This week, I’m attending the Society for Utopian Studies’ 39th Annual Meeting in Montreal, PQ. This is the second time I’m attending this conference as a member, and I’m giving a talk called “The New Mobile Subject: Hybridity and the Body in the Techno-Utopian Age.” Below, you’ll find the abstract for this talk, and which is a condensed version of a chapter in the forthcoming Individual and Utopia being published by Ashgate in 2015:
The growing prevalence of mobile communications media has come under harsh scrutiny in recent years, as mobile smartphones have become increasingly capable of connecting us to different “virtual” spaces, promising a utopian world of constant connectivity independent of one’s physical location. As a result, one of the most common criticisms of mobile smartphones is that we are un-placed by them, distracted from everyday life and removed from our physical engagements. In this talk, I explore the emergence of digital hybridity with our increased usage of mobile smartphones and the manner in which they have modified our relation to spatiality. I argue that smartphones act as physical and cognitive extensions of the mind and the body, capable of merging into our corporeal schema, reinstating interconnectedness and extending the expression of personhood. Due to the “ethereal otherness” of virtual interactions, early critics like Howard Rheingold and Sherry Turkle view the virtual as the disembodiment of the body’s corporeality. In response, I propose that our interactions with technology cause us not to lose our bodies to virtual spaces, but the opportunity to re-define them within what Mark Hansen calls mixed reality and Adriana de Souza e Silva refers to as hybrid space. By examining technology as prosthesis in a techno-utopian framework, I examine how mobile smartphones are signifying the emergence of the posthuman “new mobile subject,” a being that creates an incorporeal utopian body in a newly defined space of ownership. Overall, my aim is to provide a new context for examining how engagements with digital devices provide us a new measure of embodied autonomy and freedom.