The Dawn of the ‘Tryborg’

Publication Title
The New York Times
Publication/Creation Date
November 30 2016
Jillian Weise (creator)
Donna Haraway (contributor)
Aimee Mullins (contributor)
Persuasive Intent
In this witty and poetic exploration of disability and technology, Jillian Weise writes about her prosthetic leg and her cyborg identity as sources of pride. She claims power by subverting the narrative that frames disabled people as desiring to become able-bodied. Cyborgs are typically "disabled people interfaced with technology" in some capacity. On the other hand, the ‘Tryborg’ is a non-disabled person who desires to claim cyborg status through use of technology and metaphor (like Donna Haraway's feminist text, 'The Cyborg Manifesto'), but cannot achieve it. Tryborgs can be Silicon Valley millionnaires, academics, transhumanists, or ordinary people. She writes,

"Tryborgs want to be cyborgs. This is why they go to bed with Fitbit, brag about gigabit and buy kit with Bitcoin. They have an affinity for the it or the Id. But even when they find a mate by swiping right, and then tell that mate how many steps they walked since Sunday, still they are not cyborgs. To mistake them for cyborgs is to confuse the figurative with the literal."

Weise explores power and ableism in our society by revealing that tryborgs maintain status and control by denying the existence of real cyborgs (disabled people). She writes, 

"The opinions of cyborgs are conspicuously absent from the expert panels, the tech leadership conferences and the advisory boards. The erasure is not news to us. We have been deleted for centuries, and in the movies, you will often see us go on a long, fruitful journey, only to delete ourselves in the end."

She also discusses the lack of design diversity in prosthetics, especially for women. She writes,

"It [the C-Leg prosthetic] gives me the muscular calf of a man-cyclist. I have a ruler, and the company name, on my shin. I can choose between the colors Volcano Shadow or Desert Pearl, which is to say, gray or brownish-gray. I cannot choose a female option because there are none. I have no complaint about androgyny. But I’m just a regular femme who likes to show her legs."
HCI Platform
Relation to Body
Related Body Part

Date archived
October 8 2018
Last edited
January 25 2022
How to cite this entry
Jillian Weise. (November 30 2016). "The Dawn of the ‘Tryborg’". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Fabric of Digital Life.