Eugene Thacker's response (excerpt)

Eugene Thacker's response (excerpt)

2004-04-02

Eugene Thacker’s question: “To what degree does language account for the markers and meanings of embodied difference?”

It is this feeling of being overwhelmed by a complexly sensitized work that may form one point of departure for the body-technology interface in hypertext works. The connection here is, as Hayles points out, multiple and neuronal; the dynamic character of the text prompts a range of actions in the computer user, which in turn completes one turn of the cybernetic loop in the dynamic text. What is happening in such instances? One suggestion – which Hayles alludes to – is that a particular type of network is in the process of being formed: “To create new kinds of textual bodies is inevitably to write new human bodies, as we continue to produce the technologies that produce us.” Whether this relationship is benign or antagonistic ultimately depends on the particular hypertext under consideration. But what works like Lexia to Perplexia demonstrate for us is that there is always tension, dynamism, and a certain ambivalence in this relationship between flesh and code.

To extend Hayles’ reading of Lexia to Perplexia, we might take this mediated relationship between bodies and technologies a little further: If the body of the subject engages in a kind of distributed agency in “reading” works such as Lexia to Perplexia, then what happens to the specificity of the embodied subject as marked by gender, race, language, and cultural difference? In other words, Lexia to Perplexia, in articulating a relationship between flesh and code, also puts a challenge to us: to what degree does language account for the markers and meanings of embodied difference? To what degree does it account for our relationships to technology and media?

N. Katherine Hayles responds