Jovan Brkic, Student # 994081881

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  • This essay addresses the contemporary cultural association between the human body and technology in the media of every day life
  • Considers how the human body is transformed from a “thing of nature” to a “sign of culture”, and how the “techno-body” is constructed in contemporary culture
  • Balsamo argues the human body is a social, cultural and historical production
  • Balsamo defines the human body as an embodiment of ethnic, racial and gender identities, as well as a staged performance of personal identity, beauty, and health (among other things)
  • Thesis: "When starting with the assumption that bodies are always gendered and marked by race, it becomes clear that there are multiple forms of technological embodiment that must be attended to in order to make sense of the status of the body in contemporary culture."

Seeing Things Differently
  • Arthur Kroker refers to "post-modernity" as "hyper-modernity"
  • "Disappearing body" - a notion that the natural body has no ontological status separate from the proliferation of rhetorics that now invest the body with simulated meaning
  • Kroker argues that in culture, the body is transformed into historically specific ways. For example, bodies are transformed by the fashion industry into screen signs of a last, decadent and desperate search for desire after desire
  • Kroker states that women's bodies have always been postmodern because they have always known the invasion of cultural rhetorics that would define them according to a broader system of power
  • Women's bodies have always served as an inscribed text that dominant myths of musculinist culture are based upon
  • Body can neither be constructed as a purely discursive entity, nor constructed as a purely materialistic object. Therefore, the "dual nature" of the body should be considered

Cyberpunk techno-bodies
  • Four different versions of postmodern embodiment: the labouring body, the marked body, the repressed body, and the disappearing body
  • Pat Cadigan's 1991 cyberpunk novel, Synners, explicitly discusses these identities
  • The book illuminates the way the different genders relate to the technological space of information

The Marked Body
  • Bodies are eminently cultural signs, bearing the traces of ritual and mythic identities
  • Both the fashion industry and cosmetic surgery profession have capitalized on the role of the body where identities become signs and signs become commodities (known as "identity semiosis"). This leads to the technological production of identities for sale or rent
  • Fashion, as one technology of urban corporate identity, uses photography technology to represent the body, and often includes multiculturalism in this approach (eg. Elle Magazine's use of black and white bodies and colours to create a seasonal fashion look)
  • Cosmetic surgeons use new visualization technologies to exercise biological powers that affect the objectification of a body, as well as its appearance
  • Technologies such as video imaging programs and computer rendering tools can visually manipulate images of patients on camera, as well as visually illustrate possible surgical transformations
  • The cultural ideals of Western beauty are symbolized by the technological manipulation of the human body
  • Cosmetic surgery also literally transforms the body into a sign of our culture through a very technological procedure

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The Labouring Body
  • Defined as all reproductive bodies involved in the continuation of the human race in its multiple material incarnations. Also includes conditions for the production of cheap, high-tech devices purchased in bulk by US consumers of electronic commodities
  • The maternal body constantly becoming more of an object of technological manipulation than a service for human reproduction. An example is pregnancy surveillance, which monitors pregnant womens' health to determine how responsibly they are treating the fetus. Thus, the maternal body is technologically deconstructed, and becomes a visual medium by which fetuses can be monitored
  • This new technology creates new possibilities for the discipline of maternal bodies, and creates new cultural identities for maternity
  • Cheap labour in south-east Asia contributes to microelectronics industry
  • Women naturally suited for electronics assembly labour. This contributes to new socialization and service roles in certain cultures

The Repressed Body
  • Repression is a pain management technique
  • Technological repression of material body functions curtails pain by blocking sensory awareness channels
  • In technologies such as virtual reality applications and hardware, the body is redefined as a machine interface, and thus repressed both physically and visually
  • Virtual reality emerged during the 1980s, when the body was understood to be vulnerable to infection, gender, race, and ethnicity, among other things. This led to an interest in the illusion of control over reality, nature, and ultimately, the body itself
  • Ironically, virtual reality's reconstructed identity of life consists of traditional race and gender standards of beauty, strength and sexuality

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The Disappearing Body
  • Of all the forms of technological embodiment, the disappearing body is the one that promises the final erasure of gender and race as cultuarally organized systems of differentiation the most
  • Bio-engineered body parts and robots are replacing the functions of natural body parts
  • New artificial devices enable fantastic dreams of immortality and control over life and death
  • Plastic penile implants and prosthetic breasts represent a slow replacement in natural human reproductive parts with technological ones
  • Access to "identity data" a complicated topic
  • Ethical and human rights issues arising with insurance companies wanting DNA samples of new life insurance applicants, as well as the Human Genome Diversity project requesting DNA samples from several hundred distinct human populations for storage in gene banks
  • Human Genome Diversity project claims DNA will present evolutionary history clues, as well as evidence to certain populations' resistance and susceptibility to diseases
  • Personal information security concerns arise

References Cited:

Balsamo, Anne. "Forms of Technological Embodiment." The Information Society Reader (2004): 237-253.

Cyberpunk. Dark Art. February 26, 2006. Available:

Pregnancy. Fisher-Price. February 25, 2006. Available:

Prosthetic Leg. Cartoon Network. February 27, 2006. Available:

Extension of Ideas

  • A society where modernity is deepened or intensified
  • Includes a deep faith in humanity's ability to understand, manipulate and control all aspects of human existence
  • Emphasis on new technology rather than historical knowledge
  • Positive effects include improved living conditions, medical advances, and wealth expansion
  • Negative effects include loss of human soul, and technological divide
  • Sometimes reffered to as Supermodernity

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Hypermodernity: Where Japan and Korea Have Got Us Beat:
  • Japanese and Korean societies generally more technologically advanced than American society
  • More advanced cell phones, more citizens with fast Internet connections, and the common ownage of the Bidet toilets in Japan and Korea than in the USA
  • Japan has been the world leader in technological development since the Second World War
  • Korea also renowned for its hard-working, technologically-driven society
  • Japanese and Korean cultures not afraid of a technological world
  • These two countires set the international standards for technological development
  • Contribute greatly to creations and innovations in the field of technological embodiment, as many products directly used to enhance or replace bodily functions (as previously mentioned, the Bidet toilets, as well as voice-activated cell phones, smart cars, etc.

The Disappearing Body in Cinema
  • Telephones allow people to interact impersonally, and create an obstacle in the formation of person-to-person relationships. This goes against historical cultural and societal norms
  • In horror films such as Scream, Friday the 13th, and My Bloody Valentine, telephones are used by the killers to make impersonal contact with victims before any personal contact is made. This demonstrates society's technological growth, as strangers can now easily contact others
  • In Scream, the Internet is used to call for help when the phone line is busy, demonstrating the various technological options people have in society for contacting others

Recent Biotechnology News:
  • Proteon Therepeutics LLC, a start-up biotechnology company from Kansas City, USA, has created a laboratory-replicated human protein that permanently dilates blood vessels, which can improve the lives of dialysis patients within three years
  • Over $1.2 million has been invested into the project by investors
  • By 2009 should be released to the market
  • Great anticipation on the bodily improvements this technology will foster
  • The market for this discovery potentially worth over $2 billion annually

Gamma Knife System:
  • Technology allows for radiation to be given to more patients in far less time
  • Improved safety
  • Higher efficiency
  • This convenient radiation method is quickly growing in popularity
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With technology playing such an important role nowadays in everyday life, it is important to understand what technological embodiment is, and how it affects us on physical and mental levels. New technologies are just the beginning. Who knows where technology can lead us in the near future? But by understanding the basics of this new phenomenon, we can better prepare ourselves for dealing with and understanding the changes that will soon come.

References Cited:

Biotechnology. Internet. February 25, 2006. Available:

Chang, Jennifer. Hypermodernity: Where Japan and Korea Have Got Us Beat. Online.
Internet. February 25, 2006. Available:

Gamma Knife. Que Es Gamma Knife? February 26, 2006. Available:

Gamma Knife Centre. University of Maryland Medical Centre. Internet. February 26, 2006.
Available: <>

Motorolla Promo Product Previews. Motorolla. February 25, 2006. Available:

Spiteri, Charles. Isolation and Subjugation: The Telephone in the Slasher Film. Online. Internet.
February 24, 2006. Available:

Related Wiki Pages
Adaptive Technologies
Biometric Technology
Digital Divide
Privacy Invasion

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