[TISEA 1992] Panel: Norie Neumark & Maria Miranda – Diagnosing the Computer User: Addicted, infected, technophiliac?

Panel Statement

We are living in a moment of computerrelated identity crisis. We fashion ourselves as computers. We feel hardwired. We scan our memory banks and databases to access information. Gone are the days of the mechamcal self with plumbing and tubes, sparking on all four cylinders. People have thought about themselves as machines before and now many of us think of ourselves as microcomputers on legs. We feel digital, though some parts of our bodies feel more digital than others (our brains for instance). Addiction, infection, technophilia. While these terms often have a negative connotation, that is not the (only) way I will be using them. Rather, I invoke them because they each suggest a different relationship between the user and the computer.

This paper will present a humorous and excessive exploration of how computer culture is altering the subjectivity of computer users, Although this raises serious theoretical issues about conceptualising technology in relation to subjectivity, our approach will be to come at the  theory through concrete exam-ples, in an accessible, though not simplistic way. For instance, we will foreground the way language and metaphors of the human body and social body alter with computers and how this affects people’s experience of them-selves. The mechanical self of plumbing and tubes and sparking on all four cylinders has given way to the hardwired self with serious identity crises about its insufficient memory banks. These are the sorts of issues that have raised theoretical interest in cyborgs (Donna Haraway), hackers (Sherry Turkle) and gender activated techno-dreaming (Kathleen Mary Fallon and Sherre DeLys). Our own approach is somewhat different in being more from the inside, making use of the technology (computer art and audio art) to carry out a diagnosis of `the’ computer user. (A search for ourselves inside our tech heads?) The form of the paper fits the material. It will be a paper with an audiovisual performative slant. The read text could sound somewhat like this… First step in the diagnosis: identify symptoms. Second step: prescribe the treatment. For example. Addiction: Symptoms: obsessive need to own the latest software; projection of emotions onto your screensize; neurotic need to spend megabucks on megabytes; compulsion to merge with the loved object — the computer. The treatment: attendance at user group meetings; entering the computer user ’12 step program’ (including a recognition that there is a higher power and this higher power is Apple). This diagnostic process will be elaborated for addiction and extended to infection and technophilia. It will of course be accompanied, by scientific computer imagery of the brain and bodies of the various users as well as telltale sonic symptoms in an audio bed. As subjective reality shifts with computer culture, so too does surreality, and the surrealistic visual and audio components will explore this through a montage of images and language and music.

  • Norie Neumark & Maria Miranda, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia