Technology and the Human Body – Final Student Projects
As a teacher, there’s nothing more satisfying than learning from your students and sitting back as they show you how well they can critically evaluate the material and bring new insights to it. Here below I have placed (with permissions) a few short excerpts from my students’ final projects, completed for the Rhetoric and Digital Media course on Technology and the Human Body, ENG/COM 395.
Jayne Goethe’s Final Project, titled “My Body Full of Sound”
“My Body, Full of Sound” is an art piece created to illustrate and expand upon the possibilities resulting from a transition from human to posthuman realities. Inspired by the work in posthuman theory by Tim Lenoir and N. Katherine Hayles, the piece analyzes the role of contemporary music, particularly contemporary techno and pop genres, as a reflection and generator of posthuman sensibilities. Hayles contends that our path to becoming posthuman will be through the process she terms “intermediation,” in which a series of integrated feedback loops between us and our technological devices, media, texts, and immersions will prepare and guide us towards a new all-digital future (Lenoir 3). Hayles argues further that it is through metaphor, narrative, and “other interpretive linguistic modes” that we will be conditioned for and directed towards this new world, as these modes are considered primary tools for understanding and imagining the world surrounding us (3). Through a multimedia approach, “My Body, Full of Sound” aims to illustrate and support Hayles' concept of intermediation, considering contemporary music a narrative-based “interpretive linguistic mode” that is anticipatory of, if not influential in, the transition to a posthuman world. VIDEO CLIP IMAGES: The video flashes behind and within the character's heads transforming the still frames into animated video. The flash and distortion of the images reeled to the music reference the simultaneous and endless bombardment of information received in a pervasive computing environment like the one we live in today—an interconnected environment of GPS systems, smart phones, and the internet—and the ones of the future being imagined and developed by the scientists mentioned in Lenoir's article, in which mechanical interfaces are erased altogether (20). COVER ART: Visuals gives face and color to the characters in the musical narrative. Each of the eight models was photographed twice—one full body shot and one headshot—assuming a blank, uninvolved pose. Such a pose is intended to convey the potentially emotionally neutralizing impact constant interaction and integration within an “environment of ubiquitous computing technology” may cause (15). Additionally, each model is wearing the same headphones, a symbolic indication that all characters are plugged into a singular digital-sonic realm.
[Crash] an interlude My body, its sound carries as I crawl into the space[s] fight tight all the screens [life tearing at the seams] I am listening my name is Listening. The character first describes her connection with sound as an embodied experience—it is her body that emanates and “carries” sound. A screen interface of some sort is then introduced, the character compelled to “fight” this screen, an attempt to withhold the body from the convoluting force of the technological interface. The poem suggests that it is the destiny and power of technology to tear life “at the seams,” executing the separation and distillation of the physical body into its purely digital form, posthuman at last. Hence, listening is transferred from an embodied act—“I am listening”—to a disembodied state, the name “Listening.” Michael Evans' Final Project: "Floating Lotus" IMAGE: STATEMENT: ‘Floating Lotus’ is a demonstration of the potential technology has of expanding not only physical and mental capabilities, but also spiritual capabilities. Transhumanism only acknowledges the breadth of human potential by viewing technology as a prosthetic for the human body and mind. ‘Breadth’ is herein defined as the range of capabilities of the human experience such as enhanced motor skills, memory, knowledge, and intellect. On the other hand, ‘depth’ can be defined as everything intrinsic to that human experience such as subjective consciousness and profound religious experience. The artwork manifests James Hughes’ argument that technologies can be adopted to enhance human spirituality. In one of his lectures, he states, “Transhumanism appears to be especially compatible with religious traditions that emphasize human agency and evolution to a transcendent state, such as Buddhism, or that have incorporated Enlightenment values, such as liberal Christianity.” This ‘trans-spirituality’ that Hughes claims is in line with the argument that technologies suitably enhance or have the potential to enhance the depth of the human psyche... Other liberties taken by the artist include the decision to give the work a ‘retro’ or ‘steam-punk’ feel by utilizing black and white as well as the ENIAC computer. This computer was a landmark in digital computing as well as a spark of the modern information age. The exposed wires and interconnectedness of the computer emphasizes the symbiotic relationship between man and machine. By happenstance, the image created the shape of a light bulb at the top, suggesting the boy achieved enlightenment while demonstrating the older metaphor humans had of seeing their bodies as electrical machines. Thomas Campbell, "Rhetoric of the Comic Body" STATEMENT: From Superman and Spider-man to the Sunday funnies comics historically have been a form interested in the human body. The bodies that live within the panels of comics however play by their own rules. The form can at once be celebratory of the human form and transforming it into something that few would call human. A good comic can come to life on the page and stretch the limits of what is considered real.
This Jason page shows how using animal characters matted on a human form can lessen the bodily affect tied to the characters’ more extreme actions–in this case violence. This sequence would read as horrific, if it were rendered realistically with a human doing the same action. Jason’s deadpan delivery also plays up the fact that it isn’t to be taken gravely.
The comics medium emphasizes a certain elasticity of the human form; a freedom from the constrains of realism. The cartoonist is able to use the human body as a spring board for their figures, at times to create creatures that are simultaneously identifiable and foreign...The human form is frequently at the forefront of comics story telling, but the nature of the medium allows the human form to become something not seen is everyday life. The body can become a symbol for action or emotion. It can be a stand me for one's self or another. In a medium where as much happens in what is seen as in what is not seen, the possibilities are limitless; and the definition of the body is ever changing. PROJECT SLIDES: See images and descriptions in the comments line: Thomas Campbell Comics Slide Show