Tuesday, July 6, 2010

text || Alan Sondheim


I want to take up the idea of voice in chats as embodiment again, from a
relatively simplistic viewpoint. The voice, its granularity, is intimate
with the body, produced directly by the reconfiguring of tissue. To the
speaker, it appears unmediated; even language itself streams forth, as if
without impediment or processing. When an avatar represents a player on a
visual chat, there is a split in embodiment; however, the body is adept at
what Polyani calls _tacit knowledge,_ the ability to invest in, cathect
through, an other, implement, terrain, etc. The human organism exists
within a symbolic field with physiological consequences; physiology and
communication are intertwined, as aphasias, etc. demonstrate. So the split
between visual avatar and verbal language, or even visual avatar and writ-
ten/textual language at the bottom or adjacent to the image, is ultimately
no great difficulty, no matter how theorized. The _practical_ element is
something else again, however, with the text covering up the its embedding
space (including the presence of other avatars) in ThePalace for example.

If one wishes in fact to study the _cyborg_ at this point in time, the
avatar itself, as dissemination from the physiological body, constitutes a
dominant site. The avatar is articulated in dialectic among software, par-
ticipant, and communicative space (the give and take of the on line commu-
nity at hand); it is simultaneously organic and machinic, self-operated
and remotely "run." It is susceptible to upgrading, software variants,
etc. And ultimately, it represents, not an exterior shell, but the interi-
ority of the participant's body, morphing according to intention, command,
and drive.

It's interesting to watch someone beginning with WorldsChat, moving a
clumsy body around a constantly (and clearly) reconfigured space; there is
always a kinesthetic sense involved, interference for example indicated if
and when one of the figures comes between two others apparently (who
knows?) engaged in whispered conversation. And this occurs with minimal
clues of course. Even the early mouse movements leave one feeling as if
she or he were _propelled_ through the space, tentatively or violently
moving from group to group in blind search. In spite of the fact that (at
least the surface) conversation is reasonably inane, WorldsChat provides
a clear example of future cyborg existence. It's already here, inhabited,
dependent as usual upon consumption, fast machines, and the lucky me who
has access to a T1 line.

It's _money_ all the way.

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