You can’t touch this…this me through the screen

Thinking cyborg, posthumanism, and other assorted connective ideologies elaborating on how we are wetwared with technology is no easy venture at the moment, but I’m going to try.

My knowledge of this topic all started when I read Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto.” I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy and your eyes in her mind for a few. But I’m not gonna quote any theorists tonite. Tired of the use of dominant minds right now, needing a little more me in my head.

I’ve been forced to come full-feelthought with the way we are and are not our selves in the Internet. Up until a few days ago, I really thought we were inexplicably connected with our technology. Now I’m not so sure. A few people I’ve talked with tell me that any interaction that we have with each other via text is a lesser reality. I had read some theory on this, and know that is a common view/assumption. However, I was apt to hope—to dare—for something much more social and interactive. I verbed the social aspect of technology because I wanted it to be true. So I acted like it was; I pretended.

These wonderful humans say you can’t know a person till you can touch, taste, and smell them too. The whole all the senses thing I guess. Welllll I thought that touch was something more than fingers, often we can feel each other through the state of the inside. What did I tell one of my new friends today? Hmm…oh yes: {system echo pulls}.

The meaning of this is in my inability to translate what I’ve been physically feeling within sometime I mistakenly thought was connection. Not to say that the translation of this touch is incorrect, but I will say it is incomplete. However, this is the closest language has brought me to articulating the experience of feeling I had often felt. It was a nervous system pull that pushed against everything inside me, took my breath away, made me sigh, and left me feeling like I had fully breathed.

Odd. Enjoyable. Other whatevers.

Now that time has passed, and I have been gifted the sense of speech—real speech—I have to say I’m starting to go backwards in the theory a bit. Our interactions with each other are fully dependent upon multiple ways of reaching. Text is not enough. Seeing words are just one tiny sliver of meaning. No wonder it didn’t mean anything, how could it? All that feeling was thought trapped in text without any other sense to quantify it. Simple arithmetic: subtraction.

Sure we can put our selves in contact with one another through hardware, but we must attend to the acts as the acts are. There are significant limitations with them, unnaturally.

One is that some of us do not feel comfortable sharing our selves in the first place. Text is that simple subtraction of self, purposely—rhetorically—limiting connection based on several possible reasons. ( I won’t digress unless you ask. ) We keep power and control over others by how much we text-speak. The communication in this fashion is the most ours any communication can be. We cannot control how an other will read our text, but we can imply meaning in our word choice. An other has no other means in which to interpret us. We own almost all of our self in text-speak.

Once communication moves to audible voice, we lose a little of our control. An other can read sound and tone in our words. We can also be (usually, not all) less aware of the visual look of our words when we speak, though they do have very real appearance even in speech (another blog post, perhaps). The control we had in simple text-speech lessens because we’ve chosen to share more of our physical self with an other. We are gifting them the access to knowing us through an extra sense.

If the communication adds another textual layer, sight, our control lessens yet again. In order to keep authority of the interpretation of our self, we must command our facial movements and gestures to rhetorically influence an other. This can be tiring. It can also fail us because we may fail ourselves. At any moment, a certain sight-sound-speech of an other can render us unto our feelings. Those moments where someone says something to you, and you are caught off guard, then lower your guard—those moments. These reactions are our laughter, our sighs, our gestures, and all the other things that only become more human if an other is there to witness them.

The lean on witness is critical here in my process. To witness an other in sight, sound, vision, and text means that we are privileged to be in an other’s presence. That person trusts enough to give us the opportunity to see them in ways they might not be able to control. If we are hesitant or scared of such an act of giving ourselves, we are intimating that control is more important than communication and connection. That is not necessarily a negative thing, but it does say a lot about the person who does not share or gift. Again, silence is the loudest of languages we humans exploit.

There are three more senses: touch, taste and smell. I know I brought it up earlier to recall a tangible memory, yet touch needs to change into a new thought now. I need to ask: what is touch, really?

Touch is just that—touch. It is a hug, not the virtual kind  of *hug* safely tucked in between two asterisks. It is not the act of touching keyboard keys to say text-speak to an other. Touch is a real human move. The fingers say a lot. As do those accidental knee or elbow grazes we may share with an other unexpectedly. Knowing, guided, and unbridled touch tells the other that we are gifting the intimacy of a very human boundary: skin.

Recognizing an other in their skin leads us to the other two senses. Smell is the chemical reaction of internal and external forces upon the body. We can learn more about an other in the way they adapt to these forces. Without going into detail of positive and negative smells (and how subjective they are), I want to focus on memory. Those of us in the know of stuffs know that smell is the strongest trigger of memory we have. For something we often take for granted, smell has a power we could attend to more. We may also want to gift an other smell, too, if we are going with the thread of gifting. Think perfume, sweat, my lip gloss ;)  (here I am getting tired, and it is showing in my discourse). Moving on…

I’ve put off taste until the end because it is the most human of communications. Taste is a completely sensual essence of sharing. To taste tells the other that you want to consume them, to know them internally. Allowing an other to taste us, we are gifting all control to them; we are surrendering all communication to being subsumed. Do I even need to explain what is significant—meaningful—in that speech act? No. You all probably know exactly what I mean, and what it feels like.

I’m gonna leave it at that. Leave you all to your various speech acts with others.

What I will say at the end of this is that speech is of utmost importance. Each level of communication is a gift, a gift outside of hardware. No theory, no approach has yet to permit us to break those human boundaries that reaffirm our humanity: meeting an other as an other. Explains so much.

Good night friends and foes.


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