By Karen Kelly
Photos by Bryan Gagnon
Tamara Banbury refers to herself as a “voluntary cyborg”—a term most people have never heard of.
“A voluntary cyborg is a person who embeds technology under their skin to augment and enhance their life,” says Tamara, who has a microchip embedded in each hand. “For me, my chips are storage devices—what you store on it varies from person to person. It’s a key part of who we are or what we do.”
Tamara came to Carleton to work with Professor Sheryl Hamilton, who is co-appointed to the Department of Law and Legal Studies and the School of Journalism and Communication. Hamilton studies the cross-section of the body and the senses with law and communication. She has written about cyborgs in the past.
Tamara says there isn’t much about cyborgs in the legal literature. Most implants—whether microchips or magnets (another common implant)—are considered body jewelry and regulated as such in Canada. The only restrictions would be on implanting something that requires an anesthetic: that has to be done by a medical professional.
Tamara also considered what the implants represent to people.
“I used my thesis to define who we are and what makes us different from so-called medical cyborgs—people with medical implants,” says Tamara. “It all boils down to body integrity and body autonomy and being able to do what we choose with our bodies. If I want to plant something in my hand, how does that affect anyone else?”
After she establishes the literature that already exists, in a variety of fields, Tamara plans to continue her research through a PhD in Communication. She also hopes to start an open access interdisciplinary journal where both researchers and people in the community can share information. Her goal is to combat people’s misunderstanding and fear.
“Some people get a little weirded out by the concept of implanted tech, but a lot of people find it fascinating,” says Tamara. “I wonder if those who are uncomfortable will feel the same way when it becomes more common. Society accepts technology when convenience overcomes the perceived risk.”
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