• Sickness in cyberspace: Sensual encounters in digital media towards a radically embodied future

Hughes, Anna, 2024, Thesis, Sickness in cyberspace: Sensual encounters in digital media towards a radically embodied future PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This thesis accentuates the potential of sensuality in digital media. Drawing from the experience of adopting a more accessible digital practice after becoming sick, I highlight the enabling aspects of digital making and its subsequent encounters. My sick perspective gives me the heightened embodied knowledge of feeling the presence of my embodiment in cyberspace through symptoms, and I produce digital expressions of this once-invisible stance of being in two places at once. My software gives me an accessible mode of expression, and I argue that this understanding of embodiment in cyberspace theorises a more caring and abundant way of living with digital media. Finding ways to live symbiotically as a body with digital media counters the logic of competition enforced within a neoliberal society, a problem that foregrounds this research. Without this incessant need for competition and qualitative comparison, the sick and disabled can thrive without being othered, and my digital renders can resonate with others beyond being dismissed as a representational copy of this world.

I ask, how can I emphasise the sensuousness of cyber-embodiment while resisting making a representation that occludes the corporeal body? Can a sick/disabled perspective that embraces the difference and pleasure of non-normative embodiments enhance a new materialist understanding of cyberspace, and how does this differ from virtual disembodied emancipation or neoliberal versions of disabled liberation? What production techniques have the potential to instigate affective encounters, and how might this computationally enabled fictioning contribute to the sociopolitics of cyberspace?

To carry out this project, I bring together new materialism, cyberfeminism and crip/disability theory. I look to thinkers such as Rosi Braidotti, Karen Barad, Simon O’Sullivan, Laboria Cuboniks (Xenofeminism), and Alison Kafer. I place an emphasis on matter and how it continuously moves and changes, giving me a generative understanding of how cyberspace operates with corporeal life, asserting that space and our relation to distance can change and subvert Euclidean geometry, especially facilitated by digital media. In practice, I evidence the enabling aspect of finding an essential mode of expression through digital media as a means of “travel” as a sick person. I make a digital hand that assists me in navigating this digital world. With the digital hand, I draw out methods for accentuating the materiality and affects of digital media beyond representation through a focus on variances in the intensities of sensation. Using 3-D rendering, video editing, and music production software, I embrace the textures, vibrancy, rhythms, viscosities and flows of being a body. I express my embodiment as a sick person and prove the vital knowledge a sick body can bring, all while giving insight into how bodies can live with each other in cyberspace and beyond it.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2024 10:52
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2024 10:52
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5805
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