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What I found particularly interesting this week was thinking about the ways that the view of information as immaterial is not only factually incorrect but a way of reinforcing the liberal conception of identity, a conception that is embedded in and indebted to enlightenment conceptions of individuality and the various oppressions which those entail.

“Information viewed as pattern and not tied to a particular instantiation is information free to travel across time and space. …The great dream and promise of information is that it can be free from the material constraints that govern the mortal world…. In the face of such a powerful dream, it can be a shock to remember that for information to exist, it must always be instantiated in a medium,… The point is not only that abstracting information from a material base is an imaginary act but also, and more fundamentally, that conceiving of information as a thing separate from the medium instantiating it is a prior imaginary act that constructs a holistic phenomenon as an information/matter duality.” (Hayles, 13)

Later on that page she continues:

“Virtuality is the cultural perception that material objects are interpenetrated by information patterns. The definition plays off the duality at the heart of the condition of virtuality–materiality on the one hand, information on the other.” (Hayles, 13-14)

Going again back to Ajana, I think it is useful to bring up the ways in which the governance of inner and outer borders is conceptualized on both the recognition and disavowal of the imaginary nature of the instantiation of virtuality. In other words it seems that to govern a population and police its borders, one must both understand and account for the ways that information is always embodied, but also disavow that understanding by claiming that information really not need be embodied. I would link this to a liberal conception of colorblind racism or really any view of oppressive systems as being merely an issue of recognition.

For an easy example we can look at airports and the ways in which they can claim to both be neutral while at the same time engaging in clear racial and ethnic profiling as well as criminalization of queer, trans, and disabled people. On the one hand they can develop policies which clearly are targeting specific populations by framing them as deceptive and threats through the ways that information is necessarily embodied (If someone’s ID and picture/voice/dress do not match in a normative way this is suspicious and provide grounds for investigation, If someone’s behavior deviates from these standards of how innocent passengers act then they are suspicious and provide grounds for investigation ) and then enforce those policies by validating the informational through the embodied, and then on the other hand maintain that these systems are only for targeting threats who can be determined based purely on the informational patterns that they exhibit, not their actual body or appearance.

It might be tempting to say that this is not disavowal of an accepted phenomena but instead a representation of the imaginary separation and what is being passed off as an incidental correlation. I say disavowal here because the engineers and programmers of systems like this count on the fact that information “must always be instantiated in a medium,” (Hayles, 13) or these systems of security and control wouldn’t work. Beyond measures as I have described, social security numbers assigned at birth and biometrics are two more easy examples that show a clear recognition on the part of control systems that information must be embodied and that there is no transcendental informational subject. If there were then they would be truly ungovernable in any context where the imagined division between information and actuality were bridged (recall the border from Sleep Dealer that does a biometric scan of the body to determine who he is and whether he is allowed to cross into mexico, if information were not necessarily embodied then such a border would not work).

To be more clear I want to say, though Hayles doesn’t explicitly say this, that it is clear that there cannot be a definite mind/body, informational pattern,embodied actuality distinction because of the ways in which the former because it is not transcendental is always related to and dependent on the latter in its negotiation of itself. It is easy to say that you can take someone and upload their mind into cyberspace or whatever you want, stripping them of the body and thus the harms that go along with it. This however only works if the ways in which the body always leaves traces in the creation and negotiation of the mind falls in line with normative standards and is thus invisible. If you take Christina Paxson and my grandmother and upload them both into computers I see no reason to believe she would give up her accent but Christina Paxson’s speech would stay the same. Further, I see no reason to believe that these machines themselves which they have been uploaded to are somehow a bastion of freedom and more immaterial than a flesh and blood body. Compare someone who uploads their mind to a machine without broadband internet access to someone with access to google fiber and the difference seems clear.

Looking at other peoples’s blog posts, particularly Myles’s, I would ask that we discuss what for Hayles does embodiment entail exactly?

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