

This module aims to help you to engage in a wide range of debates in posthumanism. You will be exposed to various scenarios in which the idea of humanity is questioned, either through its technological disruption or the need to develop ideas which no longer hold humans at their core. With the figure of the cyborg, as its icon, the module explores the co-evolution of humans, machines, sciences and natures. The central aim is for you to develop a critical understanding of what it means to be human and what role our technology should play in determining not only our own future but the future of the world(s) in which we live.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Critically assess the meaning and significance of being ‘human’
  • 2. Analyse the relationships between humans and non-human agents and entities
  • 3. Demonstrate familiarity with theoretical perspectives appropriate to the analysis of these relationships and exemplify with a range of contemporary, historical and theoretical (including fictional) examples.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Demonstrate awareness and understanding of a range of philosophical, social scientific, and historical perspectives
  • 5. Identify the core theoretical assumptions and premises of these disciplines.
  • 6. Apply theoretical and interpretive perspectives to the task of ethical, political and social analysis
  • 7. 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...

  • 8. Reflect on, and examine, taken-for-granted social, cultural and ethical assumptions, beliefs and values
  • 9. 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:

  • Are you already a Cyborg?
  • What’s posthumanism? How is posthumanism different from transhumanism?
  • The cyborg as feminist tool
  • Cyborg politics
  • Human-machine interfaces and interactions
  • What is human exceptionalism
  • The history of cybernetics
  • Notions of agency, subjectivity, and self

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.
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
EssayEssay (2,200 words)1-8August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Sample reading:


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

Haraway, D. (1991[1985]) ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ in Haraway, D. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge) pp.149-181

Hayles, N. K. (1999) How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics (Chicago:the University of Chicago Press)

Pickering, A. (2010) Sketches of Another Future: Cybernetics in Britain, 1940-2000 (Chicago: University of Chicago


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