Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hansen Critique Part I: Em(human)bodiment

This first section, of my two-part attempt at a critique of Mark Hansen’s “New Philosophy for New Media,” stems from a confusion regarding his understanding of embodiment. In the second section, I will turn to look more deeply at how this is reflected in his critique of Deleuze. I should note that I have tried to get through his entire text 2 years ago and was unsuccessful and thoroughly confused. Upon my second reading I can now say that while certain things are a lot clearer, there are others that have become much more opaque.

It seems as though Hansen is trying to, as explicated by Tim Lenoir, “reclaim Bergson’s understanding of embodiment in an account of how the body “enframes” information.” (xx) In addition to this, he emphasizes the specifically digital nature of new media information and explains that it is because of the ‘digital nature’ of this information that it can be conceived of as so malleable and fluid. Taking from Bergson, Hansen is thus trying to formulate a conception of new media, which because of the “fluidity” of the information, places the body at the center- subsequently restoring the power and control over the “framing of the information” to the human subject; “[…] media convergence under digitality actually increases the centrality of the body as framer of information; as media lose their material specificity, the body takes on a more prominent function as selective processor in the creation of images.” (xxii)

Taking into consideration the phenomenological approach that he is employing, I nonetheless maintain that it is important to notice the humanistic kind of empowerment that his argument brings to “the body”. In his case, as I see it (and I could very well be wrong), the kind of embodiment described is one that appears to be necessarily human. Hansen seems to be saying that, in opposition to what Deleuze explicates, new media is able to restore some kind of active (affective) relationship between the “passively correlating individual” and “performed images,” in such a way that their relationship develops into one that is fully embodied and immanent (becoming)- i.e. the human body being responsible for selectively framing the fluid information.

My question though, is whether this kind of “becoming” (and this kind of “detached embodiment”) is really what Deleuze was speaking about. I am not sure if I am mixing it all up but I feel as though Deleuze was not concerned with centering the human subject as embodied controller and master framer of information and instead encouraged a less dominant role on the part of the human body (characterizing the body as that which is not only in constant relation with the media that surround it, but with the world in its entirety, and subsequently the world itself being in constant relation with the body, so much so that “the human body” loses it’s dominant position.) I am going to end with this question for now and continue on with this argument in my next post….hopefully things will become clearer.

- Vanessa Meyer

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