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.


A little story about our Filmhouse event

Hi Folks!

As most of you know, the Everyday Cyborgs and Humanimals event went ahead on April 14th at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh. For those of you couldn’t make it here’s a little “ethnography” of the event:

It was exciting because it was the first public screening of all our films: ‘Electrifying Cyborg Heart’, ‘Everyday Cyborgs’, ‘Maggie’s ICD Story’, and ‘Broken Wings’. Saturday was lovely and felt like the first spring day of the year. Gill and I welcomed people at the door, while Anna took some photos of the audience. We gave everybody a programme, an Everyday Cyborgs and Humanimals pen, and a questionnaire to fill out at the end.

Gill gave a short introduction basically to welcome everyone to the event and to thank everyone for coming. All four short films had been cut together, with short introductions from Gill and film-makers in between. The viewing took about 45 minutes, after which Gill, and two of the filmmakers, animators Cameron Duguid and Ross Ziegelmeier took questions from the audience. Questions about the project and the films raised by audience members were quite varied. The first was about ‘Everyday Cyborgs’ and the choice to create animations based on interviews with patients and their relatives, as opposed to just showing the interviews. Gill explained that the reason was wanting to find a way to bring the different stories and experiences that came out of the interviews together. Cameron also added that there were ethical reasons for not simply filming and showing interviews mainly because it would have been impossible to preserve anonymity.

The same audience member, referring to ‘Electrifying Cyborg Heart’ expressed that what he didn’t like about the format of animation was that it had a way of making the phenomenon of ICD’s seem unreal. Cameron explained that what they were trying to do with ‘Electrifying Cyborg Heart’ was to meditate on the symbolism of the heart and to distill themes that had come up through the project more than to “reflect reality”.

To this, one audience member commented that the “reality” of ICD’s is so visceral and medical that if we had taken a more realistic approach we might have distanced some viewers, and that she felt that the fact that they were animations meant that she could follow the stories in a way she may not have been otherwise.

Cameron agreed that this was a hard balance to maintain, and mentioned that there had been discussions about this and that a decision had been made that images of actual hearts, for example, could throw people off. Gill also mentioned in this context that the project was about bodily experience with a broad focus – part of the project is the interesting duality where the heart is both symbolically very loaded and simultaneously “just” a pump.

This was followed by an interesting discussion on recognising internal parts of ourselves as ourselves, and whether we are more used to identifying with external body-parts and “how we look” – the inside understood as a sort of “alien territory”. Gill explained that her research has shown that this changes for people over time and that it differs between people. For some having an implant is not much of a challenge, but for others, it can be, like in the case of Maggie in ‘Maggie’s ICD Story’. This discussion led to a suggestion from the audience to personalise ICD’s – Can you give them a name? Would that help some people to identify with their “new body part”?

It also led to a question from the audience about the difference between an ICD and a prosthetic like a hip replacement. Gill explained that the project had come out of previous research she had done on organ transplantation where she was interested in the narratives around organ transplantation and why they persist. This led to the question – how would you feel about a device? And the main difference between a hip replacement and an ICD is that the hip replacement is not cybernetic.

One of the audience members commented that the last film “Broken Wings” was very different from the other three. Broken Wings was the live-action short that came out of the collaboration between professional filmmakers and young people. Gill explained that the idea from the film had come from brainstorming and discussion sessions with the young people where they had been asked to think around the subject of ICD’s and the experience that might come with that. They had ended up with several options but had landed on this one, which gave a contrast to the other films in that it focused more on acceptance of yourself – on how identity is shaped and challenged.

The final questions were both about the collaboration between social scientists like Gill and animators – the first directed at Cameron and Ross and the second at Gill. Both Cameron and Ross had worked with social scientists before and agreed that it was a great thing to do. Gill joked that it was awful but quickly retracted and recommended it wholeheartedly.

All in all, we had a great couple of hours at the Filmhouse Edinburgh. It was great to see the films and to hear from some of the creators, and the event went off without a hitch!

*We wore rainbow lanyards together with the blue Edinburgh University ones to promote a more inclusive public image of the University and as a note of appreciation for LGBT+ contributions to academic thought around identity, selfhood, and embodiment, and around the figure of the cyborg in the Western cultural imaginary.

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.