sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
[personal profile] sasha_feather
I keep meaning to write about the WisCon panel I was on called "Flesh Colored bandadges and Skin Jobs in real life and SF."
What do class, gender, age, race, and ethnicity have to do with our social perceptions of prostheses? Do class, age, race, gender, or ethnicity matter when it comes to cyborg enhancements of the body? Or is the body of a cyborg a smooth, ideology–free zone?

Luckily, a couple of others have written about it, which means I don't have to remember everything:

The Hathor Legacy

"Dr. Ben Mack: Prominent User of the Internet" (epi-lj)

I talked a lot during this panel and felt that the panel itself was very thought-provoking. My mind goes in five hundred directions on this topic and it's hard to rein myself in.

I mentioned Aimee Mullins who is an athlete, model, and speaker. She has many different prosthetic legs that she wears. Some of them are works of art.

"Flesh-colored bandages" refers to the beige tone of band-aids and ACE wraps, which of course is racist, and the whole reason they are colored this way is for white people to try and "pass" as non-disabled. It's not like people don't notice and comment on such things anyway. Once in a while you might be able to pass. Do you want to pass? Would you rather have a flashy, stylish piece of assistive tech? I talked about wearing a wrist brace, and how I would rather wear one that looks like a gauntlet, or is gray with circuits, or is argyle. In short, something stylish. If people are going to notice, let them notice! Make it cool! Someone said that kids' band-aids often have cartoon characters for this reason, the coolness factor.

We all struggled with the "ideology-free zone" concept. I don't think anyone knows what this means. I said that ideology is not just how others see us, it is how we see ourselves. My disability status is part of my self-identity. I ranted about James Cameron's Avatar a bit and how I don't believe in the dream of turning in one's disabled body for a fresh, new alien one. First of all, doesn't the alien body have a brain (and therefore mind) of it's own? Secondly, Jake Sully's body is him. I reject your Cartesian mind-body disconnect! This gets complex, of course, and I could go on and on for hours, back and forth over this point. The feminist discourse in particular values "our bodies, ourselves" and for that reason thinking about how one sees oneself and one's body is very important. It is very important to me personally and my identity. Someone (I think Laurel) talked about the internet and how it allows "escape" and how it is assistive tech for many people, including disabled people, and this is where part of the avatar myth may come from, which is a good point.

Something I enjoy thinking about and struggle with is something that I've been calling the spectrum of "body acceptance" vs. "body modification". Someone who is extremely into body acceptance would modify her body very little, and only out of practical necessity; someone very into body modification might download her brain into a robot avatar. I'm more towards the acceptance end: I don't even have pierced ears! And there is probably a natural tendency to fall on different places along this spectrum.

Then there is a division between people who modify their bodies by choice, and people who modify their bodies not by choice, and all the things that might affect choice: money, cultural influences (including race, class, etc), employment and immigration status, enrollment in the military, etc.

Is body modification an "improvement"? I am very careful to say-- to whom? Hopefully it is to the person who gets it. No one else should be the judge. I myself struggle with this point.

I find lately that I do not draw a line between the concept of "cyborg" and "android" (sentient android). What is the difference really? Some biologic material? For that matter, where is the line between cyborg and non-human cyborg, I mean non-cyborg human? Is there one?

We didn't talk about SF as much as I would have liked to. We did not discuss The Cyborg Manifesto (which I have not yet read), or Blade Runner, for that matter. Some other titles did come up.


When I talked about hacking a wheelchair, I got that idea entirely from Liz Henry, who is all over the internet, including at Composite: Poetics and Tech, Hackability, Geek Feminism, and DW. Why is a wheelchair a medical device and a bike can be bought anywhere? Why is assistive tech proprietary and obscure? It should be open source. What does it mean if part of your body is owned by a corporation? What if the part breaks down and the corporation no longer exists?

Idea for next year: Do-it-yourself Assistive Tech panel.

ETA: Here is the slide show I was thinking of:

Liz Henry's Your Flying JetPack AWESOME!

ETA2: Video of the OSCON flying jetpack talk (autoplays)
Liz's report of the talk (near the bottom of the post

Date: 2010-07-14 02:48 am (UTC)
badgerbag: (Default)
From: [personal profile] badgerbag
omg! that was a surprise to find myself at the end of this very interesting post... i'm glad you liked the flying jetpack talk! thanks for passing it on!!

What I said with the slides is here, near the end of the post:

There is also video of it... Around minute 15.
Edited Date: 2010-07-14 02:49 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-07-14 11:06 pm (UTC)
themeletor: close-up of a cupcake in the grass against a blue sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] themeletor
from everything i've heard, this sounds like it was a *fascinating* panel and yet another one that i wish i had attended. great links! also, i agree a lot with your thoughts re: cameron's avatar!

right now i am especially intrigued, by bias i suppose, at the whole body mod/body acceptance "spectrum" idea. i love my body! i also love my body with holes and metal in it, and inky pictures on it! i consider my present and future body mods to be an undeniable part of my body, and therefore an undeniable part of my me! hmmmm.

maybe gonna ramble too

Date: 2010-07-15 01:08 am (UTC)
themeletor: close-up of a cupcake in the grass against a blue sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] themeletor
thank you for rambling! this definitely makes sense! i have also been aware of the body map idea for a while, and it is interesting to note that for some of my piercings - navel and lip, specifically - they had been a part of my internal body knowledge for some time before i even got the piercing (i hesitate to label it strict dysmorphia, but i guess it's something like that -- i knew i was a person who had a navel piercing and a lip ring before i had either actual metalhole, and in both cases several friends responded to the actual piercing by promptly not noticing, and then saying "oh! i mean, i guess i always thought you had that pierced! but now that i think about it, you actually didn't."). there are also tattoos that i am going to get that i already consider parts of my body image, even though they are not there yet. but there are also a couple mods that were spur-of-the-moment, or whatever, that have become a part of my body map over time, as i've gotten used to them!

so i guess what i'm trying to say is this is all very interesting, and i happen to be one of those more fluid-mapped people who very much enjoys pushing at the boundaries of "body", and doing weird things therein, and i've been fortunate so far in that all my shifts in "body mapping" have been things over which i've had relatively total control ... which is yet another thing to think about. interesting stuff.

(recommended read: surgery junkies: wellness and pathology in cosmetic culture. i just found my copy that i'd bought for a 'constructions of the body' seminar in college so i've been rereading it, and it can sometimes get really uncomfortable but it is also really fascinating.)

Date: 2010-10-29 12:06 am (UTC)
aquaeri: My nose is being washed by my cat (Default)
From: [personal profile] aquaeri
I just wandered over here via some other WisCon reading I've been doing (you can probably guess why :-( ). And the body map is one of those things that fascinates me.

Firstly, for me at least it doesn't just reside in my brain - I spent lots of my life being someone "with bad balance", thinking, you know, my inner ear didn't work so well, and then discovering that's it's because my tiny inner ankle muscles aren't very strong, and when I do diligent exercises, balances on one leg etc, they become stronger and my balance is as good as anyone's. (Although I'll admit that there is a brain part where if I stumble, my brain assumes I've got bad balance and will fall, and then I don't).

Secondly, my body map sort of extends to the entire volume of a car when I'm driving it. I discovered this when I lived in the US for a while - I'm from Oz, we drive on the left side and when I tried driving on the right, I had absolutely no problem mentally flipping the visual and decision-making parts of my brain (eg what a "left turn" and a "right turn" feel like, big vs small), but what I had trouble with was that kinesthetic sense of where the car was around and behind me. That sense was so strongly 'on the left' that I almost took the right side mirror off several times because my "car body map" just didn't extend far enough over to the right side.

Anyway, I can totally understand how people who use prosthetics or wheelchairs end up feeling like they are part of their bodies, and I can imagine that sense "coming and going" with what you're using, because obviously I don't move around normally as though there's an entire car around me :-).

Date: 2010-07-14 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
dude, you're SMAHRT.

Date: 2010-07-15 12:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Aw shucks! :)


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