Academic journal article Hecate

Media Implosion: Posthuman Bodies at the Interface

Academic journal article Hecate

Media Implosion: Posthuman Bodies at the Interface

Article excerpt

In keeping with the rhetoric of technology as a dehumanizing force, the participant in communication technologies has often been interpreted as passive in the information network. In this context, engagements with electronic forms of communication signal a loss of agency and the erasure of the body and identity. Through the analysis of an image from the 'Evolve to TDK' advertising campaign, this article reconsiders such understandings of the subject in the media by conceiving of the body as an interface. Figuring subjecthood in contemporary mass media as an interface serves to undermine a myth of origins predicated upon oppositional thinking, which positions subject and object, technology and nature, as irrevocably and diametrically opposed. This in turn destabilizes a fixed locus of bodily identification, and the codes surrounding just what a body might be within contemporary culture. The interface thus offers a strategy by which feminism may negotiate the question of disembodiment in electronic networks. As bodies interface with electronic media, distinctions between subject and object, spectator and scene collapse. What ensues is a transformation in how the body and the subject are constructed and understood. I ask for bodies to be revisioned as part of a circuit of communications that productively collapse a dialectical economy, so that bodily experience is not denied, but conceived of as an interface.

The chubby mite in the TDK poster is depicted in a portrait pose, naked from the chest up. Wisps of baby blonde hair frame a face that radiates an ecstatic smile, stark and solitary against a white background. The viewer is left to wonder whether the baby is a boy or girl, or where the parents of this, vulnerable child might be. It is, however, apparent that the image has been digitally altered. The baby is a simulation. No child in the 'real' world could possibly be born with the square eyes and oversized ears of the TDK baby. Or could they? It appears as though defining the child's gender is of less concern than the question of whether 'it' is human at all. Post-gender and post-material, the TDK baby is emblematic of a posthuman condition that sees the breakdown between biological and information systems.1 The ambiguous and uncertain space that the posthuman occupies challenges fundamental assumptions regarding nature and artifice, man and woman, organism and machine.

As electronic networks corrupt the biological system, the TV eyes of the infant resonate with a Baudrillardian notion of the body as a non-reflecting screen in an auto-referential circuit of communication.2 In 'The Ecstasy of Communication' Jean Baudrillard speaks of a subject in a 'universe of communication' which sees 'our own body and the whole surrounding universe become a control screen.'3 Subjectivity in the context of electronic communications, as espoused by Baudrillard, contests a psychoanalytic subject model predicated upon the hierarchical mirror relationship between subject and object, which privileges the subject. Instead, in the flows of media and communication, Baudrillard claims that one no longer identifies or projects the self onto representations or objects. Rather:

In place of the reflexive transcendence of the mirror and scene, there is a nonreflecting surface, an immanent surface where operations unfold - the smooth operational surface of communication.4

Baudrillard's displacement of a psychoanalytic model of subject constitution proves immensely significant for forging alternative understandings of subjectivity in contemporary life. In a context where the real gives way to the hyperreal, Baudrillard seeks to put an end to dialectics, to a value system by which identity is forged through differentiation from the Other. For Baudrillard, the alienation of the subject is surpassed by the ecstasy of communication of the object. This ecstasy results from the proliferation of meaning within a context of the hyperreal that liberates meaning from its object-referent. …

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