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FleshFactor: how many bodies in the umwelt



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A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"
(http://www.aec.at/fleshfactor/arch/)
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There are a few weird things about any discussion of the HCI, and one of
them is the use of the words 'the body' in the singular. Either it is my
body, or your body, or his or hers or the cat's, or it is bodies. To call
it 'the body' makes it
1. an object, in the worst sense of the word: reduced to something separate
from everything mental, an other, abjected, something to be owned and
serviced, a vehicle less expensive and worse maintained than a car.
2. abstract -- a really magnificent achievement: to start out the attempt
to reintroduce physical being into concpets of culture and society, only in
the first breath to turn 'the body' into a sociological abstraction as
immaterial as 'the public', 'the audience' or 'the masses'.

So. (in this kind of forum, a little pop science is important, and it's
important that media artists make these bridges, even at the risk of being
eclectic butterflies who don't have the full monty on every nook of
specialised knowledge) -- your brain doesn't stop inside the bone box at
the top of your neck: it extends through the nerves out into the world
where, as Merleau Ponty says, the world touches it back. We are already
physically hardwired into our environments. It is also pretty clear
(certainly in England) that if you want to find a culprit for deviance,
self-destructive behaviour, anti-social self abuse and so on, then the
internet is almost completely marginal, stastically, and in terms of
behaviour modification.  So is TV: a weak and insipid way of altering that
largely urban, wholly artificial environment that our brains are hardwired
into. Two things will do it:  1. urban planning -- combination of the
built environment and traffic management, producing immense atmospheric
toxins and flabby ugly teenagers who have never run to school 2. dietary
disaster of heavily marketed convenience foods comprising sugar, salt and
fat, all psychotropics and considerably more addictive than Es.  Jaron
lanier had a story going about how VR could become a virtual housing
estate for physically homeless people: that is about it for TV, and pretty
soon for the internet too, if Murdoch can work out how to make a profit
from it. 

And. These misfortunate kids with their bad skins, asthma, attitude
problems, obesity and cultivated stupidity are each others and our
environment, and have their effects on each other and us, because the
environment is now, for most of us, most of the time, the human environment
of the city. Now there are some pretty civilised places, more civilised
than my home town, or at least better at hiding the debris, and there are
some, maybe most, that are worse. But they are my responsibility, not
because I am a good guy who wants to be nice to people (although I am), but
because otherwise, my environment, my world and my body will go to hell in
a hangglider.

Which. Is a very long way round to saying that at least one of the
discussion points launching Fleshfactor seems to me misguided, which is the
idea that /the body/ means something about individuality or identity.
Identity is a surveillance technology, not a biological category (an
individual is just an exemplar of a species, not, as I understand it, a
humanist or theological datum).

E finalmente. Is anyone else reading manuel castells extraordinary _Rise of
the Network Society_?

Best

Sean Cubitt


Merseyside
(replies please via fleshfactor or to my work address: s.cubitt@livjm.ac.uk)

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