chapter  11
20 Pages

Flesh and Metal: Reconfiguring the Mindbody in Virtual Environments: N. Katherine Hayles

Dualistic thinking is as difficult to avoid as the sticky clay that passes for topsoil where I live in Topanga Canyon. When it gets even a little wet, it attacks my feet so resolutely that I look as ifI am wearing snowshoes. I try to avoid it, ofcourse, but inevitably something lures me offthe beaten path and there I am again, stomping around with elephant shoes. In similar fashion I struggled to avoid the Cartesian mind-body split in my recent book How We Became Posthuman when I made a distinction between the body and embodiment. The body, I suggested, is an abstract concept that is always culturally constructed. Regardless of how it is imagined, "the body" generalizes from a group of samples and in this sense always misses someone's particular body, which necessarily departs in greater or lesser measure from the culturally constructed norm. At the other end of the spectrum lie our experiences of embodiment. Although these experiences are also culturally constructed, they are not entirely so, for they emerge from the complex interactions between conscious mind and the physiological structures that have emerged from millennia of biological evolution. The body is the human form seen from the outside, from a cultural perspective striving to make representations that can stand in for bodies in general. Embodiment is experienced from the inside, from the feelings, emotions and sensations that constitute the vibrant living textures of our lives-all the more vibrant because we are only occasionally conscious ofits humming vitality. 1 I tried to stay on the holistic path by insisting that the body and embodiment are always dynamically interactingwith one another. But having made the analytical distinction between the body and embodiment, I could not escape the dualistic thinking that clung to me regardless of my efforts to avoid it. .