Invisible Much recent scholarship concerned with the

Invisible Exchanges Seminar Paper
Abstract:

Reconfiguring the Human
Body in relation to Technology inThomas Pynchon’s fiction, David Cronenberg’s
films and Rafael Lozano Hemmer’sartworks.

Technology
does not endemically belong to the sphere of science any longer. It has
diffused into a variety of other discourses such as culture, gender, political
studies as well as art, painting and cinematography. The thrust of this paper
shall be to explore how technology reconfigures the human body and subverts the
commonly held notion of the human body as an object of control which is
intrinsic to the self.This paper shall take into account three mediums viz.
novels, artworks and movies to show the interface between the human and the
machine. In cyber-cultures, the body is often conceived of as a fluid entity.
Much recent scholarship concerned with the relationship between the biological
organism and technology has stressed the body’s lack of clear boundaries.
Especially relevant to this context are the notions of ‘biosociality’ and
‘technosociality’.

It
shall attempt to show how cybercultures have reconfigured our understandings of
the human body since cyberspace calls into question the traditional understanding
of human being, as the autonomous source of truth, identity, and rationality.
Many theorists and critics have seen the human is no longer in the center of
the world, but instead a position that is produced in a whole range of
discursive practices-economic, social and political-the meanings of which are a
constant site of struggle over power. Thus, the centre is decentred as the body
is no longer regarded as a pre-existing phenomenon (but surely one also does
consider physical embodiment as a discursive production and a factual entity) ;
but as something constantly reconstructed. In this regard, Katherine Hayles
argues human beings become “a set of informational processes”. Among the
various technologies concerned with the relationship between the organic and
the artificial, bio-engineering and bionics (biological electronics) have
played a particularly prominent part. The first concentrates on the possibility
of applying technological principles to the body by studying the structure of
the living organism in terms of the mechanical properties of substances such as
bone and muscle. The second is concerned with the application of biological
processes to technology and works on the premise that certain design principles
characteristic of the human body may be used as models for the production of
new mechanical devices.

Firstly,
Thomas Pynchon, an American novelist, in his novel Bleeding Edge, presents the charactersas nodes of information
distribution in the mediatized cyber- and urban space of New York City during
the 9/11 terror attacks. By claiming that Pynchon’s employment of fictional
characters occurs in the form of hyperlinks and disembodied interactions, I
intend to problematize the literary rendering of mediation and communication as
influenced by the technologically “extended” body. In my analysis of the novel,
I propose to view the mediatized nature of communication and perception in Bleeding Edge as a new form of the
body’s embeddedness, where the technologically saturated “information society”
becomes its newly devised “natural” habitat (unclear).Pynchon’s characters
become part of the continuum leading from the bodily to the virtual (and vice
versa), encompassing their bodily presence and bodily perception as an
interface between the two domains.

Secondly,
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, a Mexican-Canadian artist, in his artworks establishes a
continuum with technologies. He creates both large outdoor installations and
more intimate, gallery-based installations. His works are often complex technological
systems that are part of particular socio-historical contexts or, to use his
words, ‘relationship-specific’, and audience participation is a key component
of the artworks. Through close reading of some of his selected works, this
paper also aims at exploring broader questions pertaining to the nature of
technology with the aim of contributing to an understanding of technology as an
active process in our world. (how do 
these different texts speak to each other?)

My
purpose is to use Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s artworks as a lens through which to
approach the field of technology and technological relations from a
non-anthropocentric perspective. Rather than presenting an idea of technology
existing within and for human society, my intention is to consider the fluidity
of boundaries between the humans and technologies. The human-technology
relations in the selected artworks demonstrate different ways in which humans
can be shown to be part of, and contributors to, this technological process.
Lozano-Hemmer’s artworks exist within and emerge out of the contemporary
network cultures of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in which interface
experiences are becoming increasingly fluid. The contemporary emphasis on the
social uses of technology has produced (and been produced by) technological
devices that increasingly structure our social experiences. Lozano-Hemmer’s
installations re-purpose everyday technologies, which are usually directed
towards specific task-based outcomes, to create relationships that potentially
allow us to move beyond such an instrumental understanding of technology. In
such reconfigurations, technology and human relations intersperse with each
other.

Thirdly,
in this paper, I shall attempt to look into some of the selected movies of David
Cronenberg, a Canadian director, who in his movies, does not present humans and
technologies as separate entitites. What we see in his films is that, the
border between the human and the technological, the organic and the synthesis
(synthetic?) is blurred. Cronenberg as a conscious observer casts a new light
on the facts to which people are unmindful and even unaware of. The movies that
I have taken into account are eXistenZ , Crash and Videocrome which elides the
boundary between the human body and technology.