Bodies in Technology

Bodies in Technology

Bodies in Technology

Bodies in Technology

Synopsis

Don Ihde is distinguished professor of philosophy at State University of New York, Stony Brook.

Excerpt

Bodies, bodies everywhere. Philosophy, feminist thought, cultural studies, science studies, all seem to have rediscovered bodies. in part this may be because we have had to do some reflection upon being embodied in relation to the various new technologies that we are encountering in the twenty-first century. Our “reach” has extended now to global sites through the Internet, our experiences have been transformed, we are able to enter cyberspace through the primitive virtual reality engines of the present, and we are tempted to think we can transcend our bodies by the disembodiments of simulation. This book is about bodies in technology. I will investigate several senses of body in relation to our experiences of being embodied. We are our body in the sense in which phenomenology understands our motile, perceptual, and emotive being-in-the-world. This sense of being a body I call body one. But we are also bodies in a social and cultural sense, and we experience that, too. For most of those reared in western traditions, the female breast is an erotic zone, whereas for many from Asian traditions the nape of the neck is equally or more strongly such a zone. These locations are not biological but culturally constructed, although they are located upon us as part of our bodily experience. I call this zone of bodily significance body two. Traversing both body one and body two is a third dimension, the dimension of the technological. in the past perhaps the most familiar role within which we experienced and reexperienced being a body was what I have often called an embodiment relation, that is, the relation of experiencing something in the world through an artifact, a technology. Such human-technology relations are often simple—seeing through eyeglasses, nailing with hammers (Heidegger), negotiating doorways while wearing long-feathered hats (Merleau-Ponty). Perhaps we have forgotten that these simple extensions of the sense of our bodies once posed a problem for our self-identification, and that the new questions raised by virtual reality and intelligent machines have been taken up in earlier eras. Yet few of us today would bemoan the way in which the ditch-digging . . .

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