U2 W3

September 26, 2008

Unit 2 week 3:



Have been reading Susan Sontag’s


Illness as Metaphor and Aids and Its Metaphors


(Penguin 2002)


Sontag defines how certain illness (Tuberculosis) is thought to ‘occasion some kind of self-transcendence’ (Aids and Its Metaphors, Chapter 4 p123)

 While others are seen as a plague, (cancer, syphilis, aids, rabies) dehumanizing especially those that result in amputation or disfigurement.


This questions why a society should need to vilify certain conditions and demonize them in this way.


Question: does or might the virtual world or internet communities provide a platform of democracy in this area?


By the use of avatars? Or does the use of avatars establish and promote an increased reinforcement of ideal of happiness and success residing solely off the back of an-unachievable human perfection?  Of the  little research I have done in to second life, many communities exist in a seeming paradises of an inhuman ‘perfection’. In believing that we should we not have ‘flaws’, in some way eradicating these ‘flaws’ in our physicality, we believe will live ‘happy ever after’ like the princess in a fairy tale?


 They could be seen to present a form of escapism, extending the view that there should be nothing uncomfortable or bad in a ‘successful’ and ‘happy’ life, up holding the concept that a form of unattainable physical perfection is necessary and the only means to create a utopia which is obtained with very few demands or difficulties.  Given the very real concerns around the issues to do with size 0, weight, appearance and self esteem that surrounds the fashion industry in relation to young and teenage individuals this escapism could be seen to carry some of the same messages and issues. 



Question: how much is the internet engaging, raising, challenging and changing our use and ideas of and around stereotypes?



Chapter 6 looks at how governments and politicians harness our primal fears and direct /transfer them towards illness or stereotype to achieve a political outlook or out come.



Definitions…we are driven by a need to define ourselves and those around us

These understandings/definitions labels become synonyms and stereotypes, which bind and use definition to control a society or groups of people.



We are all driven by basic human instincts and psychosocial, psychological urges, flight or fight, urge to reproduce, to look for the fittest and strongest, xenophobia, either in the stranger or alien or in illness.


The issue becomes to challenge these initial responses and to think beyond them, rather than to veneer over them and harness them as a means to lead societies.



We are still perusing the perfect physical specimen (‘he/she is fit’). Driven by the urge to find the best partner to reproduce with and have by our side as a status symbol. Why are we still driven in this virtual world to pander to these stereotypes? Or gift ourselves with what we may feel lacking in our physical reality? Why can we never be enough in our own right?


We can be defined by our physical appearance and by our movements, are we stiff, bent, slow, showing signs of age? And a value placed on us, a stereotype to define us and mould us.



If we are constantly adapting our sexual identities in order to be successful in our society’s ever shifting and redefining out look in relation to its changing needs, why are we holding on to very basic instincts of physicality that we know in many ways to be out moded intellectually and scientifically?


Stelarc is proposing that by replacing no longer necessary organs the body could be used to house a more relevant technology. That is the very challenging concept the cyborg. Then what happens to definition through physicality, gender, race, illness? Would it become obsolete ?



Would the template of illness that we have bestowed already on our technology (the computer ‘viruses’ that Susan Sontag remarks on in ‘Aids and Its Metaphors’) become incorporated in to the cyborg? Would we in incorporating technology into our physical bodies also bring and maintain this idea of illnesses and its defining role?