Digitality, Subjectivity, and Suture


Digitality, Subjectivity, and Suture

25 May 2010 13:15
Lisa Swanstrom,
Postdoctoral Fellow

From the early 1980s to the late 1990s, digital technology seemed poised to distance us from the real world, distract us from our physical bodies, and erode the already precarious connection we held to natural spaces. If the many popular narratives about technology-run-amok that emerged during this time period can be considered “indicator species,” then films such as the Terminator, The Matrix, and Blade Runner signaled a world on the brink of environmental devastation and human enslavement to the machine. Nor was this dystopian vision of natural deterioration limited to film. It appeared in literature, in art, in news, in popular journalism, in documentaries, and, most saliently for the purposes of this seminar, in academic discourse about the state of the humanities in general. Indeed, if there is one lesson to be gleaned from the scholarship that emerged during this time period, it is this: any positive gain that results from the use of digital technology will demand the sacrifice of the natural world. This dire assessment reads as excessively prescriptive or dystopian now, a decade later, and several projects have emerged that offer more balanced perspectives about digital technology’s relation to the environment. Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done to bring the categories of the artificial and the natural into a more productive dialog. This seminar is in keeping with recent efforts to do just this. Instead of taking for granted the flawed assumption that digital technology serves to divorce us from the natural world, I consider a few of the many ways that digital art can re-connect us to nature, remind us of our bodily obligations, and re-affirm our kinship with other living things. I explore digital simulations of natural spaces in light of literary and artistic tradition, in order to describe the peculiar way certain pieces of digital art allow their users to attach themselves both to the artwork and the natural world via a process of suture I am calling the “digital stitch.”

The seminar is open to all. It will be held in HUMlab, under the UB library at Umeå University. It will be streamed as a video live over the Internet from here: (link opens at time of seminar).

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