Chronicles of In-Valid You/th

This is a blog that is going to document an interdisciplinary adventure into engaging young people through the medium of film-making about the social and ethical consequences of physical enhancement and augmentation. It is going to chronicle the journey of those who become involved in making the film about how it feels like to be ‘physically different’ by those who are defined by their age and ‘socio-economic difference’.

So what do you think it feels like to have a bionic head and tentacles for ears? Instead of eyes there are gills and hands have sticky tongues with a brain stimulator that allows the temporary ability to think faster? Over the next 18 months ‘The Chronicles of In-Valid Youth’ will present the challenges and progress that is made from concept to end-result.

In this blog the team, Ali and Allison, Cameron and Claudine, Patrick, Kate, Gill, Tirion, Graham, as well as some of the young people will document their thoughts in print, on film and in pictures.


Everyday Cyborgs and Humanimals Event Rescheduled!

Great news everyone! The “Everyday Cyborgs and Humanimals” event originally scheduled for December last year has been rescheduled! It will now take place on Saturday the 14th of April, 2018 between 1-3 pm at the Filmhouse Edinburgh.

Get your tickets now, just follow this link and it’ll take you to the Eventbrite page: Everyday Cyborgs and Humanimals Tickets

Here’s a reminder of what it’s all about:

If you had the choice between animal, mechanical or human parts to repair or replace your failing organs what would you choose?  If an individual is no longer 100% biologically human does that change their bodies, their identity and their relationships with significant others?

The event is a unique opportunity to view four short films and animations answering these questions from the perspectives of patients, artists, and young people. Films include an animation exploring the dualism of the heart as the engine of the body and the seat of the soul; an action short created by young people based on how it would feel to be ‘humanimal’, and an animation of life as an everyday cyborg based on interviews with people who live life with an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD).

We really hope to see a lot of you there!

Thoko and Gill

Tickets now available!

Hey everyone, really pleased to announce that you can now get tickets for Everyday Cyborgs and Humanimals at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on the 9th of December! Here’s the full event description:

In a future where human beings can live longer by putting different kinds of materials (animal, mechanical or human) in the body, more of us, will have more in us.

On Saturday 9th of December there will be a unique opportunity to view a collection of short films and animations that all raise the question: if an individual is no longer 100% biologically human does that change them as a person? In doing so, we discover what it is about human beings, being human.

Films include a live-action short created by young people based on how it would feel to be ‘humanimal’, and an animation of life as an everyday cyborg based on interviews with people who have an implantable cardiac defibrillator.

The event starts at 1 pm and will end at 3 pm. Go to eventbrite and get your tickets now following this link: Tickets for Everyday Cyborgs and Humanimals

Looking forward to seeing you all there!


Date confirmed!

everyday cyborgs blog banner

Hi all!

So, first of all, our viewing of Broken Wings in Muirhouse on the 10th of August was a definite success. It was just amazing to see everyone’s hard work coming together like that!

Planning and preparation for the grand premiere of all four films created as part of the project is in full swing! The date has been confirmed and the event is set to go ahead at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on the 9th of December 2017, 1-3 pm. Be sure to keep an eye out for your invitation to Everyday Cyborgs and Humanimals (contributors first of course!), and more to come very soon!



Animal Mechanical Update And Broken Wings Soundtrack

Hi Folks!

So, my name’s Thoko and I’m a PhD student here at Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, at Edinburgh Uni. I wanted to say hi, and introduce myself because I’m going to working with Gill and the rest of the Animal Mechanical and Me gang for a couple of months. I’ll also be taking over posting on the blog to give Gill a bit of a break in these hectic times…

So, here’s an update of what’s been happening lately. We’ve been working hard for the past few weeks on a bunch of stuff to do with Animal Mechanical. Mainly we’ve been working on the films. There are now four short films: Electrifying the Cyborg Heart, Maggie’s ICD Story, Everyday Cyborg, and Broken Wings (film makers just putting the finishing touches on some of them). Gill and I have been working on a long list of people we can potentially pull together people to get reactions from, using one or more of the films as prompts (doctor’s, nurses, and people with ICD’s to name a few).

We’ve also been working on organising the screening of all the films at the Edinburgh Filmhouse. We’ll watch the films, we’ll have the creators of the films with us, and we’ll have panel style chats about the films and all things Animal Mechanical and Me. It’s probably going to happen sometime in October, so keep an eye on the blog for updates on that. Also, if you have any thoughts on who you think we should invite, or if you really want to come yourself (and are worried you won’t get an invite), send us a note through the blog, tweet us, or just let us know some other way and we’ll put you on the list!

There’s also going to be a screening of the Muirhouse project Broken Wings, in (you guessed it) Muirhouse next week. I’ll blog about it afterward to keep you all in the loop…

In the meantime here’s a taste of the Broken Wings soundtrack!


Everyday Cyborgs to Humanimals….

One of the key aims of the research that I am undertaking is to take a comparative approach to how individuals experience altered subjectivities through cybernetic technologies for example, with an exploration of people’s views of alternative replacement materials.  I believe preferences (hypothetically stated) may lead to unique insights into the experiences of being embodied humans.  To this end, and with a huge amount of help, focus groups with different sub-groups of the population and questionnaires to young people have been conducted and distributed.  Analysing the results has begun and it is looking very exciting.  The preferences put to people were:

  1. Living organ donation,
  2. Deceased organ donation,
  3. Cybernetic (mechanical) implants,
  4. Animal transplants (pig mostly),
  5. 3D bioprinted organs.

What one would you prefer?  If you had to be changed, what would you want to be changed with?  And why?


BROKEN WINGS! Animating Ava and the humanimals.


Monday 3rd March 2017

The progress is amazing on the animation sequences! With the fantastic support of Claudine and Cameron (and Chrissy too!) we all spent yesterday in Summerhall bringing some quality creative work to the fore.

The story of Ava the humanimal takes centre stage; I will not say much more that that (SPOILERS!!!) other than the film will be called ‘Broken Wings’ and we also have some logo materials created by Annie and Cameron to get the hoodies on for the shoot. The diary dates are in for filming.  Everyone is having a few days of training on how to actually shoot the film this week; some decisions need to be made about casting and actors; and animation sequences to be completed.  It is UNBELIEVABLE the amount of hard work that is going on here.  Last night folks were not even up for leaving aftern spending all day working hard on different parts of the opening sequences..these (young) people and creatives are some kind of amazing and I am one lucky person to be able to hang out.


Not sure what Mia is up to in this one


Some great images


Yuck. That is all.


Annie working hard on the illustrations.


Here’s one we made earlier:)


Siobhan showing me how to make cranes..


Some of the end results.  

3-D bioprinting; What to like?

Very excited to have been busy working with colleagues on a newish but related venture writing about 3D bioprinting.  It fits with the 3Rs that I am working with (repair, replace and regenerate) when it comes to technoscience and the human body.  Niki Vermeulen, Tirion Seymour and I wrote an article with Alan FaulknerJones and Will Su (both biomedical engineers) on some of the pros and cons of 3D bioprinting – you can find the article here  The blog begins:

Picture this: It is twenty years’ from now and , one of your organs has stopped functioning properly or even at all. You will not need to wait in the long line of the human organ transplant list however. Instead, you can have an organ ready made for you. Bespoke design and ready to use. Who would not want this as a future scenario? While 3D printing is working with inorganic materials, the intention of bioprinting is to work with organic materials (including living cells) to create structures approximating body parts. These new forms of printing, should they be fully realised, will, it is argued, have the same revolutionary and democratising effect as book printing in their applicability to regenerative medicine and industry. Individually designed biological structures or body parts will become as available as text in modern literate societies. Not only would it make organs widely available to those who need them, but 3D printing organs would also resolve entrenched ethical problems ranging from eliminating the market in human organs and avoiding recipient rejection to averting human or non-human animal organs. Therefore, long-term 3D bioprinting has the potential to be a ‘game-changer’, no longer necessitating the need for living or deceased human donation as human organs would be printed on demand.

Read more at:

GUEST BLOG!!! Adjusting To New Technology – By Rebekah Wolkind

Rebekah Wolkind, a post graduate student here at the UoE has written a blog for Diabetes UK about here experiences living with an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring and has allowed me to reproduce her blog here!  Thank you Rebekah!!



While watching Charlie Brooker’s sweep of the year, I was made aware of ‘Naked Attraction’ an absurdly premised programme whereby individuals choose a date based only on seeing their suitors naked. Shamefully curious I looked it up and was begrudgingly hooked in. I was struck by one thing in particular; these people were so very very naked.

I’m not just stating the obvious here. For those of us who use a pump and CGM this level of nakedness isn’t possible. Perhaps it occurs in brief moments in between set changes, but most of the time by body is hooked up, wired in.

What struck me further, were the strong feelings of sadness and jealousy it brought up in me.  Perhaps I have not come as far as I thought in accepting my condition, I thought.

I shifted from daily injections to a pump about two years ago, and have recently started to use the freestyle Libre. When I was on injections, I was more able to keep up the façade of normality. I kept my pens and meter in my bag, and I tested in private around people who didn’t know.  I never had to break through the shame and sadness of having a body that doesn’t function; in fact the invisibility of the illness fed that sense of shame by allowing me to maintain secrecy.

My pump and freestyle Libre provide a much better representation of what it’s like to live with type 1 diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes cannot be put in a bag. Its shot through my body and mind every moment of every day. It’s the constant calculations of carbs, boluses and corrections, the relentless worry of going low with all the entailing symptoms and anxieties of future complications from going high. It’s an exhausting and ever present condition.

But after 8 long years of all the above and two years with a pump, my self-image is of someone with a pump-less, CGM-less, healthy body. And every time I realise that’s not true, my heart breaks a little.

The reality is with the advent of new technology; many people are now living a cyborg life. Cochlea implants; robotic prosthetics, even the common contraceptive implant arguably falls under this category.

During my undergraduate degree, I studied Donna Harraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto”, which predicts a future of blurred boundaries between human and machine. Reading this made being a cyborg feel a lot cooler than it had done previously. But I still have a long way to go in accepting that being part machine is a legitimate way of being human, a legitimate body to have and in fact (as Harraway predicted) an increasingly normal body to have.

There are practical adjustments to being attached to machinery too. At night I sleep with my pump next to me, and when I get up to go to the bathroom in the night, or the next morning, I often forget, stand up, and sometimes pull the cannula out. My pump alarms at various times if there is a low reservoir, low battery or an error. People often assume it’s a phone and this can be awkward when I am in a no-phone zone (in the cinema, in a lecture, in a meeting).

It also adds an extra variable into the already complex realm of diabetes care. If my blood sugar is unexpectedly high, I have to think about all the normal things –  possible illness, miscalculation, hormones – but also whether my pump has failed me. The machine could be broken, the cannula could have kinked or the wire could have bubbles in it. Once my pump entirely failed me when I was living in a foreign country and difficulty in getting a new one cleared through customs meant I was back on injections for almost a month (a hard transition to make).

So these machines fall short of fulfilling the reliability and independence of true bodily organs. They break, they are sometimes mistaken, and ultimately, I still have to tell them what to do. However, they do make me radically more equipped to deal with my diabetes, and to live a normal life.

The pump allows me huge flexibility with regards to reducing my background insulin for exercise or increasing for illness or stress (or a multitude of other reasons). I have different insulin to carbohydrate ratios for different times of day and the pump will calculate my doses for me accordingly. The pump goes down to 0.001 units of insulin compared to the measly 0.5 increments when injecting. In fact, when I have gone back onto injections I’ve realised just how rudimentary it is in comparison.

My new Freestyle Libre allows me to see. I can get second by second updates on my blood sugar. It also tells me the direction so that I’ll know if I’m going up, down or flat (and to various gradients). It means I’m not stabbing in the dark with my doses. It gives me the confidence to go into a meeting with my blood sugars at 4, but know that I’m actually heading up.

Most of all, the visibility of the pump and the freestyle Libre are pushing me to surrender more deeply to the fact that I have a chronic and debilitating condition. I can’t avoid it or pretend not to have it.   This is a painful experience, but it is ultimately very liberating and puts me on the path to a deeper acceptance.

My only wish now is that funding makes these technologies more readily available to all.