Digital Embodiment

by scholastress

Although a surface appraisal of phenomena such as VR or telepresent artworks may tender proof that we are gaining a distance from both the material of our bodies and the ability of art to directly affect the senses, I believe this appraisal rests upon an impoverished view of materiality and an unimaginative evaluation of new media art. Instead, I think that the incorporeal vectors of digital information draw out the capacities of our bodies to become other than matter conceived as a mere vessel for consciousness or a substrate for signal. In particular, we might point to the odd kinaesthetic and proprioceptive arrangements for bodies in many information interfaces, where the embodied self is forced into a close proximity with itself as a dematerialized representation via the cursor, the feedback of virtual and actual gesture in immersive environments or bandwidth, and the sensory compression in online interaction. These arrangements of sensation in tandem with information are commonly thought to herald the predominance of the information pattern over the matter it inhabits or hopes to control. Katherine Hayles has termed this entering “the condition of virtuality.” But we may also conceive of these experiences as new territory made possible by the fact that our bodies are immanently open to these kinds of technically symbiotic transformations.

– Anna Munster, Materializing New Media, 19 (quite the promising read so far)