Tag Archives: the new cyborg body

    The Medical Benefits of Body Modification

    Today I bring you one example of how medical technology and body modification are converging.

    The Tongue Drive System uses magnetic field sensors to track the movement of a magnetized tongue piercing.

    The image above comes from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where they have engineered a new form of wheelchair mobility through the use of a tongue piercing. The Tongue Drive System uses a dental plate that captures the movement of the tongue piercing below, which is fashioned with a tiny magnet on top. (more…)

    QR Codes and Self-Branding in the Digital Era

    I have already written about QR code tattoos before on this blog, so again, I will keep this brief. The video above shows the latest QR code tattoo to gain public attention, this time for generating random .gifs, tweets, and videos.  I find these tattoos fascinating because of the way the flesh is made to transmit digital information (“LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH?!”), in essence augmenting the human body with digitally-encoded information (or are we augmenting the digital with the corporeal?). But many have found these trends disheartening (D’Costa 2012), in part because of the permanence of such body markings.

    In a culture that is fast approaching lightspeed (both technologically and culturally), many see the permanence afforded by tattoos and other body modifications as attractive. For many enthusiasts, tattoos have become a source of stability in the postmodern era, a way for individuals to “ground” their identities in an era of whirlwind change (Oksanen and Turtiainen 2005; Sweetman 1999). (more…)

    The Social Tattoo Project: Slacktivism on a New Frontier?

    Over the summer of 2011, several interns at BBH Labs (a marketing research firm in New York) came up with The Social Tattoo Project as a way to direct empathy towards natural disasters and social crises that continue to plague populations around the world. They used Twitter to track “trending topics” and then asked the Twitterverse to vote on which issues they wanted to see memorialized in a tattoo, essentially “crowdsourcing” the content of each piece. Volunteers were then selected to receive these tattoo designs without ever having seen them ahead of time. The final five topics included “a cresting wave for Japan, handcuffed hands for human trafficking, a broken heart for Haiti, a pie chart for poverty and a flower flag for Norway” (Corr 2011). The video above is a short clip highlighting the “broken heart for Haiti” design and the woman who had it tattooed onto her body.

    However, this project is not the first of it’s kind. For example, Iraqi American artist Wafaa Bilal took it upon himself (quite literally) to commemorate the deaths of Iraqi’s and American’s since the invasion started in 2003. On March 9th, 2010, he had over 100,000 recorded fatalities of the “War on Terror” tattooed on his back during a live, streaming performance at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts gallery in New York City titled “…And Counting”: 5,000 dots were tattooed in red ink to represent fallen American soldiers and 100,000 dots were tattooed in invisible ink to represent (largely overlooked) fallen Iraqis. His art project was featured on NPR and DemocracyNow, and became the focal point for discussions about the costs of the “War on Terror.” (more…)

    The (New) Cyborg Body Revisited: The Eyeborg Documentary

    YouTube Preview Image

    Although this short documentary  (full transcript here) feels more like a glorified advertisement for the video game “Deus Ex: Human Revolution,” it does raise some interesting issues we deal with regularly on this blog. (more…)

    Using Google Correlate to Examine Popular Search Trends

    I have been really enjoying the Google Correlate function lately. I think it is a very powerful tool for examining popular topics because more and more people are going online to look for information. More specifically, Google Correlate allows you to see the correlations between search terms, allowing you to see what other search terms are associated with one another. In some sense then, it provides a “window” into the Internet user’s mind. I took this as an opportunity to do a little investigating about the popularization of tattoos and tattooing. What I found is striking.

    (more…)

    ‘The Bionic Girl’ Chloe Holmes Receives Prosthetic Hand

    Just a quick link I came across over the weekend before the hurricane knocked out my power. In the video below, we see Chloe Holmes displaying her new prosthetic hand, a $62,000 piece of technology that allows her to move each digit independently of one another through sensors embedded in the sleeve. Chloe lost her fingers at age 3 as a result of septicemia, a complication from chicken pox.

    YouTube Preview Image

    Augmented Reality Tattoos REDUX

    YouTube Preview Image

    I already wrote on augmented reality tattoos once before, so I will keep it brief. This video shows a client receiving a QR code tattoo, which then links to Youtube and plays a little cartoon of a singing man. Now, although the artist is off in proclaiming it as the “first ever” of its kind, it once again highlights a growing trend in the body modification community. Not only does the fusing of technology and the body create unique cyborg bodies, it also reveals the importance of such new technologies for the expression of our selves and identities. For instance, will people begin tattooing QR codes on themselves that link to their personal blogs and Facebook accounts? This would make a very interesting case of self-branding!

    Another trend I have observed in my own research on tattooing is the role of the prosumer. This video shows the tattoo artist K.A.R.L. livestreaming his tattoo appointment online, communicating with observers in a chatroom format while tattooing his client. Now this is nothing new. In fact, some of my close friends have been doing this for years and I myself have been tattooed in front of an internet audience several times. But what makes this example interesting is the fact that the internet audience, as a body of prosumers, helped K.A.R.L. determine the tattoo design itself. This is unheard of. I have yet to see tattooers take such a “crowd-sourcing” approach to their work.

    But this video does speak to the importance of Web 2.0 to contemporary tattoo fame. In a media-saturated environment, tattoo artists now must aggressively market themselves online through SNS like Facebook and Myspace, and through livestreaming tattoo events like this. At a time when tattoo collecting itself has become globalized (Irwin 2003), tattoo artists can no longer afford to become a “big fish in a small pond” as one tattoo artist told me. In order to survive in an increasingly media-saturated community, tattoo artists themselves must become hypervisible online, showcasing their work across several online avenues and building a client pool that spans several continents. Such is the nature of contemporary elite tattooing (Irwin 2003).

    Facial Tattoos: A New Form of Distinction

    In an earlier post, I discussed growing trends of body modification as illustrative of the new cyborg body. Although it is debatable whether these trends are in fact “new,” (after all, various indigenous cultures have been practicing body modification long before European colonists began taking note of it in their travel diaries), I would like to continue this conversation by looking at one subculture of body modification: tattooing.

    As an avid “tattoo collector” myself, I have spent the past few years attending tattoo conventions, hanging out with tattooers, and getting heavily tattooed, all while working on my research regarding the popularization of tattooing. What I notice are changing norms regarding appropriate use of the body as canvas. I would like to draw your attention to one particular trend that is growing in the tattoo subculture: facial tattoos.

    What was once the purview only of convicted felons has become an increasingly normative way of expressing one’s commitment to the subculture. (For a case in point, simply Google “facial tattoos” and see what pops up.) What I notice from my interviews and discussions with tattooers and clients alike is a sharp disparity between those who see the face as a legitimate space for artistic display and those who see the face as “off limits.” Traditionally, tattooers were wary of getting tattooed on “public skin” (e.g., face, hands, and neck), as employment in the industry was unpredictable and one never knew if she would need to find another job amongst the masses. Having tattoos on public skin was almost certain to prevent employment. But things may be changing. (more…)

    An Introduction to Body Modification: The New Cyborg Body

    Body modification, a growing practice and subculture that now spans the world, has made extensive gains in merging the body with technology. Stretched earlobes, facial tattooing, and dermal implants have become more conspicuous as of late in many urban locales, and it is no longer surprising to find people going to greater lengths to modify their bodies in sometimes unique and shocking ways. For more examples, spend some time on one of the most popular online body modification community websites, Body Modification Ezine.com. The site documents the diverse array of practices that members engage in to explore, test, stretch, and construct their bodies in new ways. (Warning: The content is not for the squeamish).

    Particularly, I want to focus in on a few keen examples of the merging of body and technology, or as I call it, the new cyborg body. (more…)