Blog Post

Interface Seminar: Architecture from the Outside

Elizabeth Grosz is interested in how concepts like "virtual reality" and the "cyberspace" inherently presuppose some distinction between the mind and body, so that when we talk about technology we talk about overcoming the limits of our bodies. She sums this up in the slogan:
"We do not have bodies, we are bodies"

In fact, she finds, in the tradition of Deleuze and Guattari's classic "What is philosophy?", that the first technology that let us outside of our bodies is simple architecture used to fulfill our most basic needs for shelter.

What seems so alluring about the half-formed promse of VR technologies is the ideal of a world of ne's own that one can share with others through consensus but that one can enter or leave at will, over whose movements and processes one can exert a measure of control, and that brings a certain guarntee of pleasure without danger. In a sense, these are assumptions are not all that far from the conditions necessary to produce the discipline and practice of architecture itself" p 82 "Archtecture from the Outside"

She's also very interested in the concept of "virtuality" - which is a technical philosophical word that signifies the space of possible futures within our grasp to make happen rather than simple "cyberspace." She believes these two traditionally considered non-related usages of the word "virtual" can be brought together

So, when we use technology, we do not check in our bodies at the front door:

"Can the computer screen act as a clear-cut barrier separating cyberspace from real space, the space of mental inhabitation from the physical space of corporeality?"

Second reading "Time Travel":

In fact, it is the ability of our organic body to assimilate inorganic things that is crucical to the very idea of intelligence. Grosz in particular finds that this technological impuluse is unique to human intelligence, as is technology per se, which she defines as:
"Technology is meta-production, second order production, creating things to produce things"

She believes that this allows us to reconcile the eternal division between the subject and the object as the difference between things and life "The thing is the provocation of the non-living, the half-living, or that which has no life, to the living, to the potential of and for life."

And that this leads to thinking in terms of "things" as the precondition for life:

"We cannot help but view the world int terms of solids, as things But we leve behind something untapped in the fluidity of the world" p 136

But it is our ability to create technology that in turn creates things that gives us not only more control, but Grosz is worried about digital technology, that furthers this instinct to divide the world into things into its logical end since it "carries within it both the intellectual impluse to the division of relations into solids and entites, objects and things, one and zeros, and the living impuluse to render the world practically amendable"

So this isn't all bad, since "is technology the inherently simplifciation and redution of the real" or something more complex that might allow us to "invent machines, things, objects not for what we can do with them, but for ways in which they can transform us, ebeyond even our own control" p 144

To this end, she's interested in "prosthetics" since for her, as "for Bergson, life expands itself by generating new capacities in both the living being and the prosthetic object"

Such that it makes us really doubt our role as the superior partner in our relationship to the "non-living world" since it is open "whether the nonlving, the inhuman which functions as a prosthetic for living beings, or whter, on the contrary, lviing beings are the prosthetic augmentation of inert matter" p 153


1 comment

Good stuff