In Uptown Manhattan, a friend tells me that the physical body is a liquid suspension. A gelatin. If you don’t make use of each inch of your musculature, it atrophies off, and you become a little bit more of a slurry. The length of your reach won’t be preserved if you aren’t always stretching.
And I feel as though I am constantly on guard against the threat of relaxing to death. Terrified I could become nothing more than slurry; like The Thing, shapeless, growing arms and legs in new combinations as needed, as suitable.
You can forget what it was like to be something. It can feel natural: you are now the heroic force of the fluid. And only those endowed with meaning can even fathom the horror of the nothing, constantly reconfiguring itself in and out of existence.
The unconscious poses no problem of meaning, solely problems of use. The question posed by desire is not “What does it mean?” but rather “How does it work?” Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus1
So much of my life resembled feeling an impending becoming as though it were an extension, or a development, of myself; of following desire into a form of de-actualisation and reconstitution. I want this name. This avatar suits me at this moment. Spontaneous attunement and identification travels from the cyberspace label to the legal document, but it all felt like one long string of experience. The Jungian persona was always a soft layer, a set of roles and actualisations to navigate the world, but it was being made literal; part of dressing up became rewriting the thing that dressed up, which then began to dress itself up and rewrite itself further.
This is – desire, isn’t it? How does that normally work? That is – not “where does desire come from,” but how is it supposed to be fulfilled? What are the mechanics of desiring, and fulfilling those desires, and how does it actually operate – and is that operation shifting in its mechanics across populations?
Picture that the subject transposes itself into embodying another arbitrary category of subject; and that itself, ostensibly, was a fulfillment of desire, something that to the subject isn’t strictly sexually codified, but rather called to them, resonated with them, was an expression of them.
Five thousand dollars gets you a fursuit. You can sign yourself up for gels and capsules that will reshape your body and your mind.
A drive brings it forward from the depths, holds it up to itself, dives itself straight in, and ceases to exist.
This is foreign to basically all historical thought for guiding individual action and relation; what is this, “becoming something”, what is the morality of being a being that becomes, what can be became and what’s taboo to become, when is it become— matilde park (@matildepark_) May 23, 2020
But that – isn’t desire, is it? So how does it differ? What is it to be a subject who desires to become the other subjects – versus the ontological subject, the target itself?
One example of a behavioral influence from [virtual reality] has been named the Proteus Effect by Nick Yee and Jeremy Bailenson. This effect occurs when subjects “conform to the behavior that they believe others would expect them to have” based on the appearance of their avatar … more concerning for our purposes is evidence that behavior while in the virtual environment can have a lasting psychological impact after subjects return to the physical world. Michael Madary and Thomas K. Metzinger, “Real Virtuality: A Code of Ethical Conduct”2
Bodies impact the behaviour that impacts the body, and as we make it more possible, the impact starts to slice through the body like a sieve. As technological prosthetics and the number of potential subject positions increase, the mechanics of desire will propel the “ego”, the spark, the rational, out of the human body – that is to say, to be a thing that mechanically desires to become is to be part of the deconstruction of the human subject itself. And what then?
The mechanic itself inverts. Those endowed with meaning were static entities mastering environments. But now they conjure the environment themselves. Instead of reacting to environment stimuli, system 2 – that 100 Hz virtualisation process we use to deliberate on information instead of reacting with cognitive shortcuts – is inverted to correlate sensory input to a mental model that predicts what will occur next and how to relate to that environment.
And when engaging with media, if the passive participant – the film viewer – is a reactive agent in constant conversation with its identification with the transcendental subject; the active participant in interactive media is a virtualised agent constantly modelling the rules and interactions of a world using the computer or console as a bidirectional peripheral mediating the input and output.
You become a body controlling body, a body made up of body and peripheral synchronising with the other world.
I can imagine you in your seat, the keys on your keyboard, the tiny movements you make so you move elsewhere; the closer we integrate the appliances, the more I see you through the doll, the more your bodies don't line up, your brain not yet compensating for body moving body— matilde park (@matildepark_) May 25, 2020
Time goes on. They ask “Would you really want to meet?” – and that just isn’t the right question. Would you really come to see it as meeting the person, just witnessing the body without the other body? Do you meet someone by meeting their parents? Do you meet someone by sitting in their house? Do you meet someone by touching their keyboard, or do you meet someone by sitting in their other body?, does the physical body even need to be there?, or do you not know a goddamn thing until you drift with the datastream proxied from the terminal, to China and back, trusting that someone, somewhere, broadcast?
what is the e- relationship other than “i identify this person by their avatar more than just shorthand for a person on the other side and they seem more like a forest spirit than a human being”— matilde park (@matildepark_) May 21, 2020
Noncorporeal beings engage the ship in Star Trek Enterprise’s “The Crossing.” They start out doing nothing more than exploring what it’s like to be embodied until it’s discovered they’re actually parasitic.
To survive they need to ride upon those condemned to be something.
Summer once again. Several drafts open for ages, trying to articulate the same beat coherently, but this whole time, the same thoughts flow in and out like menses, raw material coarse and uncollected. It sucks.
I’ve been working on the Urbit project for nearly a year; given a few talks and written a blog post or two. In the midst of our age it’s become increasingly clear about the need for neutral infrastructure, of tools and not products; the construction of this real life meshnet is what has been my day-to-day for nearly a year.
Latest reads include Daniel Dennett’s Consciousness Explained, Greg Egan’s Permutation City, and of course, Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality.
The overdetermination of the physical environment renders it hostile. Radical monopoly makes people prisoners of welfare. Men overwhelmed by commodities are rendered impotent and in their rage either kill or die. Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality
Presently working through Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue and Peter Watts’ Blindsight.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. New York: Penguin Classics. Print. 109.↩
Madary, Michael, and Thomas K. Metzinger. “Real Virtuality: A Code of Ethical Conduct. Recommendations for Good Scientific Practice and the Consumers of VR-Technology”. Frontiers in Robotics and AI, vol. 3, 2016.↩