Giving Meaning to RFID and Cochlear Implants: Technology as tool, the normal self, and the enhanced self

Sandra Wagemakers, Liesbet van Zoonen, Georgina Turner

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)
    106 Downloads (Pure)


    RFID implants are controversial for their potential use in society. However, as the social shaping of technology predicts, technology itself is not inherently good or bad; it is important how the technology is used. Through an ongoing process of giving meaning to a technology, people incorporate a technology into their lives and in this sense ‘domesticate’ it. Using semi-structured interviews with people with a cochlear implant (CI) and do-it-yourselfers with a RFID implant, this study sheds light on the meaning individuals give to their implants. Three repertoires were found among my respondents: technology as a tool, the normal self, and the enhanced self. CI-users perceive the implant as a tool to be able to hear and participate in society. This study shows that the CI-users desire a body that functions as it normally should because they want to participate in society. The CI is a means to achieve this normalization and the fact that it is implanted rather than attached to the body is generally of minor concern. The RFID tagged persons can also perceive their implant as a tool, but attach different meanings to it. Whereas the CI-users want to blend in society, some RFID implantees use their implant to stand out. Some RFID implantees perceive themselves as upgraded and welcome a tighter integration of technology and their bodies. Moreover, believing in an enhanced self corresponds with wanting to modify the human body to improve the body’s capacity. This shows that desiring human enhancement is not only about the exact details of the enhancement, but also about the mere fact of being enhanced.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)73-80
    JournalTechnology and Society Magazine, IEEE
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


    • Auditory system
    • Cochlear implants
    • radiofrequency identification
    • security
    • wearable computers
    • RFID implants
    • enhancement technology
    • domestication
    • social shaping of technology


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