Tag Archives: Embodiment

#Biohacking Part II: Or, My Life in Magnetic Vision

After writing that last post on biohacking, I’ve been thinking more about the body as a (media) system, or a system of language, with internal mechanisms keyed to its survival. As a friend put it, “food is a medium through which we communicate with the body,” and to add to that, food may be a way for the body to speak back to us as well.

Is everything we do to the body communication?

I’ve lurked sites like BME for decades, long before I got my first tattoo, while I was figuring out what parts of my ears to pierce, when I was working up to scarification. It was on BME that I first read about magnetic implants, when I was still in college and afraid to relinquish control long enough to allow an artist to exact permanence on my skin. The procedure involved inserting a magnet deep into a finger (or other body part), after which the magnet would move in response to electromagnetic fields and transfer that sensation to the surrounding nerves. The result: an anatomically internal sense of the electromagnetic spectrum as an extension of touch.

I had zero diagnoses at the time but I felt disabled enough that I wanted this, badly.

The procedure wasn’t perfect when I first read about it. Dip-coated silicone coatings could easily degrade, exposing the body to dangerous rare-earth metals and compromising the magnet. Shatter the magnet and you risk the same toxicity, migration, rupture, nerve death. I remember reading about Shannon Larratt compromising his magnets and having them removed. I’d seen more gruesome images than those photos, and his removal went without a hitch, but I could imagine a foreign body corroding under my skin, killing my fingertip sensation utterly, because I’ve never been so lucky.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a few years after I read about magnetic vision. I started modifying myself that same year. Everything on my body doubles as a commemoration and a teaching tool, and certain modifications—piercings and scarifications in particular—offer new ways of interacting with and experiencing the world. After all that, plus living with a condition that already complicates my sensory experience of myself, others, and the world, implanting a tiny magnet into my finger didn’t seem so terrifying.

Exactly three weeks after I had the procedure done, the magnet is no longer a foreign body vibrating alongside my finger pad. It is my finger itself. It is my nerves, jangling, when I run my microwave, shouting an interruption when I walk through security gates, humming in C major to accompany my electric toothbrush, reminding me that there is so much more to the world than can be seen or felt by the body as we are born.

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For Every Student Who Ever Has to Complete an Analytical Writing Assignment

Only not really because that would just be a blanket generalization, now wouldn’t it?

Tongue-in-cheek remarks aside, I finally decided to try to shortcut an answer to the questions that come pouring in right before the first analytical paper assignment, regardless of the course subject: What’s a theoretical concept again? How am I supposed to use it? What do you mean, “apply”?

My use of “the lens” dates back to my teacher training in Columbia University’s Undergraduate Writing Program, and it was a confusing concept for students then and it’s still confusing now. Since today was a snow day and I like procrastinating, I decided to take a stab at a video explanation of what a lens is and how to use it.

The materials I used were a notepad, a pencil, a strip cut out of a transparency sheet, and a Batman plushie. Hopefully that was enough. I think one slide may have been out of order but still, you get the idea.

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The view from the anonymous room.

Question: Why people can’t 1. rationally explain their thoughts in as much detail as necessary for a reader to gain nuanced understanding of the subject and/or opinion, and 2. for the love of god, qualify your sweeping generalizations.  If you’re above college age and writing prolifically, this is something you ought to know.

Recently I read this article in Emily Magazine and was baffled by the sweeping statements it made in light of the narrowness of its scope.  In the article, Emily starts by adding to previous thoughts on Facebook but expands her argument seemingly to the whole Internet, suggesting that the ideal approach to the Internet is not privacy and anonymity but anti-privacy and total, honest self-revelation.  What she fails to mention is that most of the behavior that takes place in anonymous virtual space is often more genuine and self-revealing than interactions that occur in “meatspace.”  Since I teach cyberculture, ranging from Facebook to less traditional exhibits such as 4chan, fan communities, fetish forums, and blogs such as PostSecret, I thought I would dispel my rage by formulating a few thoughts on the subject in response to Emily’s article. Continue reading

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Avatars as embodiment in A-culture spaces.

[ser-vahy-vuhl] = n., subsisting under adverse or unusual conditions, currently complicated by playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, handing out D’s like candy on Halloween, and being really, really hungry

Creating avatars today reminded me of how much I want to do an avatar/macro deconstruction in class.  I’ve taught assignments on Second Life, where students created a 3D avatar, navigated the environment, and analyzed their experience, but lately I’m more interested in the static Internet macro as a form of embodiment in otherwise purely disembodied spaces.  Perhaps this is because I’ve been spending more and more time fruitlessly combing 4chan in the attempt to figure out if I can build a work-safe essay progression around it (lolwut).  At any rate, you’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the Internet proliferation of macros–close-up photographed or drawn images juxtaposed with concise, often 1337-speak text–such as lolcats, or memes like the O RLY owl or any number of mock motivational posters, like the 2006 Viral marketing meme on 4chan’s /a/ or panda unrelated.  Though these macros tend to be created as humor, or as a response to someone’s/something’s popularity, they are also used to create avatars, which I think primarily cluster around LiveJournal, fanfiction.net, xanga, DeviantArt, and similar web communities.  In these cases, the juxtaposition of image and text seem to work differently than they do in memes and demotivational posters: instead of working in unrelated pairs, avatar macros combine a figure’s expression or gesture with text that either reinforces, opposes, or elaborates on that expression or gesture–in other words, it draws on “under-language.” Continue reading

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