Notes for Mark B. N. Hansen bodies in code: interfaces with digital media
Key concepts: anaclisis, body-in-code, body image, body schema, dehiscence, double sensation, embodied disembodiment, embodied enaction, indivision, infratactile, internal resonance, interpellation, landing sites, mixed reality, primordial tactility, psychasthenia, reversed epiphenomenalism, schism (ecart), skin ego, vector modelization, virtuality, wearable space.
Machinic constraints still harbor biases and impose interpellations, especially when met as technology consumer. Due to integral nature of sense, priority of double sensation, need to stimulate other embodied sensations beyond simulating visual experiences. Propose similar experiments in catalyzing shifts from predominantly visual to audible interfaces.
Related theorists: Anzieu, Arakawa, Bergson, Bick, Butler, Roger Caillois, Clark, Char Davies, Damasio, Peter Eisenman, Thomas Foster, Gallagher, J. J. Gibson, Jose Gil, Gins, Hayles, Ken Hillis, Hans Jonas, Krueger, Jaron Lanier, Lozano-Hemmer, Massumi, Merleau-Ponty, Millon, Celeste Olalquiaga, Mark Poster, Ruyer, Simondon, Stiegler.
(ix) My explicit aim is to show how
Merleau-Ponty's final ontology of the flesh, with its postulation of
a fundamental indifference between body and world, requires a
technics - a theory of the originary technicity of the human.
(x) the focused analysis in Part II are offered as exemplary instances of “bodies in code,” a term designating embodiment as it is necessarily distributed beyond the skin in the context of contemporary technics.
(x-xi) the virtual is by no means limited to contemporary digital technologies (even if it has a certain elective affinity with the digital), but rather stretches back to the proto-origin of the human.
From the Image to the Power of
Imaging: Virtual Reality and the “Originary” Specularity
1. ALL REALITY IS MIXED REALITY
(2) With the convergence of physical and virtual spaces informing today's corporate and entertainment environments, researchers and artists have come to recognize that motor activity - not representationlist verisimilitude - holds the key to fluid and functional crossings between virtual and physical realms.
Krueger father of mixed reality paradigm that foregrounds role of body.
[Myron] Krueger stands
as a kind of father figure for the entire mixed reality paradigm.
(4) First, the mixed reality paradigm radically reconfigures a trait that has characterized virtual reality from its proto-origin as the representationalist fantasy par excellence: namely, a desire for complete convergence with natural perception.
(5) the new mixed reality paradigm foregrounds the constitutive or ontological role of the body in giving birth to the world.
(5) the role of self-movement as the bodily - or better, the tactile - face of perception. . . . all reality is mixed reality.
THE POWER OF IMAGING AND THE PRIVILEGE OF THE OPERATIONAL
(9) Here, the transcendental function of mixed reality as a specification (our contemporary specification) of technics is, to stimulate or provoke the power of the body to open the world.
(9) Let us say that mixed reality appears from the moment that tools first delocalized and distributed human sensation, notably touch and vision. . . . Place in this context, mixed reality, then, designates the general condition of phenomenalization ensuing from the “originary” coupling of the human and the technical.
(9) Blindspot [by Tim Hawkinson] is an anatomically arrayed photographic portrait of all the surface areas of the artist's body that he cannot see with his eyes.
(11) At the limit, then, the image of the body presented in Blindspot is not an image of the body, but rather an expression of the power (a power of imaging) that belongs to the embodied organism insofar as it is an “originarily” technical being.
(11) Despite appearances, Ruyer does not so much deny the (physical) reality of embodiment as displace it in favor of an ontological understanding of radical, indeed “originary,” subjectivity.
How does Ruyer reversed epiphenomenalism stand against Zizek claim that fantasy is radically intersubjective?
(12) [Raymond] Ruyer
conceptualizes his understanding as “reversed epiphenomenalism,”
meaning a reversal of the doctrine that subjectivity is an
epiphenomenon of physical, material properties. . . . Ruyer's work
radicalizes the perspective of autopoietic theory, with its
categorical and concept-defining privilege of the operational
of the organism over any observational
(12) Blindspot lays bare the technical element that inhabits the originary subjectivity of reversed epiphenomenalism: it reveals that self-experience today necessarily encompasses the power of imaging as a power of the organism. . . . With its technical support in our world today, imaging has become what it has always been potentially: an aspect of primary self-experience.
(12) Blindspot thus pronounces the nonpathological generalization of the social-technical-psychological condition of psychastenia, meaning “a state in which the space defined by the coordinates of the organism's body is confused with represented space”.
(13) With this conclusion, we are now in a position to fathom how the mixed reality paradigm (together with the second generation of virtual reality technologies that comprise its technical support) contributes to a revalued conceptualization of the body.
Emphasis on operational perspective beneath Butler performativity.
On the mixed reality paradigm, by contrast, coupling with the domain
of social images occurs from within the operational
the organism and thus comprises a component of its primordial
(13) operating beneath the complex reappropriation of social images that [Judith] Butler conceptualizes as performativity is a yet more primordial level of bodily, or organismic, processing.
VIRTUAL REALITY AS EMBODIED POWER OF IMAGING
(15) [Alain Millon] “a dense and opaque body . . . refuses transparence and total clarity” (18).
(15) Forging such a cultural image of the body is crucial if we are to forestall the instrumentalization of the body and all that follows from it, above all the foreclosure of being-with or the finitude of our form of life. . . . resistance . . . source of excess.
(15) As a technology that lays bare the enabling constraints of the body (that is, the body's necessity), virtual reality comprises our culture's privileged pathway for laying bare mixed reality as a technical-transcendental structure, which is equally to say, for exposing the technical element that lies at the heart of embodiment.
(15-16) As the artists [Fleischmann and Strauss] explain, Rigid Waves . . . As the observer approaches the mirror, he is confronted with a mirror image that does not correspond to his normal perception of things.
(17) Rigid Waves thus liberates the self, as the artists proclaim, in an act of dispossession that leaves motility as compensation for loss of visual mastery.
(18) What is striking about the experience of Liquid Waves is that the image's scattering, far from ending engagement (as we might expect), in fact catalyzes a transition to another realm - to the realm of the disintegrated image.
(19) What makes these two works singular in the present context is the way that they support the opening of virtual reality not as a technical apparatus enabling some prescripted play, but rather as a technically triggered experience of the organism's power of imaging, an experience of imaging as an inherently technical, originary element of the organism's being. . . . human experience actualizes the virtual potential of there art works.
VR as creation versus replay: technically triggered experience, operational perspective, more than consumption, perhaps dialogic, disconnecting mobile body schema and visual body image: is this pointing towards the same ideal as Plato, not taken as artificial intelligence but rather optimal human machine comportment?
from the observational to the operational perspective . . .
mixed reality as the minimal condition of phenomenalization:
[Fleischmann and Strauss write ] . . . Observation becomes more than
(20) What is singular . . . is their use of the concrete technology of virtual reality to stage a disconnection of the (fundamentally motile) body schema from the (fundamentally visual) body image.
Body in code is technical mediation of sensory commons of body schema.
Such technical mediation of the body schema (of the scope of
body-environment coupling) comprises what I propose to call a
. . . I mean a body submitted to and
constituted by an
unavoidable and empowering technical deterritorialization - a body
whose embodiment is realized, and
can only be realized,
in conjunction with technics.
(20-21) Indeed, if we take the experience of Rigid Waves and Liquid Waves as exemplary of this phase, we can immediately comprehend how digital technologies, as the contemporary expression of the originary technical mediation of the human, broaden what we might call the sensory commons - the space we human beings share by dint of our constitutive embodiment. . . . To think of the body as a body-in-code, then, is simultaneously to think of human existence as a prepersonal sensory being-with.
Merleau-Ponty update; virtuality as original technical element, mixed reality its contemporary phenomenological dimension.
Not surprisingly, it progresses through and attempts to update the
work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty,
the phenomenologist most committed to the ontological dimension of
(21) The argument ultimately aims to conceptualize a technics on the basis of (and adequate to) the chiasmic correlation of being and world that forms the heart of Merleau-Ponty's final unfinished project, as documented particularly in The Visible and the Invisible and Nature.
(21-22) In line with our efforts to restore virtuality as an original technical element of human being and expose mixed reality as its contemporary phenomenological dimension, these four chapters will implicitly narrate a progression backwards from the most artificial (and narrow) conception of virtual reality to the most natural (and broad) conception.
toward a technics of the flesh
1 bodies in code, or how primordial tactility introjects technics into human life
1. “MAKE USE OF WHAT NATURE HAS GIVEN US!”
(26) Rather than investing in the simulational power of the image and the ocularcentric paradigm of immersion, Krueger has staked everything on the constructive power of (human) embodiment.
Krueger more interested in embodied enaction than visual technics.
This subordination of technics to embodied
(and licenses) me to position Krueger as the precursor - and first
practitioner - of second-generation virtual (or mixed) reality.
(27) rather than withdrawing from the physical domain, today's digital technologies are literally virtualizing the physical.
(27) Making use of this evolutionarily realized heritage will allow us to adapt to our ever more rapidly changing technical environment because such heritage provides a stable background against which to assimilate new interactional spaces and share new affordances.
(28) Embodiment accommodates and self-reorganizes in the face of ever expanding scope of technics in our world today.
(29) Embodied enaction is, quite literally, the agent through which technics has an impact on life and the lifeworld.
(30) exploiting the margin of indetermination afforded by experience with new technologies and media environments.
(31) Krueger's insistence on clarifying for the visitor precisely how his or her actions called forth reactions from the environment. . . . Such a correlation, affirms artist Simon Penny, comprises “the first and fundamental law of the aesthetics of interactive installation.”
(31) transfer of agency from the computer to embodiment in open-ended feedback with itself.
Revisiting Krueger interactive installation can be done with the language machine projection overlays.
“By prototyping the experience, rather than the technology, . . .
Krueger was able to explore the aesthetic space of an interactive
installation before the technology existed” (Cameron, 18).
(35) the environment [of Videoplace] continually solicits the visitor to affirm her agency, which is to say, the fact that the remapping and extension of her movement into this new space is the environment's driving purpose.
Criticism of programming work that focuses on closed systems in which interactors are compelled to utilize only the available interfaces to make the experience meaningful, the typical experience of software.
(36) With the shift away from the visitor-system correlation to the action of a now unifed single enactive “system-agent,” the function of programming undergoes profound transformation from a close-looped technical element to an open-ended social capability.
Is Hansen throwing out the intelligence augmenting capabilities of VR in favor of foregrounding operational perspective of embodiment?
achieves nothing short of a wholesale humanistic dissolution of the
infamous - and for many, highly problematic - Turing test (together
with Turing's abstract conception of a general-purpose computing
machine). . . . Its purpose is neither epistemological nor
ontological - to fool a human observer - but purely functional: to
integrate the computer as seamlessly as possible into the motor
activity of embodied human agents.
(37) by coupling the motile body with graphic elements that do not visually imitate or simulate it, Videoplace opens a disjunction between the body image and the body schema.
BODY SCHEMA AS POTENTIALITY
(38-39) Whereas the body image characterizes and is generated from a primarily visual apprehension of the body as an external object, the body schema emerges from what, with autopoietic theory, we have called the operational perspective of the embodied organism. As such, it encompasses an “originary,” preobjective process of world constitution that, by giving priority to the internal perspective of the organism, paradoxically includes what is outside its body proper, what lies in the interactional domain specified by embodied enaction.
Invocation of Gallagher body schema/image distinction; Massumi body without and image and Gil infralingustic body.
the centrality of the body schema-body image distinction for
Merleau-Ponty's break with “classical” (Husserlian)
phenomenology. . . . [Gallagher writes] The preconscious, subpersonal
processes carried out by the body-schema system are tacitly keyed
into the environment and play a dynamic role in governing posture and
(41) [Gallagher writes] My body has its world, or understands its world, without having to make use of my “symbolic” or “objectifying” function.
(41) because of the use to which it puts the scientific concept of the body schema, the phenomenal body comprises something more akin to Massumi's “body without an image” or philosopher Jose Gil's “infralinguistic body” than to any version of the body image, including the mirror image and the famous “mirror stage.”
(42) Because it is responsible for linking protosensory bodily sense (proprioception) with perception and motility (and indeed for correlating these latter), the body schema is a source of embodied potential.
TECHNICS AND THE DISSOLUTION OF THE BODY IMAGE
(44) Merleau-Ponty concludes that habit “expresses our power of dilating our being-in-the-world,” which today more than ever means “changing our existence by appropriating fresh instruments” (143).
(47) Unlike Krueger, however, [Simon] Penny is in a position to benefit from the marked advancement in computer technology that is supporting our seamless entry into an exposed mixed reality environment.
(47) One interesting result of this progress, which is indissociably technical and aesthetic, is that synchronicity becomes artifactual - that is, it becomes describable in technical terms and necessarily bound to concrete technical apparatuses. In Traces, the artifactuality of synchronicity appears with Penny's strategic gambit (closely related to his repudiation of visual illusionism) to eschew spatial resolution in favor of temporal resolution. At a rate of fifteen captures per second, Traces manages to sustain a sensorimotor verisimilitude that is responsible for conferring reality on the wholly sui-generis experience it offers.
(48-49) Once again, Shaun Gallagher proves an insightful guide insofar as he manages to explain how prosthetics function to disjoin the unconscious body image from any consciously experienced, intended (or noetic) body image. . . . The reason is not simply that the prosthetic function is so fundamental that it has an impact on the visual or representational body image as well as the motile body schema, but rather that the difference between them - and with it, the role of representation - has been entirely effaced. Put another way, in such environments, whatever experience one has of one's body proper does not take the form of a (representational) image, but rather emerges through the representative function of the data of body movement, the way these data (“naturally,” as it were) represent one's body.
(49) we encounter a body-in-code in a completely literal sense, meaning a body image that is indiscernible from a technically generated body schema.
(51-52) If an appreciation of this profound structure of intercorporeality is missing from [Paul] Schilder's analysis, the reason is that Schilder lacks any understanding of the operational privilege that defines the phenomenal body on Merleau-Ponty's account. . . . This lack explains Schilder's failure to differentiate the body image from the body schema in any principled, categorical manner, as well as the waves of confusion that have ensued as this failure was perpetuated by his successors and, in the process, gradually effaced.
(53) This discovery taught Penny that, at the limit, all descriptions of the environment (including the user's description of her body image within it) depends on (and are subordinate to) the bodily acitvity of the user. For this reason, it seems, Penny is able to appreciate the significant ergodic dimension of the work, a dimension linked directly to the demands made on the body schema of the user.
SPECULARITY BEYOND THE MIRROR-IMAGE
(55) What distinguishes Merleau-Ponty's commentary, however, is his effort to understand this alienation, not as an inaugural source of paranoia, but as a productive and ongoing dimension of the phenomenal body - what I have earlier called the imaging power of the organism.
(55) Two principles are fundamental in Merleau-Ponty's analysis - the nonidentity between the interoceptive and specular and the primacy of the former as the source of their relation.
(56) Instead of marking a fundamental trauma that at once or continuously gives birth to the subject (as Lacan, Butler, and a host of feminist critics following in their wake have variously contended), the mirror stage belongs within a broader developmental trajectory and concretely instances the more fundamental experience of essential separation that Merleau-Ponty will increasingly identify with embodied (human) being.
(57) For Merleau-Ponty, that is, the specular image and the “gaze of the other” belong together as an integral phenomenon. Far from occasioning paranoiac alienation, then, the specular image facilitates a vast expansion in the child's embodied agency precisely because it allows the child to enter into the space of the social and into social relations with others.
(57) Following Merleau-Ponty's initial (previously cited) remarks on the essentially public dimension of embodied life, it is the commonality of the body schema that grounds the incarnation of the distance opened by the mirror image and of the distance separating us form the images of the other's body.
Merleau-Ponty schism (ecart) at heart of bodily life.
(58) It thereby correlates with an account of primary narcissism that, unlike Freud's highly fraught notion, corresponds to the installation of the schism, the ecart, at the heart of bodily life, prior to its differentiation from an object world.
ALL EXTERIORIZATIONS ARE EXTERIORIZATIONS OF THE SKIN
(59) Such an understanding of the primordial technicity of life as sensible ecart resonates in interesting and productive ways with the psychoanalytical conceptions of the skin ego (Didier Anzieu) and the primary, passive containing function of the skin (Esther Bick).
(60-61) As this primordial differentiation of the skin, the sensory ecart is essential technical. . . . It can (perhaps only) be understood, that is, as the sensible-transcendental ground for exteriorization as such.
All technologies are exteriorizations of sensory ecart.
the technologies that saturate our contemporary world, in this
respect no different from the earliest flint chipping tools used by
protohumans, are so many exteriorizations of our fundamental sensory
(61) A concept describing the way that psychic functions “lean on” biological functions (Freud's work is Anlehnung, literally “leaning on”), “anaclisis” is central to Freud's conception of psychoanalysis insofar as it depicts the psyche in continuity with the body and with the biological functioning of the organisim.
(62) By helping us discover the essential technicity of the skin ego as the primordial support of anaclisis, Anzieu's analysis refunctionalizes Bick's conception of the “second muscular skin,” uncovering its nonpathological generality and, more importantly, making it speak to our contemporary technogenesis and the challenges it poses to our efforts to understand our agency in the world today.
(64) Indeed, in light of the anaclitic indifference instantiated by the primary skin function, we can understand the second muscle skin formation as, first and foremost, an expression of the fact—defining a perfectly general technical condition—that all exteriorizations are exteriorizations of the skin.
(66) The “third space” at issue here [in Thecla Schiphosrt's 1996 Bodymaps: artifacts of touch installation] is not some intermediate space that somehow splits the difference between operational and observational perspectives, but rather is more like the sensible-transcendental spatiality—the power to spatialize—that Merleau-Ponty, Gil, and Massumi all accord the phenomenal body.
(66) Bodymaps, we can now specify, exemplifiies the use of technics to expose the originary technical element of being, the ecart constitutive of the being of the sensible. This technical exposure is accomplished through Schiphorst's use of technics to set the embodied enaction of the viewer into feedback with its sensible-transcendental grounding.
(67) the embodied viewer here is confronted with the other's schema directly—that is, independently of its body image.
(69) [quoting Anzieu] It is on the model of tactile reflexivity that the other sensory reflexivities (hearing oneself make sounds, smelling one's own odor, looking at oneself in the mirror), and subsequently the reflexivity of thinking, are constructed. (61)
Tactile reflexivity is basic, primordial (Anzeiu); it bootstraps itself into experience.
Rather than relating to each other as abstract transcendental
condition and organ of possible experience, as they would on a
Kantian approach, these two determinations demonstrate how
the sensibe-transcendental condition of its sensory function, how it,
in effect, bootstraps itself into experience.
(70) What is decisive about Anzieu's contribution here is his insistence on the necessary integration of primary tactility as the medium of the amodal. . . . Anzieu's insistence here allows us to demarcate a domain of the infraempirical more primordial than the infralanguage (Gil): namely, the infratactile or infratactility. “Echotactile communication,” he tells us, “remains the original source of semiosis,” which means that primordial tactility—infratactility--demarcates a prelinguistic domain and function beneath the operation of the infralanguage. . . . In other words, the acquisition of pre-linguistic signification (of crying and then of sounds during babbling) precedes the acquisition of infralinguistic signification (of mimicry and gesture) (165, emphasis added).
According to Anzeiu, infratactility is source of semiosis, preceding infralanguage (Stiegler differance).
(71) If language is a specification of technics, a historicotechnical specification of differance (as Stiegler puts it), then it is only fitting that it emerge out of the infratactile, the protodifference of the sensible.
7. SEEING THROUGH THE MIND
Dehiscence is spontaneous opening at maturity of a plant structure, or a wound, used by Derrida and others.
It is nothing other than the fundamental dehiscence
explains the body's need for the world (and also the world's need for
the body, being's need for manifestation or phenomenalization). As
prevents the body from achieving pure immanence; it is that which
renders it an essentially incomplete “unity;” a process of
individuation that will never be fully accomplished.
(74) Noncoincidence or “embodied alterity” is simply a primary condition of the being of the body. This ontological fact is precisely what makes the body part of the flesh and also, of course, what grounds the body's self-transcendence, its fundamental adherence to the world.
(75) What is firmly established in the working notes [of Merleau-Ponty's final lecture course on Nature], however, is the derivation of vision from tactility on which the lectures build.
(77) Vision, in other words, is of a different nature than touch, and this difference is captured in the fact that vision requires a technical artifact—the mirror—in order to attain the flexibility that is, on Merleau-Pony's understanding, characteristic of sensation.
(79-80) To say that the human is split between the tactile and the visual is, in a certain sense, to say that the human is, from its origin, embodied and technical; the proto-origin of tactility and vision is the ecart, the hinge or gap in which embodiment is conjoined with technicity, interiority with exteriorization.
(80) Functioning as a single, integrated visual system, [Angnes Hededus 1992 VR system] Handsight requires the viewer to initiate and control the operation of vision through the hand; only by manipulating the eyeball interface within the transparent sphere is the viewer able to access the virtual world projected in the eye-shaped screen on the wall in front of him or her.
(81) Coupled in this way with “the endo-spatial enclosure,” the virtual is positioned as the payoff, not of some autonomous technical accomplishment (as so many recent discussions seem to maintain), but rather of the transductive coupling of vision and touch.
(81) [Anne-Marie] Duguet's analysis helps to underscore how Handsight, by making the hand into the operator of the eye's movement, introducing a distancing into tactility and thus allows reflection on the transduction—and perhaps, ultimately, on the indifferentiation—between tactility and vision.
(83) What follows from this reinscription of the body schema in the flesh of the world is a conception of intercorporeity that eschews the mediation of the image of the other in favor of a generality of sensibility, a sensible commons that is not simply a common sense.
(84) Today's digital technologies and the mixed reality aesthetic that they support thus function to actualize the potential of technicity to be a medium for being. Through them, the transduction constitutive of primary tactility—the transduction of embodiment and technics, of interiority and exteriorization—becomes actualized as a technically specific and technically facilitated intercorporeal commonality.
Simondon convergence of biosocial with technical; model of transindividuality with technical objects.
To grasp this dimension of technics, then, we must turn to Gilbert
the French “bio-techno-phenomenologist” and student of
Merleau-Ponty's, whose work takes up the thread of the latter's
unfinished final project and discovers, as the necessary correlate of
a complex theory of physico-bio-social individuation, a convergence
of the biosocial with the technical.
(85) The subject and the individual are connected via a disjunction: The subject encompasses the individual which in turn forms an element in the subject's individuation.
(85-86) Nonetheless, by establishing that technical objects are the ever changing bearers of a genesis, Simondon accords them a certain autonomy from the human. Though never entirely separable from human evolution, their [technical objects] evolution occurs through relations internal to the domain of technicity and is only punctuated by human intervention.
(86-87) [quoting Simondon] By the intermediary of the technical object, an interhuman relation is thus created that forms the very model of transindividuality. . . . By correlating transindividual individuation with technics, Simondon crucially expands Merleau-Ponty's conception of intercorporeity as a “commonality” of the body schema, as a “common framework of my world as carnal and of the world of the other” (Nature, 217/225).
Embodiment at heart of VR makes it always mixed reality.
What remains to be shown is how Merleau-Ponty's excavation of the
primordial tactility servers to expose embodiment at the heart of
virtual reality (and thus to confer on the latter its unavoidable
status as mixed reality).
(88) Commissioned by Ars Electronica for the CAVE environment (a three-dimensional projection space encompassing three adjacent walls, floor, and ceiling), [Maurice Benayoun's 1997] Worldskin foregrounds the crucial previously discussed distinction between operationality and observation, participation and documentation.
(88) To interact with the environment, however, participants must make use of three still cameras hanging from the ceiling.
(90) To express intention is to catalyze a jump from the superficial level of the image as a neutralizing “capture” of the world to a deeper level where it forms a trigger for the viewer's active engagement with his or her agency in the world.
(91) Normally understood to be a form of passive immersion, a distancing fascination that insulates “first world” spectator-citizens from the real, as Zizek famously contended in his denunciation of Western reactions to 9/11, virtual reality here becomes a technical interface to the world that succeeds because it taps into the transductive coupling of embodiment and technicity constitutive of the human.
(92) Worldskin aligns the storage function of photography (and of tertiary memory more generally) with the insulated, distanced stance of the first-world image consumer.
Cyborg embodied disembodiment through technical mediation complements basic mixed reality conditioning all real experience.
(93) With the ubiquitous infiltration of digital technologies into daily life, embodied agency becomes conditioned (necessarily so) by a certain (technical) disembodiment. Embodied disembodiment (or disembodied embodiment) accordingly forms a strict complement to the ontology of mixed reality conditioning all real experience.
9. THE TELE-ABSENT BODY
(94-95) Accordingly, Lozano-Hemmer's relational architecture installations deploy media interventions into existing architectural space precisely as a means of triggering embodied reactions (reactions which, as we shall see, tap into the disembodiment constitutive of embodiment). When these reactions subsequently enter into resonance with the media transformations trigger them, they establish feedback loops in which embodiment and information mutually catalyze one another's ongoing evolution, rendering it a coevolution that perfectly expresses the contemporary stage of the technogenesis of the human.
Lozono-Hemmer reembodiment through technics due because human embodiment no longer coincides with traditional, physical boundaries of body (Clark); break from prosthetic model of technics with indivision.
(95) By taking “indivision”
to its ultimate point—the point
where embodiment and information, functioning transductively, operate
to “dematerialize” the environment—Lozano-Hemmer's project
forcefully demonstrates that embodiment today can only be conceived
individuation, as an
individuation that requires a certain disembodiment of embodied
individuals. The reason for this is simple: Because human embodiment
no longer coincides with the boundaries of the human body, a
disembodiment of the body forms the condition of possibility for a
collective (re)embodiment through technics.
(98) As a contribution to Lozano-Hemmer's larger project of producing a new collective individuation of embodiment, Re;Positioning Fear takes the first step of disembodying the individual body, thus opening the possibility for a break from the prosthetic model of technics.
(98) [quoting Lozano-Hemmer] virtual architecture dematerializes the body, while relational architecture dematerializes the environment.
(100) Taking up the accomplishment of Re:Positioning Fear (the disembodying of the individual body), Lozano-Hemmer's Body Movies—Relational Architecture 6 (2001) constitutes the artist's attempt to produce a transindividuation through technical disembodiment and subsequent reembodiment on a transformed scale and via an informational circuit. Like the earlier work, Body Movies uses a tele-absence interface—namely, the projection of shadows cast by participants' bodies—to which it adds some new elements.
(101-102) In contrast to Re:Positioning Fear, however, this disembodiment is here deployed in the service of a broader aesthetic aim—that of creating the possibility for a form of communion rooted in a technically facilitated kinesthetic space, a technically generated space of intercorporeity that embodies the indivision ensuing from the dissolution of the corporeal schema.
(102-103) If the contemporary phase of our (human) technogenesis makes such physical communion increasingly difficult, it simultaneously opens more radical possibilities for communion. As Lozano-Hemmer's work perfectly illustrates, such possibilities stem form our investment in technics as a means for overcoming the atomic isolation of the body. They give us a chance to live the “indivision” of body, its immanence to the flesh of the world.
locating the virtual in contemporary culture
2 embodying virtual reality
tactility and self-movement in the work of char davies
(109) The attention you have been lending to your breathing makes you feel angelic and fleshy: while you float dreamlike, unencumbered by the drag of gravity, your action s are syncopated with your breathing in a way that makes your bodily presence palpable, insistent. Meanwhile, you find yourself floating back down to the clearing, no longer driven to explore, but meditative, content simply to float wherever your bodily leaning and breathing patterns will take you.
(109) As several commentators have pointed out, the work just described—Char Davies' Osmose (1995)--is highly atypical for what currently goes under the rubric “virtual reality art.”
(110) By purposely deploying low resolution in the HMD, Davies' work actively counters the conventional VR emphasis on vision: indeed, as we shall see, her work compels the viewer-participant to reconfigure her sensory economy, such that (at the very least) vision becomes thoroughly permeated by tactility and proprioception. In the process, Davies successfully deploys the virtual reality interface toward an end—contemplative engagement—that moves it away from the instrumentalism associated with it (and for good reason, as we have seen) by prescient skeptics like Myron Krueger.
(111) Davies' explicit desire to create an interface to the immaterial can be understood as a fulfillment of a hypothesis: to wit, that disenabling sensory stimulation from a richly material environment would lay bare the embodied processing that serves to confer reality on experience.
(111) Osmose creates a body-in-code by harnessing embodied life in the service of conferring reality on the immaterial.
(112) This resonance will serve to underwrite a neo-Bergsonist claim that virtual reality realizes an aesthetic function insofar as it couples new immaterial domains of perception with the “reality”-conferring experience of touch (or what Bergson calls “affection”).
Davies Osmose as body-in-code example, aesthetic function of VR coupling new immaterial perceptual domains with touch.
(112-113) Specifically, her work deploys the confusion of self and space constitutive of the condition of “psychasthenia” in a way that counters its contemporary cultural currency as a simulational or image-based “disorder.” . . . In this way, Davies' work concretely embodies the capacity of technics to facilitate an experience of the “indivision” of the flesh that Merleau-Ponty discovers at the heart of Being and that our previous discussions has now associated with the “originary” technicity (the ecart) of primordial tactility.
THE PRIMACY OF SELF-MOVEMENT IN CONFERRING REALITY ON
(113) The rhetoric associated with virtual reality clearly conveys its privileging of the visual register of perception.
(113) The privilege accorded to the visual has so thoroughly seeped into the practical design of virtual environments (VEs) by scientists, artists, and game designers that it might be said to dictate a kind of de facto standard: hard-edged objects and shapes, distinct spatial demarcations (e.g., into rooms or subworlds), vivid, surreal image quality, and perhaps most centrally, the deployment of a familiar infrastructural Cartesian grid.
Ocularcentrism evident in design of virtual environments.
However, rather than stemming from some necessity inherent in the
technological interface or even in the makeup of our perceptual
apparatus, this visual bias is, in fact, a complex artifact related
to the motivating desires and scientific backgrounds of VR developers
(largely male engineers) and, more generally, to the pervasive
ocularcentrism of Western culture.
(114) [Ken] Hillis traces this overvaluation of the visual on the part of VR researchers to the seminal influence of the work of perceptual psychologist J. J. Gibson. Throughout his career, Gibson sought to theorize the way we directly perceive aspects of the world by picking up information from what he calls the ambient light. . . . if real-world perceptual experience was grounded in biologically innate capacities to see perceptual invariants in the ambient light, all the would be necessary to carry perception into artificial environments would be to reproduce such perceptual invariants in the virtual domain.
(114) One important facet of the complex influence of Gibson's work on VR research concerns Gibson's early theory of “texture-gradient mapping” which, Hillis suggests, furnished a model for the mapping of “perceptual invariance” onto virtual environments.
(115-116) Thus, although VR technology might well “permit users to see like birds” (or like anything whatsoever), a VE constructed on the basis of perceptual invariants “may confuse users precisely because they have not been 'hardwired' by evolution to fly like birds” (130). . . . its deployment in VE design is piecemeal and premised on an unthematized, and I think, wholly implausible, hope that vision can by itself reconstitute the richness of human perceptual function.
(116) In their interpretation of the storage and computational limitations necessarily encountered in designing VEs, Wann and Rushton outline a very different position. . . . As a consequence, whereas perception in “natural settings” can be said to be “veridical” (i.e., indicative of properties of the environment), the principle informing the creation of virtual environments is, of necessity, “deception.”
(117) For them, what is crucial is not stimulating a visually “realistic” environment in purely visual terms, but rather designing an environment capable of inducing a compelling sensorimotor correlation in the participant. As Held and Durlach point out in their discussion of telepresence, such a position stems from a conviction that the “best general-purpose system known to us (as engineers) is us (as operators)”.
(117) All of these views advance a functional understanding of what makes VEs complelling. According to such an understanding, their purpose is “to augment the sensorimotor system of the human operator” (Held and Durlach, 234). Thus, rather than being defined strictly or even primarily by their “incorporation” of objectively “realistic” elements like perceptual invariants, VEs should be valued for their capacity to stimulate sensorimotor processes responsible for producing effects of “realism” or of presence.
(118) In both cases, what is left out is the grounding role played by the body and by experiential modalities—tactility, proprioception, internal kinesthesia—proper to it. No less a visionary than Jaron Lanier (who coined the term “virtual reality”) has diagnosed this double-barreled reduction as a form of “information disease.” . . . In his brilliant exploration of the phenomenology of the different senses, philosopher Hans Jonas underscores the necessary correlation among the senses—particularly between vision and touch—in the generation of perception.
Sight detached from domain of affective causality and sensory proximity.
(119) Unlike hearing and touch, which are both proximate senses that
build up their manifolds in time, sight presents us with an
“instantaneous survey of the whole field of possible encounters”
(145). . . . In sum, then, sight achieves its “nobility” because
of its detachment from the domain of affective causality and sensory
(120) The mistake of Hume and Kant (and the many philosophers and nonphilosophers alike who follow their lead) is to maintain belief in an objective autonomy of sight unsupported by the “lowlier” sensory modalities.
Due to integral nature of sense, priority of double sensation, need to stimulate other embodied sensations beyond simulating visual experiences.
In this respect, Jonas's analysis helps clarify why the position of
Gibson-inspired VR researchers is philosophically untenable: because
it neglects the integral nature of sense, any purely
visual account of perception must necessarily fail.
. . . For all of these individuals, the force-experience involved in
tactility and proprioception furnishes the
“reality-generating” element of
perception. . . . On this version of the priority of double
success in generating compelling virtual experience is gained not by
simulating visual images but by stimulating tactile, proprioceptive,
and kinesthetic sensations.
(122) Once again, it is the incipient split between embodiment and technicity that creates the internal distance generative of double sensation.
(123) On Jonas' account, then, VEs generate an effect of presence or “reality” because they correlate a “virtual” perceptual stimulus with a “real” motor response (although one directed inward, toward the dynamics of proprioceptive space). The priority Jonas thereby lends to proprioceptively guided self-movement serves to correlate Henri Bergson's defense of affection with the tactile basis of vision. . . . On this account, infratactility—the body's action on itself—makes the virtual actual.
Propose similar experiments in catalyzing shifts from predominantly visual to audible interfaces, connecting Grajeda sound studies and symposia project.
(123) Osmose had her more recent Ephemere are designed expressly to catalyze a shift, as well as to compel self-reflexive recognition of the shirt, from a predominantly visual sensory interface to a predominantly bodily or affective interface.
2. BEYOND THE BODY-IMAGE: EMBODYING
(126) In her 1992 book Megalopolis, Celeste Olalquiaga correlates experience in our contemporary technosphere with the psychological and ethological condition of psychasthenia: [quoting] Defined as a disturbance in the relation between self and surrounding territory, psychasthenia is a state in which the space defined by the coordinates of the organism's own body is confused with represented space.
(126-127) Olalquiaga views psychasthenia as the disempowering (because disembodying) result of our contemporary technosphere; Davies seeks to catalyze an experience of psychasthenia as a means to disrupt the Cartesian worldview and to reestablish the embodied basis of all perception, vision included.
(130) For this reason, Davies' environments call on us to read Roger Caillois' original description of psychasthenic mimicry against its later appropriation by a certain feminist project.
(131) For him, psychasthenia is, irreducibly, a multisensory existential problematic affecting the organism not at the level of its visually apprehended symbolic significance, but rather at the more primitive level of embodiment where the impact of the representational indifferentiation is actually lived.
Caillois sees Heideggerian danger in psychasthenia, but useful for its deployment beyond the body-image (Damasio).
It is, however, undeniable that Caillois presents psychasthenia as
posing a well-nigh Heideggerian danger; indeed, he positions it as
the rigorous consequence of the concrete technical achievement of the
“age of the world picture.” Far from being a necessary conclusion
of his analysis, however, this analysis would appear to stem from his
(again, well-nigh Heideggerian) fear of the contamination of thinking
by technology. . . . Caillois' limitation, in short, is his inability
to give up the scientific world view, an inability that prevents him
from seeing psychasthenia as a chance for a different
conceptualization of the individual in its constitutive correlation
(133) In endorsing the description of what is, after all, a shift from perception to affection, from vision to tactility, Caillois effectively opens the way for a deployment of psychasthenia beyond the body-image.
(133) On this score, moreover, the conception of psychasthenia as an affirmative activity of the body finds support in recent neuroscientific research. Thus, for example, Antonio Damasio's differentiation between static and “on-line” body images makes salient just how much our experience of our bodies owes to direct real-time monitoring of its continuously changing states.
(135) More important in the present context, however, is the resonance of this final dissolution of the body schema with Caillois' account of psychasthenia: Merleau-Ponty's final work furnishes a conception of the body's spatiality that can account for psychasthenia as an affirmative modality in which the indifferentiation between the body and the environment, the oneness of the flesh, is opened to experience.
(136) Davies seeks to catalyze a more primitive, undifferentiated form of self-movement as the activity that confers reality as such. By effectively drawing attention to the fact that all reality is virtual reality, her environments exemplify the way in which virtual reality technologies can support the constitution of a certain body-in-code and thereby participate in the aesthetic—mixed reality—that seemed to announce their obsolescence.
3 digitalizing the racialized body, or the politics of common impropriety
For Poster how humans interpellated as social actors is transformational potential of new media.
(139) As [Mark] Poster
sees it, the transformational
potential of the new media stems from their impact on how human
beings are interpellated as social actors.
(140) the raced gendered sensorial body could be implanted, theoretically, with a constructed virtual gaze, becoming a launching site for identity travel.
(140) to find a way of conceptualizing and deploying media that does not subordinate them to preconstituted categories of identity and subjectivity and that exploits their capacity to bring the “preindividual” dimension (following Gilbert Simondon's conception) to bear on the ongoing process of individuation.
(140) My focus will be on the performance of race and ethnicity in cyberspace - specifically, the difference (and the opportunity) that might be said to distinguish the category of race as it comes to be cyberized.
(141) the suspension of the social category of race in what is, potentially, a fundamental way: by suspending the automatic ascription of racial signifiers according to visible traits, online environments can, in a certain sense, be said to subject everyone to what I shall call a “zero degree” of racial difference.
BEYOND SYMBOLIC INTERPELLATION: UNDERSTANDING DIGITAL
142) This total cooptation of the category of the individual explains why images of the ethnic other can today be nothing but fantasy projections of the same. They might look like the other, but they work only to the extent that they speak and think just like us.
Machinic constraints still harbor biases and impose interpellations, especially when met as technology consumer.
(144) On Poster's account, online identity performance exemplifies a post-ideological and postsymbolic form of interpellation in which the artifactuality of identity is exposed by the technology that mediates it. Because it is effectuated by the machinic performativity of social institutions, online interpellation affords an unprecedented freedom to the digital author to invent herself, subject only to the constraints of the online medium.
BEYOND VISIBILITY: THE GENERALIZATION OF PASSING
(145) In his analysis of the “ambivalent relationship of race and cyberspace,” Thomas Foster contends that this kinship between online interpellation and passing allows us to understand “African-American culture . . . as prefiguring the concerns of virtual systems theory.”
Does virtual systems theory force living erasure of lived bodies to occupy a constituted textual body?
(147) If we all must imitate cultural images of how particular bodies should appear in order to acquire agency—if we must give up our singular bodily experiences to occupy a constituted textual body—then we all must live the erasure of our lived bodies.
3. “CORPOREAL MALEDICTION” AND THE “RACIAL-EPIDERMAL SCHEMA”
4. FROM NEGROPHOBIA TO NEGROPHILIA
5. MOBILIZING AFFECTIVITY BEYOND THE IMAGE
6. FORGING THE AFFECTION-BODY
4 wearable space
Wearable space arises with embodied affectivity operating upon spacing.
What I am calling “wearable space” results from the superposition
of these two poles: space
embodied affectivity becomes the operator of spacing.
(177) architectural framing occurs as a process that is contemporaneous with its reception or consumption. That is precisely why we can say that it is intrinsically (rather than contingently) embodied.
(178) Wearable space is to architecture what body-in-code is to embodiment.
1. ENCOUNTERING THE BLUR
Blur Building architectural project desensitizes vision.
An architectural project for a building made of water, Blur
intended to undermine our ordinary sensory interface with the
environment and with architecture by putting vision more or less out
of play. The result, as you have just experienced, is a compelling
attempt to engage other, less used sensory modalities—proprioception,
tactility, hearing—in the task of navigating bodily through
(182) The acoustically guided movement of prosthetically enhanced, blind bodies in a nonspace creates an architecture of nothing, an architecture that is as much in the bodily experiences as it is in the acoustic and tactile mappings of space which they trace.
(183) Here, in sum and in an altogether literal sense, space is made wearable.
2. THE ARCHITECTURAL BODY
Arakawa and Gins landing sites, challenging habitual bodily submission to objective geometric extension; Gallagher was interested in these architects.
Starting from the position that having a body includes having a
a theory of world constitution through landing sites. . . .
sites register the particular qualities of heres
sites fill in the gaps between areas of perceptual capture, and
sites afford an intimation of position.
(185) Such a projection yields what Bernard Cache (following Husserl) has called the “longitudinal” dimension of embodied perception.
(186) In Arakawa and Gins' terminology, the body can be said to experience the longitudinal dimension through its imaging capability. . . . Radical architecture furnishes architectural landing sites that challenge the body's “habitual and deadening” submission to “spacetime” or space as “objective” geometric extension.
(189) the process of passing through perceived space yields to that of dwelling with the imaging potential of space, what Arakawa and Gins aptly gloss as the “underside of things” (259).
(189) for them, architecture comprises nothing short of an opportunity to alter “habitual and deadening” patterns of thought by soliciting the site where these patterns originate—namely, the body as imaging potentiality.
(190) Because its processing or conversion of force into affect is responsible for all meaning in the world, the infralinguistic body is instrumental in the production of all forms of social power.
THE “INTERIORITY” OF ARCHITECTURE
(191) By means of a digital conversion, [Peter] Eisenman's concern with the intrinsic embodiment of architecture has morphed into an embrace of the (human) body as, to borrow Gil's terminology, a converter of (spatial) forces into embodied affects.
(192) The architectural sign can be considered to be motivated because the “sign and signified are one and the same thing.”
(194) For Eisenman, affect is the vehicle for the transfiguration of embodiment, and, as the conclusion of Diagram Diaries makes clear, its emergence as the crucial element of a new conception of architecture's interiority corresponds to a digitally facilitated metamorphosis of the diagram. . . . Because it allows form to emerge from an architectural context without its being dictated by architecture's preinscribed interiority, the digital diagram provides nothing less than a vehicle for the transformation of that interiority.
(195) We might say then that Eisenman's interest in the computer is more operation than ontological, that it forms a part of his ongoing effort to disrupt the singular “motivatedness” of the architectural sign.
(196) Derive from Deleuze's concept of the figural, Eisenman's conception of spacing transforms the problematic of motivatedness from a restrictive into an enabling constraint, thereby transfiguring the experiential horizon of architecture.
(197) Eisenman's conception of spacing thus amounts to a plea to conceive architecture as a machine for producing longitudinal experience in the sense defined previously. As a recipe for reconfiguring architectural interiority, spacing functions precisely by soliciting an affective embodiment that exceeds the spatial bounds of the organic body.
4. INTERNAL RESONANCE
Simondon internal resonance resolves disparate orders of magnitude; may be useful for thinking about machine embodiment and alien temporalities.
(197) Specifically, internal resonance corresponds to a living system's capacity to bring disparate orders of magnitude into communication and thus to maintain the metastability that is the precondition of its ongoing individuation.
A NEW ORGANICISM
(199) Not only does digital technology thus dematerialize architectural embodiment, but it also displaces vision from its privileged position as the foundation of architecture's interiority.
(200) Accordingly, vector modelization frees architecture from its rootedness in static spatial conditions: by injecting time into space, vectors unfold space as a field of intensity, a spatial field coequivalent to the matrix of potential connections it affords.
(203) space (at least as modeled with the aid of the computer) necessarily enfolds its virtual permutations.
(203) Effectively, the vector modelization of [Eisenman's] Virtual House maps the two cubes onto one another through two operations, and then maps these mappings onto each other so that the entirety of interstitial spaces contained within their differences is absorbed into the system.
Goal of architecture is inhabitation, so special relation to digital media.
We can now see that architecture must be differentiated from other
aesthetic engagements with new media precisely because its vocation
is to frame space for
architecture alone deploys digital media to conjoin spatial form and
(205) If Virtual House articulates the theoretical program for such a coevolution, Eisenman's project for the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences puts it into practice.
(207) In this role, vector modelization functions to supersaturate the built form with interstitial spatial potentialities that comprise so many triggers for (variant) actualization via embodied inhabitation.
(208) In experiential (or “narrative”) terms, as the separate architectural forms of museum and terminal interpenetrate (the waiting room literally becoming the museum hall), the itineraries characteristic of each blend together into the local flows of people moving through them.
(210) It is from the bodily conversion of force into affect that new framings of space—dynamic framings “adequate to” the new spaces and, above all, the infospaces of the contemporary technosphere—always ultimately arise.
WEARING THE BLUR
(210) Diller + Scofidio deploy technologies as a means of introducing indeterminacy and instituting delay so that something unpredictable, something new, can emerge.
(211) A work that “disables, divides, and bisects” the walls and furniture of a century-old wood-frame house in San Francisco in order to expose “the homes' organizational strategies: property rights, rules of etiquette, the marriage contract, and the public codes of a private residence,” The withDrawing Room exemplifies Diller + Scofidio's constructive deployment of formalist procedures developed by Hejduk, Eisenman, and others as techniques specifically designed to address the problem of architecture's constitutive and constraining interiority.
(219) For these reasons, Diller + Scofidio's Blur Building is the quintessential expression of wearable space as a phenomenological and architectural condition directly tied to the massive infiltration of digital media into the contemporary lifeworld. It puts into action, on the cusp between architectural (in)form and the affective body, the program of sensory deterritorialization—specifically, the dethronement of vision—championed, in various ways, by Arakawa and Gins and by Eisenman.
(220) Blur Building, in short, deploys the deformation of architectural form—the displacement of visible, planimetric enclosure by the amorphous, atmospheric fog enclosure—as a means to render the impact of the digital revolution experientially salient, to give us a sensory correlate—spatialized affectivity—to its deformations of space. . . . Although media make space flexible and invisible, it is embodiment that allows mediated space to be experienced sensorily, precisely as space made wearable.
5 The Digital Topography of House of Leaves
1. THE DIGITAL
House of Leaves is an important text for Hayles as well generating bodies in code; need to read this chapter.
(252) The source for the difference of repetition, for the analogies of echo, such creativity must stem directly from—and must necessarily capture, though in a nonorthothetic manner—the singular embodiment of each and every reader. That is why, in a final layer of mediation, the act of reading House of Leaves generates a potentially infinite proliferation of singular bodies-in-code.
Hansen, Mark B. N. Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.