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Computers and the Embodied Nature of Communication: Merleau-Ponty's New Ontology of Embodiment (01 Dec 2005)
"Why" the body exists in Cyberspace is not the question we have to ask ourselves, but "How" the body, the body as the matter, as real and material substance, as a perceivable object, as density, comes alive. Cyberspace, we are often told is a disembodied medium. Testimonies to this effect are everywhere from William Gibson's fictional representation of the 'bodiless exultation of cyberspace' to John Perry Barlow's description of his VR experience as 'my everything has been amputated.' In a sense, these testimonies are correct; the body remains in front of the computer screens rather than within it. In another sense, however, they are deeply misleading, for they obscure the crucial role that the body plays in constructing cyberspace. In fact, we are never disembodied. A phenomenological approach of the body would describes its "experience" or its "awareness", in a manner which would not reduce it to scientific data. By focusing on the act of the experience rather than on the "thing of being" experienced, the body would become the location of physical awareness. How do our bodies affect our concepts of self? How do we understand what it means to live in our own skin? Can the body as a location of openness, capacity and unclosed possibility assist us with a deeper understanding of how to live in the world with others? The body attended is a primordial ground of all of our experience. Does the body's capacity for fitting the world as evident in its felt experience of openness, immensity and magnification offer a suggestion to us for how we might approach the other who lives in this world with us? We experience our body, its components are alive, it appears to our senses and our cognition. The phenomenon "body in Cyberspace" could be conceived as an idea, a sort of mental picture or representation, as a creation of the body/mind, of its intellect. But who is the real body or the real subject of Cyberspace?
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