University of Sussex

File(s) not publicly available

The evolution of bionic bodies, devices and their social worlds

posted on 2023-06-09, 03:34 authored by Piera MorlacchiPiera Morlacchi
This paper examines the evolution of key embodiments and representations of the 'bionic man' and its body parts to discuss the dynamics of the social worlds and the political economy of medical devices. The long and challenging journey of how to build body parts and devices at the interfaces of bodies, machines, animals and computers - such as prosthetics, implants and artificial organs - to repair, replace and enhance damaged parts of the human body and the full bionic man has received so far limited investigation. Medical devices that initially were considered controversial are now fully accepted and integrated in our bodies and everyday lives, mostly black boxed and taken for granted (e.g. pacemakers and artificial hearts). However, the convergence of info-, bio- and nano-technologies is creating complex configurations of bodies, new and old devices, and data that deserve attention and should be unpacked, as well as the dynamics of their social worlds examined. In this paper I analyse key embodiments and representations of the bionic man using historical, archival and visual methods. These artefacts are useful sites to study the evolution of temporary actualizations and materializations of medical devices, their social worlds and political economy. This paper contributes to advancing a critical discussion of the ethical, social and legal dimensions and implications of the evolution of smart health technologies and complex configurations of bodies, devices and data.


Publication status

  • Published

Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

EASST/4S2016: Joint Conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) and Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)

Event location

Barcelona, Spain

Event type


Event date

Aug 31 - Sep 3 2016

Department affiliated with

  • Business and Management Publications


Conference theme: Science and technology by other means – exploring collectives, spaces and futures

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected