Disabled Cyborgs In Space

Donna Haraway’s ironic, binary busting cyborg has deeply influenced the study of the relationship between the human and the technological since she published A Cyborg Manifesto in 1985.  Providing a template for  her cyborg was the 1961 paper by Nathan S. Kline and Manfred Clynes  (K&C)  Drugs, Space and Cybernetics: Evolution to Cyborgs.

K&C’s purpose was to find a path to a space-exploring society unencumbered by the technologically unmediated bodies of “man” poorly evolved to living in a vacuum.

Haraway repurposed this to theorize the path to a feminist-liberatory society unencumbered by  technologically unmediated  female bodies poorly evolved to living in the patriarchy.  She redefined “cyborg” as a hybrid  made to live not in outer space but in the space of social reality. Continue reading “Disabled Cyborgs In Space”

A Thing is a Hole in a Thing it is Not

Listening to music is difficult for me.  Many aphasiacs find music soothing, even helpful in increasing fluency.  I find attending to music at least agitating, and it can easily lead to serious sensory overload.

My understanding is that music and speech processing use both unique and shared brain areas.  So my experience of music as an intense version of  listening to another person talk makes sense. I might compare it perhaps to the pain of moving with a significant musko-skeletal impairment.

At any rate, I ran across a video of a string quartets performance of Andrew Greenwald’s A Thing is a Hole in a Thing it is Not.  Back in the day, we listened to a pretty wide array of music, so I had some context for this.  What I found interesting was that it is pretty easy to imagine that many/most people will hear this piece kinda as I do now – irritating noise.

Making my way though it, I can hear that there’s much more to it than that.  In pre-injury days I probably would have found it quite interesting musically.

Now, experiencing it as irritating noise, makes it easier for me to listen to than a more conventional piece.  In fact, I can appreciate it spatially quite nicely.  The title certainly suggests that Greenwald intends the piece to evoke conceptual and  spatial experiences as well as a musical one.

In an interview, Greenwald does discuss this along with a wide range of issues including the relationship of the score to the performance, intention to execution, and the aesthetics of composition to those of listening.  Some short excerpts are as follows.

I started out interested in noise vs pitch.

there’s no rhythmic in a literal sense.  (Interviewer: It’s a weird spatial thing you’ve got going on). Right.

(talking about the gap between his intentions, whats on the page, and actual performances) I have control over the general temporal landscape and also the verticalities.

invariably both (aesthetics and practicality of the score) have a level of presence no matter [how] my aesthetics tell me to align myself.

people who are even non-musicains,people want to see what’s going on (and want to see the score) 1:001

Is it acceptable for things to be inscrutable, or do we want clarity?

You create some kind of wrapper or container that allows people to see something unfold…that there might be some kind of truth behind this overwhelming aural experience..

audibly perceived form containers that are put around things that embrace the larger polemic.

You’re the only one that will know it’s the simpler thing

the simpler the better!

creating forms and creating algorithms that are easier to hear and not harder to hear.

I found video of 2 separate performances of the piece.  One shows the quartet performing it.  The musicians wring the sounds from their instruments as much as play them or sit, looking at the score, not playing.

The other provides the score pages that correspond to the portion of the piece being played.  Here the silences that are part of the piece are presented as (relatively) empty score pages.

Together, the two present many of the issues Greenwald discusses.  In turn they are relevant to thinking about and describing my relationship to stimulus in general and music in particular.

Buddha/Space

Code has provided the informational matrix for space in my recent code/space posts.  While I still have a lot of ground to cover there, I thought it would be interesting to approach the question of space from the matrix of a Buddha.

In Buddhist literature, the Matrix-Of-The-One-Gone-Thus is frequently intertwined with space.  I touched on this in a  previous post discussing Buddhist space. As with just about everything, different flavors of Buddhism treat space in somewhat different ways.  As I have in my previous Buddhist posts, I will be mainly talking about the Gelugpa school’s interpretation.

The Verse Summary of the Perfection of Wisdom is one of the oldest of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras.  In this passage, one who has in effect, directly perceived Emptiness, sees the dharma (in this context, sees the way things are) as if she were seeing space itself.

The One-Gone-Thus teaches that one who does not see forms,
Does not see feelings, does not see discriminations,
Does not see intentions, does not see
Consciousness, mind, or sentience sees the dharma.
Analyze how space is seen as in the expression
By sentient beings in words, “Space is seen.”
The One-Gone-Thus teaches that seeing the dharma is also like that.
The seeing cannot be expressed by another example.

Verse Summary of the Perfection of Wisdom translated by Jeffrey Hopkins in Final Exposition of Wisdom works by  Tsong-Ka-Pa edited and translated by Hopkins

Emptiness is a non-affirming negation.  It establishes the inherently existing self as the object to be negated, but does not explicitly affirm anything in its place.

This approach negates inherent existence without inadvertently positing some kind of essential entity, or ground of existence.  Extending this, space then becomes a metaphor for the Mind perceiving Emptiness.  In Emptiness Yoga, Jeffrey Hopkins writes “space [is] the non-affirming negative that is the mere elimination of any obstructive tangibility”. (371)

Common usage certainly includes this alternate sense of “space”.  We could reformulate “I need my space” as “I am experiencing you as an obstruction to my optimal functioning.  Get lost.”  Buddha/space takes this non-obstructiveness as the defining characteristic of space, not as an intellectual exercise, but rather as the felt experience of the way things are.

If the mind that has voidness as its object thinks intellectually, “This is ‘noninherent existence.’ I have found ‘noninherent existence.’ This absence that is the nullification of what is to be refuted is ‘voidness,’” this is referred to as “setting voidness out at a distance.” This will not do. The mind that has voidness properly as its object is a decisive piercing of the mere nullification itself. In other words, with the understanding, from the depths of our heart, that things do not exist at all like they appeared a while back, the mind taking voidness as its object completely pierces the sphere of this mere nullification like a spear piercing a target. A mind that does that is totally absorbed on voidness which is like space.

H. H. the Dalai Lama and Berzin, Alexander. The Gelug/Kagyü Tradition of Mahamudra.   Online excerpt.

This lack of obstacles, space, becomes a metaphor for the spacious awareness that encounters no obstacles in its efforts to bring all sentient beings to enlightenment which is itself, spacious awareness.

See also The Whole Is Greater Than the Part (Part 1)

The Whole Is Grater Than the Part (Part 2)

The Whole Is Greater Than the Part (Part 1)

One of Euclid’s “Five Common Notions” forming the basis of his geometry is “The whole is greater than the part”.  Euclid sought to develop his account of space based on ideas he could not prove, but seemed so obvious that no proof was needed.  Indeed, a study published by the National Academy of Sciences about an Amazonian tribe suggested that geometric reasoning is innate.

Well almost.  Euclid’s Fifth Postulate, asserts in effect that parallel lines don’t intersect.  (Actually it describes how non-parallel lines do so.)   Euclid’s contemporaries were suspicious of this idea and our Amazonian friends understood more frequently than Westerners that this is not true on curved surfaces.  And of course, spactime does not conform to Euclid’s description which is functional only in local areas where curving spacetime, intense gravitational fields or the curvature of, say, a planet does not come into play.

Why am I writing about this?

I recently finished reading Code/Space by geographers Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge (MIT Press) which discusses how applied software transduces space. (Their website links to many of their papers leading up to their book and some of the quotes I use will be from these rather than from the book.) This prompted me to meditate on space in general.  Euclid seemed a good place to start.

K&D discuss how Euclidian geometry represents space as mere container of objects and processes.  They write:

This absolute ontology of space is essentialist  in formulation. It effectively reduces space to  its geometric essence and depicts that essence as natural  and given.

Recently, this viewpoint has been challenged by relational  ontologies that understand space as being constituted  and given meaning through human endeavor.  Within these relational ontologies, space is not a given,  neutral, and passive geometry but rather is produced  through social relations. Space, it is posited, is not essential  or objective in nature, but produced: ‘‘constituted  through social relations and material social practices’’   Code and the Transduction of Space  Dodge, Kitchin

They note that this allows one to think of space either as metaphor or container, social or apart from the social, outside of time or fundamentally temporal, always in a state of becoming.  Reformulating this a bit, we can think of each set of these binaries as parallel lines, as local functionalities that apparently never intersect but in fact do.  I find this an interesting way to think about binaries in general. Nature/culture; body/mind; subject/object each as a set of lines seemingly never meeting in a local, functional context, but that inevitably do.

Anyway, D&K explore the way coded objects and process (ie technicity) transduce space.  In general, a transducer converts one form of energy into another.  So as I understand it, D&K discuss how technicity converts one form of space into another.

From this perspective, society, space and time are co-constitutive – processes that are at once social, special and temporal in nature produce diverse spatialities.  Software matters because it alters the conditions through which society, space and time, and thus spatiality, are produced. Code/Space

I hope in subsequent posts to further explore the ideas in this book.