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FleshFactor: sweet silence?

A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"

"In light of the latest findings, developments and achievements in the
fields of genetic engineering, neuro-science and networked intelligence,
the conceptual complex now under investigation will include the status of
the individual in networked artificial systems, the human body as the
ultimate original, and the strategies for orientation and interrelation of
the diametric opposites, man and machine, in the reciprocal, necessary
processes of adaptation and assimilation."

Gerfried Stocker, FleshFactor: Informationmaschine Mensch. 

As a species we have been engaged in relationships with machines for a
long, long time.  From the mid-20th century on, the transition from a
transportation to a communications era has been rapid, dramatic and
challenging (traumatic for some).  The fundamental challenge has been for
people to become more machine-like: to increase our efficiency, to extend
our range, to become more tuned-in to a rapidly expanding spectrum of
previously 'unnatural' experience.  As we have erected all kinds of
devices for listening to the universe beyond our sensory borders, we've
had to do more than a little retrenchment into our bodies to keep
ourselves anchored.  I wouldn't try to read this while you are having a
long, deep hot bath surrounded by scented candles and the sounds of the
ancient forest on your CD player, unless you print this out on hard copy

We either have to dress the machines up or down, depending on where you're
coming from.  A lot of people want to make them more human, more sensitive
and sensuous, the way we used to be human--but if they were honest they
would have to admit that there are a lot of times when they don't know
what it's like to be human anymore.  This feeling of 'losing touch' can be
disconcerting, especially for those forced to endure an intimate though
redundant routine, say at their place of employment, with machines within
a machine-centred environment particularly insensitive or hostile to
'humanness'. If we were able to make the workplace 'a kinder and gentler
place' for humans, would this involve dressing the machines up or down? 
All the rhetoric I hear seems to lean towards adding 'human touches'. 

On the other hand, there are good things about keeping machines raw and in
their 'natural' state. It is easier to maintain a sense of the flesh when
machines are appreciated for their inherent alien qualities and
characteristics.  Thinking again of the workplace, when there is often a
clear division between technology and people, at least it is possible to
feel inadequate in a responsible, perhaps constructive way: "I'm
responsible for human error."  But maybe this collective net-muse should
focus only on leisure time concerns?  Afterall, this net-symposium is
being sponsored by an arts or cultural organization, not a labour union. 

So far we have examined the relationship between a first nature (we are
still animals and we have to live in 'Nature 1') and the second nature,
that which can be identified as an artificial nature (mediated reality,
computers, networks...).  And most of the thinking on the integration or
separation of these two natures positions the examiner, the wired human
that apparently still has the option of shutting down the second nature
whenever he or she wants (on hikes or while jogging or biking), in a
special place OUTSIDE or beside both natures, a special zone reserved
for humankind. 

Laura Vandenburgh, in her message, "gaps", points out that 'Nature 1' and
the second-totally-artificial-nature are evolving at very different speeds
and that most of the torque we're experiencing as a species is
self-induced and that maybe art, an informed, advanced, relevant art, may
be useful in relieving some of the stress we're experiencing when and
where the shit hits the fan, so to speak. 

Come on, we've just started batting these natures around a little
bit...the silence over the past week has been provocative and beautiful in
its own way...but every single pleasure generates a little discomfort. 
Can you feel it? 

Tom Sherman, moderator, FleshFactor Net-Symposium   

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