When we talk about embodiment and think about the word’s etymology the very first thing which is logically to connect it to: is Body. But is it? Is it the body the only character in the emBODIment subject matter? The body is our physical presentation to the world, we use our body to interact with the environment and we use our human senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch – because we have body parts which make us able to experience different sensations.
But we also use our mind to translate, interpret, rationalise and make use of all the information we gather through our body. In this line of thoughts can we say that the act of embodiment happens in our mind? It seems to be a little contradictory. We cannot actually say it is something that happens in our minds, because we know about congenital and acquired instincts which makes us act in a certain way without having to process it in our minds; also we have reflexes which are part of our neural system in our body and basically they keep us alive.
In fact, when we look at the bigger picture the body and the mind are what make us humans and at this point I believe that we cannot simply separate and analyse them independently. Our two main characterisations body and mind are in constant and continuous cause-effect relationship. However, when we talk about embodiment there is another essential terminology – the ‘plasticity’ of our body. We all wear clothes, some of us wear glasses, almost everyone owns smartphone, someone has a prosthesis… these all are examples of how our body extends. In some cases, when we adopt new extension it feels different, strange gear added, but in some time we adjust ourselves and start using it as a part of our own body. Even now I can say that my laptop is kind of extension for me, because of my body plasticity I can type words without thinking about the keyboard at all.
Nowadays, the technologies are huge part of our lives and we usually think of them like superpowers – they tend to make our experience easier, enjoyable, vibrant. The digital environment has been building and developing base on our body plasticity as well and when we thought that everything has been created and cannot come up with something more incredible – BAM! The ever-expanding structure of our universe. 3D technology, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality are some of the recent examples of ‘real life experience’ technology progress.
Speaking of this, it is necessary to note that the Gaming sphere significantly changed because of the latest technology opportunities. My experience in World of Warcraft, even as a new player, already feels almost I live a second life.
Now I am an ordinary postgraduate student who is writing an essay… but 20 minutes ago I was an elf, I was in a magical world with other bizarre creatures, I was on a mission and had successfully completed it. And I know the next time I transform more exciting things will be waiting for me.
Even I am completely aware that it is fiction, I am now concerned about me-elf and mine-her well-being. We have so much in common that I want to say that I already know her, but I am sure that she can surprise me with something new at any time… just like sometimes I surprise myself in real life. Somehow I incarnate in her and she impersonate in me. And the merge of my physical and digital personalities feels natural, no matter how new and inexperienced in the game I am.
My emotions overlap with my character’s experiences – when she cannot find what she has to do, I feel lost and confused and when she completes a task, I feel proud. And sometimes I catch myself while playing that my physical body represent the movements of my digital one and tries to change according it. I literary can feel my muscles tremble during the game, my breathing and heartbeat become different. Usually I feel tense during the game and this feeling stays in my real body a little after I stop playing.
And when I think of it – it is amazing how the game unknowingly affects me.
Who is playing who? And by that I mean if we can imagine for a moment that our reality is one of the millions parallel universes and in one of the others my digital body is in fact my real body and it merges with my physical body during a game considering for this reality that the physical body is kind of extension for the digital plasticity. Does it make any sense?
Everything which my parents’ and grandparents’ generations would consider as science-fiction is now clicks away from reality. I believe as human beings we also evolve and adjust to this new reality. We adapt our bodies to new extensions every day. It almost feels like technology and evolution are playing chasing game and our body’s plasticity is growing and changing according the tendency. When we are extending as well as identifying with the technologies, we become what science-fiction called cyborgs.
Because our body’s plasticity is the reason for a better, I would say, real live experience, there is another idea of improving and evolving as well – to transform and transport our mind in cyber dimension or in other words to escape our physical body. Such games as World of Warcraft make us wonder what would it be to become a digital version of you, simple by extracting our consciousness on a cloud drive for example and then communicate and interact with other cyber minds with binary code system… If we abandon our physical bodies we will not need food, house, clothes so that means we will not need jobs, money, banks and if we follow this line soon we will have an answer for world without wars.
Is this just a utopia? Or maybe our children and grandchildren (and I mean the cyber versions of them) will find our digital archives and wonder how we staying on the halfway thought of this as science-fiction.
- An Introduction to Embodiment and Digital Technology Research: Interdisciplinary themes and perspectives, William Farr, Sara Price, Carey Jewitt; http://eprints.ncrm.ac.uk/2257/4/NCRM_workingpaper_0212.pdf
- Living Digitally: Embodiment in Virtual Worlds, T.L. Taylor; http://rhetoricandwriting.com/cyborg/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Taylor-Living-Digitally-Embodiment-in-Virtual-Worlds.pdf