(Im)Mobility: Transgression and Control

Last week, I attended the University of Waterloo’s SAGE Annual Colloquium, (Im)Mobility: Transgression and Control. It was a great conference filled with interesting talks that ranged from biopolitics, adaptation and authorship, mobile technologies, transmedia, surveillance, social media bots, and loads of other cool things. I presented a talk on mobile technologies as bodily extensions and looked at IRL vs. VR while tackling the digital dualism debate that I started paying more attention to after the “I Forgot My Phone” video came out. As a starting point, I found this article very helpful, and I don’t think it’s news to anybody that I’m a Cyborgology addict. The aforementioned article led me on the right path, and I probably spent too much time reading articles like this one and not enough time making sure my printer had ink the morning of the talk.

Here’s the abstract. Like everything, its going to be part of a larger study on telepresence and technological extensions of the mind/body.

“Existing IRL: Hybridity in Everyday Life”

The prevalence of mobile communications media has come under harsh scrutiny in recent years, as the capacity for handheld devices to connect us to different “virtual” spaces has increased. Mobile smartphones in particular have been regarded as devices that alienate us from our organic surroundings. Due to the “ethereal otherness” of digital spatial experience, many critics believe that cyberspace distracts us from engagement in everyday life, and that our interactions within the virtual realm prevent us from being present in the physical world. The divide between “real” and “virtual” spaces suggests that we can exist in one or the other, but never in both. This conception of digital dualism has been combated by theorists including Richard Coyne, who argues for the existence of an invisible other realm, as well as Mark Hansen, whose “mixed reality” proposes a hybridized existence between physical and digital. As the mobile phone becomes increasingly ubiquitous as a technology, it merges into our own corporeal schema, or our “body image” as conceptualized by Merleau-Ponty.

I am interested in the concept of space as it exists within one’s existence in the inter-sensory world, where, as Ingrid Richardson argues, the mobile phone can reinstate our interconnectedness, extending the spatiality of the body and the expression of our personhood. This paper explores the ways in which handheld technologies can act as physical and intellectual extensions of the mind-body, shattering conceptions of digital dualism and traditional boundaries of space. By viewing mobility as a digital substrate of the physical realm, this study shows how handheld technologies can grant us unprecedented insight into spaces we occupy, allowing us new measures of control.


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