Tag: embodiment

“Un-fixing” hormones: searching for the multiple in hormonal selves

What are hormones? While biomedical notions of hormones focus on their biological functions in bodies, hormones are also cultural artifacts, shaping understandings of health, normalcy, and what it means to live “hormonally balanced lives.” These molecules activate processes across emotions and physiology, social and material worlds, mental and physical health, organic and synthetic biology, the gendered and the non-gendered, and the normal and the pathological. Thus, hormones carry multiple, sometimes conflicting meanings, and sit at the meeting point between many different biomedical and social spheres of life, making them subject to multiple kinds of knowledges (Roberts, 2007). (read more...)

On The Social Life of TBI

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a common injury that occurs when a physical blow or force to the head damages the brain inside the skull—full stop. As such, TBI is a natural part of life in a world in which it is possible (and easy) to hit one’s head. It is often fatal, one of the leading “causes of death and disability” in the US (CDC 2015). This straightforward conception is codified in biomedical publication and practice, enshrined in the federal TBI Act of 1996 and national disability policy, and has even made brief appearances in popular film and public debate about the health risks of contact sports. This bio-political consensus is thus clear and plain: “TBI” indicates a singular event and its direct and natural bodily consequences.[1] (read more...)

“Becoming Blind” in Virtual Reality

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth post in the series on Disabling Technologies Can technology convey experiences that are not our own, ones we can at the most imagine experiencing from a first person perspective? Furthermore, can technology help us understand the multisensory and deeply emotional qualities of such experiences? Central to this post is the consideration of how the Virtual Reality (VR) documentary Notes on Blindness may enable us to experience a ‘world without images’. I explore these questions through touching upon the problem of individual experience contra the universal. Indeed, if there is no such thing as a “universal” experience of blindness (Cupitt 2017; Hull 1990; Sacks 2005), and if VR experiences are also highly individualized (Aardema et al 2010), is there still value to be found in the personal experience? In an auto-ethnographic description of my experience with Notes on Blindness, I will focus mostly on my bodily sensations, changing emotions and how I went about “looking for my legs” in a VR. (read more...)

Learning to be Trans on YouTube

Editor’s note: This week, we have a first for the blog: a bilingual post! “When I first started to come out as trans, I went straight to YouTube, and watched a bunch of videos trans kids, and then I started to find videos from people my own age.” Sitting in the living room of his parents’ house in suburban Santiago, Chile, days before his double mastectomy in June 2016, Noah told me a story I would hear repeatedly, with surprisingly little variation, over the course of my fieldwork. He continued, “Even then, the reality I saw was very different. The majority were from the US and England, but at least they helped me understand, ‘OK, so you can start to transition at the age of 19 or 20, like me.’” After an adolescence of not knowing quite where he fit, Noah had found a global community of people like himself with the click of his mouse. (read more...)

Destination: You

On a recent trip to California I took the train down to San Jose to visit the Tech Museum of Innovation where a new exhibit focused on wearable technology and data—Body Metrics—had just been unveiled. I study the proliferation of digital self-tracking, a phenomenon made increasingly widespread by the popularity of sensor technology and wearable devices (think Apple Watch, Fitbit wristbands, or OMsignal shirts) that generate data about one’s self. In my research I pay particular attention to the way these new technologies of knowledge are shifting the way we think about and view our bodies so I was keen to see the way the museum expressed the relationship between data and bodies. My visit would become haunted, however, by another display of the body—the Body Worlds exhibit—that I had seen months earlier in New York City. Considered alongside one another, the two exhibits say a lot about the way we commonly conceptualize personal data. (read more...)