Special issue of Computational Culture, a Journal of Software Studies
Edited by Nicolas Salazar Sutil, Sita Popat and Scott deLahunta
Intersections between human movement, computer science and motion-tracking/sensing technologies have led to novel ways of transferring body data from physical to digital contexts. From a practical perspective, this integration requires engagement across key disciplines, including movement studies, kinesiology, kinematics, biomechanics, biomedical science and health studies, dance science, sports science, and computer science. This development has also provoked theoretical and critical discourse that has tried to preserve, based on its grounding on bodily and kinetic practice, the differentiation of lived-in and body-specific knowledge. Here is a mode of datarization perhaps closer to what Deleuze (1988) called “immediate datum”: i.e. information stemming not from an abstract and re-moved conceptualization, but from real-world experience of movement, and the immediate perception or capture of kinetic information through physical or sensorial means. Within the field of software studies, advancing a sense of digital materialism has raised concerns for the materiality of technological media, for instance by focusing on the physical constraints of data storage, or the material dimension of computing. But what about “immediation”, i.e. immediate computation of bodily movement by machines for immediate expression, representation or enactment in digital contexts? And what of the representability of such immediation? How can we describe movement and preserve its datum of difference within a scriptable or graphicable computer language without falling into a universal sameness, a movement without bodies?
Whilst the idea that immediate data may demand a “bodying forth” (Thrift 2008), a traffic of bodiliness from biological to technological contexts, it is necessary to de-homogenise the ‘body’ category. Perhaps what is needed is an understanding of “corporeality” that assume multidimensional and relativistic realities of bodies instead, opening up nuanced discourses based on specific body-related ontologies (corpuscles, builds, anatomies, skeletons, muscle systems) all making up a non-singular sense of the bodily real. As such, this collection poses the problem of criteria. Our question is this: how and to what effect does the research community adopt arbitrary criteria in order to compute the body and bodily movement? Can we define narratives emerging from this body-computing arbitration to provoke a critique?
There is a possible tension between “bodying forth”— the idea of a single body operative across both biological and computational contexts—and corporeal relations. We would like to focus this critical edition on the relations between differentiated anatomical or bodily systems (skeletal, muscular, nerve, etc.), and different modes of computation, as well as different theoretical discourses stemming from this experiential basis. If we recognize the problem of relationality we must assume that more than one complex set of co-relations meet when the machine computes the moving human body. How do we start the process of computer-generated learning in terms of selecting body parts, functions, organs, processes, on the one hand, and key languages, code, or indeed technological tools for capture on the other? To what extent does corporeal computing contribute to certain bodily systems (or perhaps even body types) becoming the key agents of action, and indeed learning, in such contexts? How do we respond critically to privileged systems (the skeletal, the muscular), and body types (so called ‘normal bodies’)? To what extent are computational paradigms still dominated by spatial, extensive and quantitative determinations (i.e. the tracking of skeleton, body geometry, kinematic shapes, etc.) that hide other, more intensive, modes of corporeality? And finally, how do we reintegrate the multiplicity of the corporeal in a computational synthesis? For instance, how can we understand the quantitative and qualitative (dynamics, effort, tone, intensity, etc.) as overlapping data priorities?
Topics or projects might include:
- Computable relations between bodies and digital avatars, digital dance representations, digital sports representations, digital health representations, digital animation— digital bodies in general.
- Computable relations between biological bodies and robotic systems.
- Computing relations between physical movement and abstract thought, automated thought (AI) or machine learning.
- Computing mobility studies (i.e. relations between body and automobile, body and assisted mobility machines, body and prosthetics).
- Computing sociokinetic material (i.e. computing the movement of groups of bodies).
- Affective corporeal computing— the capacity to process psychophysical and cognitive processes within corporeal movement (e.g. computing effort, dynamics, tonicity, emotion).
- Integration of quantitative and qualitative body datasets.
- Metabody theory and notions of meta-anatomy, meta-strata in the ontological literature (i.e. movement of digital ghosts, sprites, techno-animism, etc.)
750 word abstracts should be emailed to n.salazar(at)leeds.ac.uk April 17th.
Abstracts will be reviewed by the Computational Culture Editorial Board and the special issue editors. Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by April 24th and invited to submit full manuscripts by September 26th. These manuscripts are subject to full blind peer review according to Computational Culture’s policies. The issue will be published in January 2017.
Computational Culture is an online open-access peer-reviewed journal of inter-disciplinary enquiry into the nature of cultural computational objects, practices, processes and structures.