Response 2 on “Cultured Biology” by cynthiaec

I agree with Cynthia’s analysis and also like how she chose the examples. She talks about how  Martin’s main argument here is that scientific language is embedded with stereotypical culturally constructed information regarding men and women and their supposed behaviors. Two example of scientific language she had come across that exemplified what she meant by this, was how certain scientific writings had described menstruation as ‘getting rid of debris’ (486). The second example was a larger example in that many scientific writings all alluded to the productivity and activity of the male’s sperm, essentially it was the male’s continuous production versus the female’s degeneration of eggs (487). This is absolutely an example of bad articulation. When hard science describes such phenomena with this biased language and is unable to quantify this phenomena, it makes a very good example of bad articulation.

She further mentioned how Martin’s research concluded that biology in itself, is very susceptible to culturally constructed stereotypes of male and females too, and it is unfortunately, evident in how it describes both male and female reproductive systems and the process of conception. Language is a science in itself i believe. It has the power to limit your thinking, to shape your mind and construct your reality for you. If such language is used to describe natural phenomena then we are almost brainwashing the generation to swallow culturally contructed ideas of what it means to be a man and a woman and who is more worthy.

She further says that  Overall, what author noted was that female processes were generally depicted in a negative light, and usually depended on the man to fulfill the duty of conception and basically illustrated the female reproductive system as :futile, dingy, and generally speaking lacking of any real productive performance especially in comparison to its male counterpart. I completely agree with the reason she gave for such explanation. Men have always dominated the world of hard science till now. back in the day it was very hard for a man to take a woman in science field seriously. This thus in language is translated and women are depicted as damsels in distress even in the world of science. Thankfully now the whole idea is changing for the better but the speed is not as fast as it should be.

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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


After the guest speakers left the class, a couple of my friends and I spoke about the topic of body image and femininity. We all admired that women work so hard to pursue the sport of building bodies the way men do, the women shown were daring enough to cross the line of so called feminine look but we all also unanimously agreed that we do not like the look of uber muscular women and it did in fact to us gave a masculine vibe. Having muscles is a good thing and we are open to others having such built but would not choose to do this to our own bodies. I strongly believe that men andThis resonated with the article titled,  A Woman’s Place is in the… Cardiovascular Room??,  it showed that many females are scared to become muscular. Shari presented “a continuum of bodies with very thin, non-muscular bodies on the left and large, muscular bodybuilders on the right” (Dworkin: 139), and when asked which they would like to look more like, most women kept to the left-end of the spectrum. This makes me wonder how deeply embedded these cultural ideas and differences can be in us.

I go to the gym regularly and what statistics were given in the article were seen by my own eye. I always see more women in cardiovescular section and only a few men with them while the weights section is always filled with men and handful of women, using few weights and doing fewer reps. When i use the gym and go to the weights section, I feel very self conscious because I am one of the few girls and I do get stared at. It is not just a feeling. This makes me shorten my time at the weights section and i quickly leave.  Yoga too is considered feminine and very few males are seen there. The ones that do go, have an excuse that they go do yoga because it is a good spot to meet women. Dworkin pointed out that through the constant repetition and selection of certain images and fitness practices, people internalize those ideas and notions and live by them. Which makes us all dissatisfied with our bodies. We don’d think about being healthy and muscular. We think about being what media portrays as desirable. I have never seen muscular women being portrayed as beautiful, just an observation. Maybe I am wrong here.

One of the speakers who was a body builder herself showed us her pictures. Without her shirt on she looked very muscular but in person, fully clothed, she looked as feminine as she could. Which debunks the stereotype that I had about such women. I too thought of these women to seem less fragile and feminine but she fit my description of feminine.

After reading this article a question came to my mind that who gets to choose and define what is feminine and masculine in these times? Do we even  need a distinction? Can’t we just live under the heading of humanism? Why is society still teaching us the age old gender differences through all its portals? what would it take to get rid of them once and for all?

Reflection 3

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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


Response 1 – Critical play

Priya said in her blog that there is Critical Play. Technical Play. But Play is just play!, play is play and                  it has formulated way before humans even stepped on earth. The concept of play goes way back, maybe            even pre historic. Play makes our culture and propagates our cultural direction. It is incorporated into our           daily lives and not just ours but of animals too and most of the time we are blind to it as it is so much part of how we go by living our daily routines. It gives us a path to get transformed, to communicate and be communicated to in different ways that we normally would not get to experience.

Act of play is valuable. It is almost contagious as the effects keep rolling and reeling its consequences            on us in all spheres of our life even after we are done with it. It holds power to give power to someone                    or take power away from someone. Sometimes the stakes are high and sometimes they are low but                       the power that play hold is strong. From board games to video games to money games or                                 simple games that kids play, it captivates us. Enough to have us pass it down to next                          generations like a hand me down. It connects us to our elders and our young ones.                                              Play could almost be seen as an act of life. In the end it is all about playing well, sometimes                                by the rules and sometimes by breaking them but in the end it is about how you play it                                      and what you become out of playing and how you transform others while being part of it.                              Priya also said that play is ambiguous and could have multiple definitions and I agree but                                     one thing that is indisputable about play is that in the end we do get transformed through                                            it and it does have a power to enhance our capacity to get affected.

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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Uncategorized


Redefining what it is to be human

Us humans love ourselves. I say that because we manifest our love for us in many ways. Among those many ways here are the few. We draw humans in the form of art, we write poetry on being human, we make predictions about what future humans will be like and we also make technology in the form In one of our lectures we saw a video where this robot called ‘kismet’ was shown. She was made to have a human face with eyes, nose and ears and some expressions. It imitated the expression of the person talking to her. Such robots are also known as Humanoids.

The purpose of making humanoids is transhumanism  which plans to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to end aging and to greatly enhance our intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. Lucy Schumans article gives us an insight the thought process that goes down in making of humanoids. In her article,  “Figuring the Human in AI and Robotics”, she talks about the human properties that are transferred into robots explained with the science of the process.

To be human is to possess agency. This statement is undisputed but schuman further investigates and explains it. She says “at stake, then, is the question what other possible conceptions of humanness there might be, and how those might challenge current regimes of research and development in the science of the artificial”. She asks what exactly is the breakdown of agency?. We have the power to control our life and take decisions independently. If a robot could be like this, we could call it to  have agency too. To be able to function on its own just like us humans do. It would no longer be in our control and artificial intelligence would see a new ray of light. This to me sounds like a total dystopia. Reminds me of the classic novels ‘brave new world’ and ‘1984’ that showed the negative consequence of advanced technology but this level of artificial intelligence is many steps ahead of what was contained in the book. To many just like me, it does not sound appealing.

‘Much mind maybe formed in and through the workings of embodied action’ , embodied action here the context in which the robot is and the context is given by us about the world it is in. Embodiment is not only the mechanics of the robot but the information and program we put in. We input the knowledge that we have, in turn giving the robot same ideas as we possess about the way to see and understand this world.

‘Emotional processes as well as reason are necessary to intelligence…the inability of today’s computers to recognize, express and have emotions severely limits their ability to act intelligently’. From this we get that emotions is what makes us humans and robots are unable to perform this task that we do. A machine is only logical and highly intelligent that way. Schuman adds that having emotions with logic is a higher level of intelligence and researchers will have to add emotions to these robots in order for them to be as close to humans as they can get. The way kismet would try to imitate and understand the human emotion, more machines need to be built that way and better. They need to know when to show which particular emotion without getting to be prompted the way kismet did. Personally i would love to see it happening.

Lastly, Schuman talks about sociability. No man is an island, we all know that. We are also called as social animals. This ability has not been part of robots yet and it needs to be part of it in order to become more like humans. Even with kismet, she needs someone to be with her in order to be interactive and when alone she does not crave anyone to be with her the way humans do. The anguish we feel due to loneliness is not thus been programmed in robots.

I believe that robots won’t be able to surpass us and will only have the information we can give and we can not give any more information than we have. Thus maybe there will come a time when robots will be like thinking individuals but not the ones that surpass us. I can not be too sure but i sure hope that I am right.

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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in Uncategorized


Life as an act of Play

When we think of the word ‘play’, the first thing that pops into our mind is anything that is done for recreation. Play is what kids do and adults watch. That is obviously an extremely narrow definition of play but generally that is our reflexive response to the word.

Play is most definitely something we do for fun but it is a lot more than that. According to Flannigan, play revolves around highly cultural and social aspects of existence. Play is used as a tool in different cultures and understood differently in each. It is a mode of learning and therefore a way of knowing. It is kinesthetic way of learning things around you. We do it through mimesis. We understand the rules and act accordingly.

Since play is an embodied experience, it draws our attention to things we normally ignore. For example, kids play this game called ‘I spy’, where you have to observe your surroundings and make guesses. What is observed is generally ignored by us. It is just one example of many out there. the author of theWant to Play? talks about play as “work to legitimize or facilitate alternative ways of knowing” and that, “the play space that they work within have a lasting impact” (2013, par. 3). Which could be understood as play having an immense impact even after its over. Depending on how you did by understanding how it the act is done, performing mimesis, thinking new tactics of doing the same task to beat the opponent while staying within the rules. It gives you a chance to be creative. If executed well, play can leave you feeling fleeted or if done wrong then feeling depressed and dejected. This shows that play produces social meaning for people. Could be either good or bad but it is lasting and passed on to generations to experience the old in a new way. According to Flannigan, play is mesmerizing because it is uncertain and has capacity to change. Thus over time, the same games we play, mesmerize us in different way.

According to Malaby, play can not be compartmentalized from everyday life experiences. It is part of everyday and our investigation of it can not begin with prior assumptions. Everything is learned within it. Play is work and work molded according to cultural expectation and accomplishments. To understand the power in the play, we need to live it. Live the transformation and dynamism of it and experience a transformation within. It gives us a space to refigure things and generate new practices, “there are frustrations and challenges and not everyone is a winner.” (2013, par. 5). The winner feels power after the game and it affects him in other areas of life. Play could be seen as a way of living. As an art form that if done right according to cultural norms, can leave you with good. Since the power play is ongoing, it helps the player see things from others point of view. Player is able to be in others shoes and see why certain decisions are made that way. It is not only enjoyment but also frustrations and a lot more.

There is a lot a of power involved in play. We kinesthtically understand our genders power play. We through observation, know that women take up less space and tend to hunch while mean take up more space and keep their bodies more open. Games that we play more often than not reinforce the different socially dictated avenues, such as gender stereotypes. There are certain games/toys for boys and girls. Boys play wtih cars and violent video games and girls play with babries and dress up games online. These material semiotic knots are slowing being broken but mostly they are tightened by the market that produces such games.

Surprisingly, games have rich history that has passed down to us but we seldom know its background. The little song “ring around the [Rosy]… revolved around the bubonic plague” (2013, par. 4). There is a very different meaning behind this play compared to the meaning we attach to this play. I am from Pakistan and we sing and move around in circles listening to this song, thinking it is about roses and dancing. When it most certainly is a dark poem. What this song represented to me and kids around me is a stark contrast to how it was understood during the time of its creation.

The tension we experience in play creates order and disorder. It immerses us in it gives us new things to encounter that we normally wouldn’t. With all of this happening, it has been able to form social bonds and communities while also on the other hand, doing the opposite of it. Play is very much part of us as we are part of it and we while being in it are in constant state of transformation which is good articulation. Good articulation is what mostly all we need to survive the right way.

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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Uncategorized



I like the way I function with all that I have. I am used to it and this is my reality of life. It took me years to understand the use of my senses and I still am unaware of a lot about it but its mine and are part of my world. A world that I understand to through my senses and make the world understand me with the help of these senses. Losing even one of the senses would mean the world becoming a puzzle with few parts missing. It just gives a very incomplete and hard to imagine world. Something I can’t associate myself with. But if this were to happen, and my reality was to be shaken and if i could give up one of my 5 senses. I am using the traditional five sense model so as to make it easier for me to decide. I

would  give up my sense of smell. Before I explain why i could give up my olfactory, I would like to explain why giving up other senses would be much harder.

I chose smell not because it isn’t a significant part of how I construct my world but because losing the sense of smell does not seem as damaging as other senses do. I absolutely can not live without sight. It’s a no no. Sight for me holds truth like nothing else and i can’t ‘see’ myself living without it. Plus this world, the people, organisms and synthetic stuff and everything else imaginable makes life ‘life’ which i can only experience through my eyes!  I live through my eyes, I believe through my eyes and I sense my surroundings through my eyes. I learn through my eyes. And experiencing all these emotions without eyes would be a dark, dry and boring world, a world where I would constantly be needing someone else’s support to get me through the day. Even though after reading Oliver Sacks work I came to realize how other senses compensate for a non functional sense but it is extremely hard for me to imagine my life without sight.

I love food! It’s gives color to my world. Food is indulgence, it’s guilty pleasure. It is so important that even Eve and Adam couldn’t resist the temptation. Sometimes different tastes make my day brighter, more special and eventful. Taste is something I refuse to do without. Period.

Touch is important as I need to know how my body feels, my surrounding feels, how to keep my self safe from harm. How the first touch of my new born child would feel. Touch is so related to feelings! How cuddling feels, how a mothers hug feels, how pain makes you feel. Without touch it would be like robbing yourself of so many emotions. I would have things in my hand but it would feel like an illusion as I wont be able to feel it. It would feel weird and unreal.

Hearing is too crucial for survival. Sound is every where and we use it as means of information. Listening to people and learning through the means of hearing, hearing the fire alarms and car horns for our safety, listening to the baby crying, enjoying the music and forgetting our woes through the medium of sound. I love to listen to myself sing or hear my loved ones voice. Sometimes when I miss the people I love, I hear their recordings to make myself feel better. I can’t remember ever experiencing complete silence. Even when I am home alone with every sound imaginable turned off around me, there is a strange buzzing in my ears, which i read somewhere means it is your brain trying to repair itself and is failing. Which is kind of sad :s but coming back to the topic, I feel even if I try to keep everything sound free for a while, I feel claustrophobic, its weird I know but I do.

Now coming to why i would be less devastated with the sense of smell is firstly because all other senses are more important to me in everyday life and secondly because loss of smell wont affect the way i perceive and understand my world as much. Yes I wont be able to smell my body odor and might disgust people around me or the taste of food would be toned down as taste and smell our related. And yes i will also not be able to enjoy different fragrances but it does not seem as damaging. It seems live-able like this. My sense of space and time would be intact. I won’t need to depend on others as much and I would be able to independently live my life.

While I know that there are people who lose any of these senses and still manage it but after writing all this I feel blessed to have been born with all of the senses and hope to never go through unfortunate situations that might cause such a loss.

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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


reflection4 on food and senses

David Suttons journal explores the experience and cultural meaning we ascribe to food. While reading the part where he talked about taste not being only about taste buds but also with the temperature and the texture of the food. I had never heard that desert or sweet food is considered feminine and hot and spicy food is considered masculine. Food is the last thing i imagined having being associated with gender differences. What i was more shocked to read was that spicy foods in some cultures are considered an aphrodisiac as after having spicy food all one would want could be water to stop the burning tongue and maybe some ice cream.

I enjoy Jamie Oliver’s cooking shows because he makes the process of cooking as enjoyable as it is enjoyable when we eat. With him its all about projecting yourself while cooking and making the food yours. Its beautiful but i wonder if he ever thinks of the things we read in David suttons journal. With him food is all about love, i don’t see culture coming in between so there is no pride or embarrassment in the kinds of foods being made. It has no boundaries. Sense of taste is crucial but he pays great attention to the presentation and their is a certain way makes it aesthetically pleasing.

In the article i read “no two cooks can ever produce the same flavor  (Sutton, 2010, page 9). Boy do I know about that or what. I cook everything from my moms recipes and it never tastes the same. In fact, when i cook chicken and rice, I am told I make it smell like fish! Don’t ask me how I manage to do that, Its a rare talent. It has an upside though, smelling my food helps reduce their appetite.

David Sutton said “Flavor becomes a social agent in itself and food a “trap” (p. 48) through which women can exert power within families and in wider social networks.” and this is see consistent with so many cultures! As they say a man’s heart is through his stomach. For centuries women have understood cooking as a way of winning her man and fitting into his family. The better she cooks, the more control she has in the family, specially in when the son lives with his parents like they do in south Asian countries. In these countries no matter how educated the girl is, if she can’t cook, her worth would be lesser than a domesticated girl who can work wonders in the kitchen.

In the end we all love food and for me sense of taste is one sense i can’t imagine my life without. It fills my world with all the color it needs and if good food was a person, i’d marry him

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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Uncategorized