This week, we explored the issue of technology within the bigger ‘New Materialism’ subject heading. We were to read Wilk’s, “Where Looks Don’t Matter and Only the Best Writers Get Laid,” and Gill-Peterson’s blog post, “We are Not Cyborg Subjects, We are Artisans.”
Really Broad Strokes: One thing I thought was happening between the two pieces was a sort of call-and-response.
Wilk presented the reader with a brief history of the “cyber-body freedom” days (late 80’s-early 90’s) where the internet was text-based. This period allowed for potential transcendence from corporeal and social gender/race/sexuality identity restrictors within cyber-communication, which at the time spurred a lot of cyberfeminist hope for a posthumanist shift beyond gender/race/sexuality and other socially constructed points of subjugation. However, because of the seemingly unsafe risks involved with creating these alternative identities (risks of cyber-violence, rape, psychological rape), for the sake of safety, there was a shift to a 1:1 representation of those online, and with that, also a shift to more objective, absolutist discourse. With that shift came the rise of social media, internet revenue (and all the biased targeting that goes with it), and the blaring fact that the web designers and programmers (the people who were dealing with the actual material of these sites) were majorly men. This technological shift is in service of the status quo, gender binary, where men are the scientists, and women are the socialites. By the end of the article we were left with this:
“A 1:1 relationship of representation to reality is not what cyberculture predicted of the Internet. New technologies always arrive with ridiculous, unfulfillable promises. Actual outcomes are unpredictable. If there’s one idea from the text-based Internet era I’d hold onto, it wouldn’t be the possibility of cyberutopia. It would be the acceptance of my subjectivity as the basis of my agency. Whether I’m standing behind the curtain or in front of it makes all the difference.” (Wilk, 2013) (emphasis mine)
**Aside: I am pretty much sticking to the gender binary here, as it flows best for what I am going to write about the second piece.
The notion that one’s subjectivity as the basis of one’s agency is what connected the two pieces for me. Gill-Peterson’s insightful work calls for the incorporation of material assemblages within our consideration of the, “…various forms of trans embodiment, not only in transition, but the multiplicity of forms of technological intervention (in the most expansive sense of that phrase) into the human body…” (Gill-Peterson, 2013). There is a call for this consideration and shift, in order to stop privileging the “natural human body,” and stop seeing any shift away from the natural human body as a failure or pathology. I suggest you read this article if any of what I’ve written resonates with you. But what stuck with me was this:
“Our bodies are not passive material substrates governed by a consciousness, gendered or otherwise, but have their own affects, their own singularities and implicit forms that intra-act with our intentional and unintentional work upon them. In this way, trans embodiment is not a derivative of the natural human body, for all bodies are formed through technogenesis and the active participation of the body’s materiality in its continual becoming, its continual modification. If anything, this is an even stronger affirmation of trans embodiment, because it finds transness in matter itself, not only as a psychic phenomenon… Like the artisan, we must all find ways of surrendering to the activity of our bodies, to stop working against their affects and instead with them, and in so doing affirm our embodiment as a joyful process of creative evolution.” (Gill-Peterson, 2013)
If I am understanding this right, I think an example of the creative evolution we are being inspired to engage in is seen in Buck Angel, who, coincidently is also my #MCM (ManCrushMonday):
Seriously, I find that the way Buck embodies his trans identity is in this way where he is working WITH his body and not against it. He distorts a lot of common trans-failing/pathological tropes, and is constantly laboring with the materiality of his body, instead of against it. If you’re interested in more details about Buck, I suggest you check his documentary, “Mr. Angel,” out. Here is the trailer.
Epistemological _Brick Wall_:
I suppose what I’m left with this week is basically the same thing I was left with last week, how can biology and hard science really aid us in gaining a more dynamic perspective of sociological/phenomenological issues? How can we understand this relatively new discourse in open, more positive ways? Should we? It’s sad that women (like myself) have been socialized to avoid hard science and technology, I am sure there are PLENTY of worlds to be shattered with more marginal voices added to the mix.
I’m pretty sure by now you know these philosophical topics are new to me, so I hope you’re enjoying my initial go-round 🙂