Bodies in (E)motion: Decoding Chinese Writing in the Interplay between Embodied Experience and Technics
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 04-May-2019
AbstractThis dissertation examines the significance of human bodies in the interaction with technologies in writing. Instead of treating writing as linguistic signifiers, this work conceptualizes writing as visual traces imbued with rich information on writers’ embodied experience and bodily dynamic with the external environment. A dialectical relationship in writing—writing as embodied experience and writing as technics—undergirds the overall discussion. On the one hand, writing delivers writers’ embodied experience including bodily locomotion, sensuous feeling, and embodied creativity; on the other hand, writing’s embodiment is influenced and formulated by technics, the external prostheses that mediate embodied sensuousness. Grounded in this dialectical relationship in writing, this dissertation examines four cases—stenography, typewriter, calligraphy robots, and artificial writing—to demonstrate the interactive trajectory between external prostheses and embodied writing subjects, as well as its enmeshment with specific socio-political and historical desires, power relations, and discourses. Chinese writing, due to its traditional emphasis on embodied traces in writing, exemplifies the tensions between the two. Under the overarching dialectical relationship between embodiment and technics, this work specifically looks at labor and authorship production in each modality of writing. The development of writing technologies triggers the changes of writers’ embodied experience due to the interrelatedness of the interior and prosthetic. The expressive hand, traditionally seen as the origin of creativity and subjectivity, has been deskilled. Authorship derived from the hand has shifted thereafter. Writing technologies’ encroaching into writing subjects’ embodied domain simultaneously evidences the transition from the “human” to the “posthuman,” the latter of which illustrates the equation of human with “information-processing machines” (Hayles 2008). After looking at human-technology encounters happening in writing, I find that the deskilling of the hand interestingly anticipates the reskilling of writing subjects. When the expressive hand is deskilled, writing subjects engage with the labor in embodied experience—the holistic collectiveness and dissolution of the intellectual/artistic labor and reproductive labor—and contribute to authorship production in different modalities of writing. This research engages intellectual conversations with works that challenge the deep-seated hierarchy between speech and writing, and a series of derivative distinctions between mind and body, and Episteme (knowledge) and Techne (craft, art, technology) by focusing on the embodied experience in writing. It articulates how the body becomes a site to perceive the dynamics between human subjects and machines, relinking the chain of authorship production from tangibility to abstraction.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
East Asian Studies