Thursday, May 24, 2007

Touch: a meaning system socially and culturally located

Today, I met with Anne Cranny-Francis based in the Department of Critical and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University. Her web site is a great ressource of references, hyperlinks to papers related to the meaning of touch.

I presented and discussed my research on touch simulation for persons with neurological and pathological disorders. She works on the touch project to understand touch as a meaning system that is socially and culturally located. "The project is concerned with the diversity and specificity of touch as it is experienced by people in their everyday lives. Touch is one of our fundamental ways of negotiating the world and each other. It is specific to different genders, classes, cultures, ages – for all of whom the same physical touch may mean very different things."

She wrote a paper The Midas Touch to re-think the representation of touch. "Its essential argument is that touch defines our being in the world, so that touch is always already a cultural and political practice."

A must-read paper for me as soon as it is published: somatic technologies

My argument is conducted via a series of encounters: a reading of the figure of Christ’s body in late Middle Ages devotional texts, in which the hybridity of Christ is both celebrated and fetishised; the recent appearance of hybrid and cyborg figures in the Stephen Sommers’ film, Van Helsing (2004) and the excess of religious (mostly Christian) references throughout the film; and a mapping of the homologies between the figures of Christ crucified and Sommers’ representation of Dracula, which suggests their interrelationship. This paper is based in a belief in the inextricable relationship between embodiment and the technologies (material, cultural and political) that generate it, the semiotic density of those technologies, and their iterative deployment to generate new ideas – about technology and about embodiment.

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