, Volume 78, Issue 6, pp 921-934
Date: 29 Jun 2013

Extensible, not relational: finding bodies in the landscape of electronic information with wireless body area networks

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Abstract

This article examines a medical biotechnology known as a wireless body area network (WBAN) as a way to discuss how electronic information infrastructure is spatially extending human bodies into physical landscapes. The term extensible body is introduced, framed by the object-oriented philosophy of Graham Harman. WBANs are sensors placed on or inside of the human body to measure, record, and transmit data about the biological processes of a medical patient. I argue that these body-data should be considered components of bodies themselves, not representations of them. Further, I argue that the geographical discourse on relationality should be less about object relations and more about object extensions. Harman’s explication of the “quadruple object,” and specifically his use of real and sensual objects makes this possible. This questions the spatial beginnings and ends of categorical objects such as bodies and information, the implications of which could have profound impacts on how policies are framed in sectors such as public health, environment, planning, and medicine. The notion of extensibility is crucial in theorizing how, and where, the Geoweb exists as a spatial-technical assemblage of objects and information. The case of WBANs shows that a theorization of the Geoweb must include the built infrastructure of data storage as a spatial extension of being human.