Extensible, not relational: finding bodies in the landscape of electronic information with wireless body area networks
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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.
KeywordsExtensible body Object-oriented philosophy Internet infrastructure Object relations Extensible space Graham Harman
The author would like to thank Agnieszka Leszczynski and Matthew Wilson for their thoughtful leadership in organizing both this special issue and the original paper session at the 2011 conference of the Association of American Geographers in New York City. Thanks also goes to the Environmental Humanities Project at Stanford University for workshopping a very early version of this work. The feedback from three anonymous reviewers helped transform this article into something I am happy to share—many thanks to them.
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