Dr Stephen Thompson’s research and ideas lecture discussed the concepts researched during his PHD which was completed prior to him taking the post of deputy Dean seven years ago; he also tied this into how he sees this research evolving now that he is in a position to pick up his research and put more energy into it. The research of Dr Thompson is in the field of relational technoethics. Whilst Dr Stephen Thompson’s research area is different to mine, I still found it to be incredibly interesting and thought provoking. I say it is different to my current practise, but actually the research I did for my dissertation seemed to cross over into the boundaries of the topics discussed by Thompson.
I found it interesting to reflect on the relationship between human and technology; technology as a part of our cognition, technology as an extension of us, technology where we are an extension of it. These notions seemchallenging initially as we often initially consider technology and us to be separate entities; or technology as something invented by humans. Yet Dr Thompson challenged this notion completely posing the question, ‘Where do human’s begin and end?’. Several theories were discussed; Modernist, Posthumanism, Derrida, Technicity, Allegory. Dr Thompson used the story of Joey the mechanicalboy as studied by Dr Bruno Bettelheim, specifically Joey’s drawings, to claim that humans are a synthesis of technology.
We are machines of meat, made up of systems and that ‘things’ such as wall are traces of our body and our own cognition. Thompson gave some simple but effective examples to illustrate his point. During a phone call to our mother we don’t actually hear our mother’s voice; it is a synthesis- a reproduction, but we accept it without question to be our mother.
Dr Thompson referred to the body as the ‘Soma’ (which is the Greek word for body). He did this to make it easier to be more open to what the body could be, When we say body we have a very defined opinion of what it is, yet to use a less familiar word enables us to be more open to what a body could be. Our bodies are often made up of organic and technological matter- for example, contact lenses, pins in broken bones, pacemakers, artificial joints… even our glasses. Walking sticks. Wheel chairs. All these things are technology that also become our body. A pen. A car….. the list goes on…. the computer, social media…..even something as simple as our clothing which acts as a second skin. I found this to be refreshing, to see and hear of the body in a way that is so challenging. I have questioned where we begin and where we end before, but I think I lost touch with it because of the way my work has been so consumed with the functionality and materiality of the organic human body. To reconnect to this challenge of thoughts has added an extra awareness to my reflections of my work.
I also found it refreshing to see how despite the difference in levels of study, us Masters student are in a very similar place to Dr Stephen Thompson with regards to uncertainty in our research. We are at a point where we have a lot of background research, yet it is going into the area of the unknown. We don’t quite know what it at the end- and with that there is a degree of doubt and uncertainty. Dr Thompson’s advice was to embrace the uncertainty as it is the nature of research. I felt that this was very poignant for me as I feel that I am too in a point of uncertainty with my work. I am feeling pleased with the end of semester assessment and the realisations I had come to as a result of this assessment, I have ideas of how I want to move forward, but I still feel slightly lost and unsure. I say that, but I’m not really lost because I am still being productive, I am still moving forward; I suppose it is more a case of that uncertainty that comes with moving forward into a new area. But that is exciting because it means that I am doing something new, I am challenging myself and my own boundaries- and the nature of that means that it is an unsettling experience. I supposed I just need to trust in myself that it will pay off. I suppose whether it leads to success or failure, lessons will always be learnt.
Further reading: Entangled. An archaeology of the relationship between humans and things. Ian Hodder.