catacomber (catacomber) wrote,


For Eugene Thacker, Donna Haroway's description of a current cyborg reality where the distinctions of body and machine are being blurred and challenged is passe. Things have already gone even farther than that. In Biomedia, those blurry lines are not only something to come to terms with, they are reality and the implications are even greater than Haroway imagined. The distinctions are no longer just blurry, the categories themselves have had to become recontextualized. Soon, the old categories may become so de-contextualized, people will wonder what Haroway was talking about. (yeah, right.)

For Thacker, the body is no longer the old centralized starting point that McLuhan saw as the purpose informing the invention and usage of tools. As with Haroway's vision, those tools, once seen as externalized aids or facilitators of bodily functions, no longer have a clearly defined beginning and end point. In fact, there may be little use in defining them. Instead, the body itself has become more of a throughput device. It is a medium unto itself. And "medium" as a concept also gets redefined, or at least refined. To make his clearer his use of the "medium", he quotes Bolter and Grusin by saying "a medium is that which remediates".(8) In other words, it acts on pre-existing information, and then re-creates that information into new forms.

By way of demonstrating how this has happened, he discusses bioMEMS, bio-medical or bio-technological microelectronic mechanical systems. As an example of, a bioMEMS device could be an in vivo transmitter that isolates sequences as it searches for a particular DNA strand that may index a disease propensity in an individual patient.

While most of the book seems to deal directly with descriptive passage about how the biomediated world is coming to be, he spends some time as well dwelling on the cultural implication of this recent transformation of the definitions of our natural selves. In the biomediated universe, data becomes "transcoded", so not only the physical properties of the world are transformed, but the very distinction between information and the mechanical world is also being blurred. Transcoding involves "the transmission of the metaphors, concepts, and catefgories of thought from one medium to another." (73)

These ideas make my head spin so much I don't know where to begin.

First of all, there is Rich Doyle. What Doyle was theorizing is acutalized in Thacker's history. He refers to bioMEMS as "transcoding protocols". (74) With that in mind, it is a simple step to get back to Doyle and the idea that the new experimentation, new forms of self understanding are losing their old teleologies. The body is disappearing along with history itself. Or perhaps not disappearing, but being washed into other bodies, "shot through" as Thurtle says, bleeding signs like a wet watercolor.

But the modern dream doesn't leave these passages, nor the postmodern. Transcoding is easily connected to Barthes and Baudrillard, as the signs are systemetized, detached from some unreachable, ephemeral, "real" origin, now made into new meta-bodies: augmented, hyperstasized, open. Power and the supposedly modern dream of unlimited physical, kinetic, consumed self passage is being facilitated in ways that were largely unpredictable.

"the metaorganism is the body beyond itself; it is a mode of materiality producing a discourse around the human body, through which the body may be "elevated" technically, as well as conceptually and ethically." (83)

A mode of materiality... recontextualized biology... I love it.
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