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Re: <eyebeam><blast> the membrane in personal media
Yukiko Shikata wrote:
>For Barthes, the Japanese city was reached with a map, not with words
>(address), and was grasped by images which become visible by moving
>around. It might be explained as a chain of memory.
>This city structure, which consists of a collection of independent
>particulars, generates a sense of image-generated city. In order to
>exchange maps to get to a place, Japanese people were in need of
>facsimile machines, and the product spread immediately. At present, the
>popularity of a car navigation system is significant for this
>characteristic. The system, which shows images constantly changing as
>the car moves, navigates the car until it reaches the destination. The
>system offers interactive maps which are based on the position of the
>car. Through the images projected onto a monitor, an electronic skin, >in a personal and closed space of the car, and through the thorough
>navigation of smoothing down the streets, the driver feels the mutually
>circulating virtuality and reality for which the change in outside
>scenery means mobility. There is a sense of a feeler as an extension of
>the skin. This feeling of having a feeler is awakened in the >interaction of images and senses, and it can be grasped as connection >and mutual circulation of the driver's self to images (the self as >visual extension), then to the moving car (the self as his/her physical
This is a fascinating example of a network image, and the way that it is
always a part of a body-machine-image complex. The body-machine-image
complex is about transport, orientation, and acclimation, and we read
the image within it as a particular kind of readout, a traversal-field
of operations. It is about a kind of 'mobility matrix,' in which the the
visual field is a ruse for more pervasive procedures of mobilization,
which occur within fields of movement-tracking. We don't mind the
tracking because it's safer, more convenient, faster, and sexier.
Ensconced in a mobile bubble, safely removed from the messy, unreliable
world outside, one is propelled along through a landscape in a
protective coating, with 'feelers' (as Yukiko calls them).
For those who don't know about this system: I think one of the systems
in Japan is called the VICS (the Vehicle Information and Communication
System). If I'm not mistaken, here is how it works. It uses a computer
linked to the GPS satellite system to precisely locate the position of a
moving car, displaying the car's position as a mobile dot on a dashboard
LCD panel loaded with city maps. It indicates traffic jams and congested
roads, suggests alternate routes, and estimates travel times.
(Daimler-Benz and other organizations are developing more sophisticated
two-way systems that allow users to request more customized information,
such as the latest travel updates, weather, fishing reports, airline
information, restaurant locations, and schedules of events. Daimler-Benz
has even larger plans - an electronic system that automatically steers
and controls the cars for their drivers.)
The driver internalizes the routines and mechanisms of this apparatus
and is trained to drive as such. And at the same time, the car, as a
monitoring agency, learns the patterns and routines of the driver. It
is part of an apparatus that compiles and processes information as
various kinds of demographic studies. (This takes us into the
proliferating and under-recognized realm of DEMOGRAPHY, the medium
through which the populace is viewed, managed in terms of calculable
habits, functions, interests, and opinions [Jacques Ranciere talks about
this in terms of police practice and postdemocracy.])
So the image 'goes both ways.' As an agency of monitoring, one could
see that the image complex 'sees' what the driver does, how it moves,
what it wants, down to the smallest increments, eventually the tiniest
eye flickers, the tiniest vacillations of desire. Armed with this
knowledge, it helps to mobilize or transport an occupant through a
landscape and normalizes this procedure. You cease to rely on the
non-monitored and non-processed reality 'outside' as the
body-machine-image complex (here, a car) protects you from the dangers
of the raw reality that always lies just beyond its enclosure.
This enclosure doesn't have to be material. It can be induced. Think of
the remote control device, the wireless communicator, or the augmented
reality headgear as part of this kind of body-machine-image apparatus.
This protective enclosure, a bubble of subjectivity, becomes the
condition for presence itself -- defining (and resolving) an 'in here'
versus an 'out there,' a here against a there, or a now against a later,
between which its occupant is physically, mentally, or virtually
transported. It is a figure for a condition of protected intimacy cast
against a larger condition of the urban. A figure for
technologically-mediated mobilization, as it encapsulates the body in a
bubble of immediacy and shuttles it about.
Margaret Morse has written extraordinarily well on this kind of
apparatus and its effects.
One thing about it: it's fundamentally materializing (even though we
think of it as virtualizing). It sensitizes one to motion, moves the
body, resolves the disparity, and materializes - as if effecting the
very contours of the body, like molded seats that hold you just so like
corrective prosthetics. The world of ergonometric design is interesting
in this case - one could see it in terms of 'fitting' the body in terms
of its habits and routines, incorporating use-patterns into the very
contours of an object via sophisticated software (linked to tracking
modes, advancing asymptotically toward realtime systems). Fitting
against its skin (or rather its body contour which is not the same as
the skin boundary, because the body is extended via communications
technologies), it simultaneously holds, defines ranges of movement, and
mobilizes (even the early motion picture theater does this, because the
body must be held still first, in seat arrest, in order to be sensitized
to new motions, to slide it across new landscapes and prompt the
resolution of vast disparities). (btw this is the kind of 'resolution'
we could best be seeing, rather than that of image quality).
It helps to define the contours of the body that in/habits its confines.
Parameters of movement (physical, psychological, objective) are ranged.
The in/habiting body is reoriented through a complex of interlocking
mechanisms that participate in producing bodily faculties and
awarenesses (and here we have operations in the field of attention,
which should be taken into account in Michael Goldhaber's 'attention
economy' debate). Subject and image are acclimated to one another
within a technology of transport, a routined network that is not
captured in terms of visual meaning, and which cannot be grasped in
terms of traditional semiotics. We have run against the wall in this
approach. New approaches have been offered by Greg Ulmer, in play in
many of his posts here. Bruno Latour's actor network theory offers
many, and there is a lot of source material for this language in the
realm of choreography.
And interesting related issue (and related to Sjoukje's post): perhaps
work on the web should not be represented by, or thought in terms of,
still images, but in terms of a sequence of frames, along which actions
are ranged. A kind of vector from here ---> to there, through which
physical patterns and technical operations are woven, in a landscape of
Much can be said about a culture by the way in which it figures this
body--machine-image complex (and I didn't even get to here that 'chain
of memory'…) It's a culturally and historically specific construct,
while it simultaneously advances toward global ahistoricity. Thanks to
Yukiko for locating it in Japanese culture.
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