Note: Fully revising this page in 2012-2013!
Well, the easiest (and more tangible) response is that "cyborg" is short for cybernetic organism, or what cyborg theorists Gray, Mentor, and Figueroa-Sarriera (1995) call the melding of the organic and the mechanic, or the engineering of a union between separate organic systems (p. 3). They admit, however, that the range of human-machine couplings almost defies definition: even existing human cyborgs range from the quadriplegic patient totally dependent on a vast array of high-tech equipment to a small child with one immunization(p. 4). Yes, this is all a bit confusing...but many cyborgologists would say that we are all cyborgs to some extent, especially as our daily lives become increasingly connected to technologies of all kinds.
The more theoretical response to the question, "What is a cyborg?" should probably begin with Donna Haraway, whose 1985 paper entitled "A manifesto for cyborgs: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the 1980s" ushered in the academic discourse on cyborgs, hybrid creatures who blur the boundaries between the various boundary projects of modernity, including human/machine, human/animal, male/female, and so on. For Haraway, the postmodern self is no longer characterized by a singular, unified identity, but an assortment of politicized and fractured cyborg selves. A related notion involves the attempt to take control over one's cyborgification, whether through some sort of body modification or other medical procedures in which there is an intimate interface with technology. Finally, Gray (2001) and others have begun to investigate how agency and citizenship will function in cyborg societies.
Applied to sport, the image of the cyborg challenges the notion of "pure human" competitors who rely on old-fashioned blood, sweat, and tears, and NOT chemicals, implants, and gears! The intersection between cyborg theory and sport studies, while not yet fully developed, raises important questions related to practices like "body policing" in elite sport, as well as ethical questions related to the frightening prospect (or for some a foregone conclusion) of genetically altered athletes. Regardless of one's position, reconceptualizing "human" athletes as always and already cyborgs may render labels such as "natural" and artificial" inconsequential, and allow athletes, spectators, and scholars alike to begin sorting through the much more complex, politicized and uncertain terrain of the inumerable forms and ways of being cyborg in contemporary technocultures. Here's a decent wikipedia entry on cyborg sport: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyborgs_in_sports
So, that's a start, anyway. Of course, we could talk about cyborgs in film (e.g. Terminator, Fantastic Planet, AI, & BladeRunner), or the cyborgification of both modern warfare (e.g., "clean" and "shiny" weapons) and sexuality (viagrafication of masculinity, cybersex, etc.), but we'll save that for later. Until then, I've included a hopelessly inadequate list of references and links to get you going!
Selected academic sources (Updating 2009!!!)
Balsamo, A. (2000). Reading cyborgs writing feminism. In G. Kirkup, L. Janes, K. Woodward, & F. Hovenden (Eds.), The gendered cyborg: A reader (pp. 148-158). New York: Routledge.
Gray, C. H. (2001). Cyborg citizen: Politics in the posthuman age. New York: Routledge.
Gray, C. H., Mentor, S., & Figueroa-Sarriera, H. J. (1995). Cyborgology: Constructing the knowledge of cybernetic organisms. In C. H. Gray (Ed.), The cyborg handbook (pp. 1-14). New York: Routledge.
Haraway, D. J. (1985). A manifesto for cyborgs: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the 1980s. Socialist Review, 80, 65-107.
Haraway, D. J. (1991). Simians, cyborgs, and women: The reinvention of nature. New York: Routledge.
Haraway, D. J. (1997). Modest witness@second millennium.femaleman meets oncomouse. New York: Routledge.
Hayles, N. K. (1999). How we became posthuman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Philosophy/Cultural Studies of Technology
Feenberg, A. (1995). Subversive rationalization: Technology, power, and democracy. In A. Feenberg & A. Hannay (Eds.), Technology and the politics of knowledge (pp. 65-84). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Feenberg, A. (1999). Questioning technology. New York: Routledge.
Ihde, D. (1993). Philosophy of technology: An introduction. New York: Paragon.
Menser, M., & Aronowitz, A. (1996). On cultural studies, science, and technology. In S. Aronowitz, B. Martinsons, & M. Menser (Eds.), Technoscience and cyberculture (pp. 7-30). New York: Routledge.
Sport, Technology, and Cyborgs
Busch, A. (1998). Design for sports: The cult of performance. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
Butryn, T. M. (2000). Posthuman podiums: The technological life-history narratives of elite track and field athletes. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Butryn, T. M. (2001). Cyborg horizons: Sport and the ethics of self-technologization. Research in Philosophy and Technology. In press.
Chapman, G. E. (1997). Making weight: Lightweight rowing, technologies of power, and technologies of the self. Sociology of Sport Journal, 14, 205-223.
Cole, C. L. (1993). Resisting the canon: Feminist cultural studies, sport, and technologies of the body. Journal of Sport and Social Issues,17, 77-97.
Cole, C. L. (1998). Addiction, exercise, and cyborgs: Technologies and deviant bodies. In G. Rail (Ed.), Sport and postmodern times (pp. 261-275). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Cole, C. L. (2000). Body studies in the sociology of sport: A review of the field. In J. Coakley and E. Dunning (Eds.), Handbook of sport studies (pp. 439-460). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cole, C. L. (2000). Testing for sex or drugs. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 24, 331-333.
Eichberg, H. (1982). Stopwatch, horizontal bar, gymnasium: The technologizing of sports in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 9, 43-59.
Farrey, T. (2000, January 20). Morphing the human body. [On-line]. Available: http://espn.go.com/otl/athlete/intro.html.
Franklin, S. (1996). Postmodern body techniques: Some anthropological considerations on natural and postnatural bodies. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology,18, S95-S106.
Hoberman, J. (1995). Sport and the technological image of man. In W. J. Morgan & K. V. Meier (Eds.), Philosophic inquiry in sport (pp. 202-208). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Pronger, B. (1998). Post-sport: Transgressing boundaries in physical culture. In G. Rail (Ed.), Sport and postmodern times (pp. 277-298). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Rintala, J. (1995). Sport and technology: Human questions in a world of machines. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 19, 62-75.
Shogan, D. (1999). The making of high-performance athletes: Discipline, diversity, and ethics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Simon, R. L. (1994). Better performance through chemistry: The ethics of enhancing ability through drugs. In S. Luper-Foy & C. Brown (Eds.), Drugs, morality, and the law (pp. 133-150). Hamden, CT: Garland Publishing.
Zorpette, G. (1999, Fall). Muscular again. Scientific American, 10, 27-31.
Sounds of Cyborgs
(will update in 2009-2010!!!)