Response to Heaven’s post “women at the gym”

I think this was a well written post and I completely agree with the points that you have stated. Our society indirectly and directly controls the way people should behave and for that reason even things like the gym are socially constructed. The weight lifting room is “naturally” seen as a place for ‘muscular’ and ‘fit’ men to lift heavy weights while the cardio room seems and feels more feminized. The inclusion of televisions on each machine for shows to be watched and the endless piles of women’s magazines create that sense of comfort and belonging for a woman. This may all seem natural and fitting however we must de-naturalize this notion and see where this notion came from, and how it started to circulate. I would argue that it came from the social and cultural constructions of what a ‘feminine’ body should look like versus the ‘masculine’ body. In our society, a woman’s definition of fit and toned is completely different than the definition of a male. A woman that goes to the weight room and begins to lift heavy weights is all of a sudden considered unattractive and ‘masculine’ to the opposite sex. Why is it constructed to be this way? What if a woman wants to lift heavy weights to challenge herself or simply because it is her goal, or even just because she can? Why should these disciplines not allow women to lift weights? Why should the gym be divided like that? It is something people would have to overcome because if a woman feels the desire to work out at the weight room she should not feel uncomfortable to do so and should disregard these constructions in order to feel satisfied and fulfilled (although easier said than done- the power of the ‘gaze’ is quite strong). These things are also seen in other areas as well. For instance, I do hot yoga and there are lots of males that attend these yoga classes too. Many would say that it is more for females and it would think that it is more ‘odd’ to see a male at a yoga class as opposed to a female. This is also a construction, why couldn’t it just be seen as a human wanting to achieve a goal and engage in a healthy lifestyle?

Overall, despite these social constructions I think it is very engaging and inspiring to see people go against these social constructions and discomfort and engage in something that brings them happiness, fulfillment and enjoyment in life. One should not let society discipline to act a certain way just in order to ‘fit in’. It was nice to see that some women like the personal trainers that came to our class were able to show a lot of confidence in something that they know is viewed down upon in our society. I also agree that there lots of stereotypes and stigmas come to place as soon as a girl looks at the back of a food item for ingredients to see the nutritional information. People usually just assume that the girl tries to lose weight because she is affected by the media. However, there is a huge difference in wanting to engage in a healthy lifestyle and being affected by the media. Another thing that I have learnt throughout my life time so far is that we should not be affected by what people say or do because we are individuals and should always follow what we enjoy and feel compelled to do. Overall, I really liked your post and I completely agree with the points that you stated. Good job!

smile

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Response to Mary Woldemichael’s post “Human Machine addictions”

To begin, I would like to say that I completely agree with the points that you have stated. Game designing companies remove themselves from blame and find themselves as ‘innocent’ for they did not ‘intend’ to make people addicted to their games. Why should they be blamed on behalf of people who have weak, vulnerable and addictive personalities and who cannot refrain themselves from playing games? It couldn’t do with the fact that the story line that is created in those games usually strives not to have an ending so that the individual that enters this virtual world is lost within that world and does not want to give up until it is done- expect that designers always usually find a way to extend this virtual reality by creating new revolutions, new characters, new continents or even new worlds within those worlds. For those who do not engage with games, it is hard to understand why people might want to spend hours on top of hours in a virtual and ‘fake’ reality. Yet, it is inevitable that it is not just the players to blame for. The gaming industry is a multi-billion dollars industry because the designers have strategies and ways of keeping the players ‘hooked’ in those games and as a result cannot come out of that world- which to them may be considered another kind of world. This brings me to think about Tom Boellstroff and about his research in Second Life. The residents of Second Life feel like they are part of a community. They have friends, engage in hobbies and day to day activities and most importantly feel like they have a self-identity. Although, they may be well aware that the virtual world is not the “real” world, they do indeed consider it the “other” world. It all comes in the age of teche, in which individuals may create another virtual world. We saw in the video that we watched in class that many kids in Asian countries are strongly addicted to games and that it may have to do with the fact that they had a one child policy, therefore because of a less interactive lifestyle, they are bound to engage with something that allows them to feel belonged and be part of a community. However, it still strives to blame the people that engage with the game or it strives to blame the politics and policies of china.  On this note, I would like to end by agreeing with you once again and say that it is definitely not a way to fix our societal issues. Designing companies must become more aware of the harm that is caused by them rather than only care about the profit increase. This of course, in our capitalist society is something that would not change easily because unfortunately money is more important than the health and happiness of people. 

Optical illusions

The optical illusions we have engaged with in class were very interesting and fun. Although I have come across optical illusions prior to this class, I have never viewed it as a capacity building block.  The first optical illusion I engaged with was the spinning circular object. When I held the object in my hand I was consciously aware of the fact that there was only half a black circle on the circular flat surface. I followed the instructions and spun it, expecting to see the binary opposition of black and white. However, when the circle spun it created the illusion that the entire surface was black. This created a sense of confusion within my mind because engaging with the object before spinning it allowed me to see it and engage with it in a specific way yet when an illusion is created the mind and the senses are not cooperating and as a result a sense of confusion is created.  Questions begin to rise, how is it that my eyes see the object a certain way when engaging with it yet see something different when the object is in a different state? How was this actually happening? This left me wondering and thinking about the different options that could answer this. The next activity that I engaged with was the elephant picture with the confusing amount of legs. From the subjectivity and the knowledge that I have acquired throughout my lifetime I recognized the fact that an elephant has four legs. So at first I saw four legs because I was relying on my mind, knowledge and eyes to transmit that knowledge. However, shortly after when closely engaging with the image, I have noticed that it is actually quite impossible to tell how many legs this mysterious elephant has. On the one hand, I would say that there were 4 legs, yet it also seemed like in fact it could have five, six or even seven legs. The optical illusion did it again. It was able to confuse my mind and create a sense of confusion and maybe even annoyance within myself. How is it possible that I was able to see 5 legs, yet see 6 legs and 7 legs as well? While engaging with this optical illusion, I must add that I have also engaged with indirect or unintentional mimesis. I was sitting beside a class mate while looking at this picture and whenever she for instance would say that she saw six legs, as a response to this ‘mimetic communication’ as Gibbs mentions in her article I felt that at that moment I also saw six legs. My body was affected and experienced a response. Soon after my mind would blur and again I would see a confusing amount of legs. I began to think, how is it that I cannot tell the exact amount legs? There must be one correct answer, yet they all seem correct. I felt like I could not completely ‘see’ the truth through my eyes and find the answer for it through them.

These optical illusions rupture our perceptions and create confusion amongst the mind and the senses. This relates to the video we watched that same class about Beau Lotto during the TED talk show. He presented different optical illusions that really ruptured one’s perceptions and created a sense of confusion and surrealism.  Yet, on the other hand, he suggested that our subjectivities are not necessarily formed through our senses because first we have to learn how to sense.  Once we have learned how to sense we can then make links between images, language and the world as a whole. Of course, since we have spent a life time learning how to see, it would be hard to imagine that something so “natural” like vision was learned.  This made me wonder, if one does not apprehend the world directly through the sense such as Beau Lotto suggests, after we have learned to sense new things a certain way, would we perceive these optical illusions not as illusions anymore? Would they make sense to us without rupturing our sense of perception as they do now? If I learned how to sense better with my eyes through making further associations between sensory information and behavioral meanings would these illusions make sense to me then? This has also made me think of Bruno Latour and the notion that because we cannot directly perceive and apprehend our world directly through our senses, these optical illusions can also be used as a sense of “truth”. In other words, they can show another aspect of reality that cannot be perceived through our senses. This is a very crucial and important aspect because it supports the notion and ideology that there is more than one truth out there and these truths may very well be subjective. In a sense it can fill in the gaps from things that cannot be apprehended through our senses but can be filled through optical illusions. Although perhaps I was not able to perceive these activities completely and directly through my senses, it was still used as a source of realism. Optical illusions are a building block because they build a capacity to affect and be affected.

This activity was a fun way to discover that our world may not necessarily be perceived only through our senses like we may have thought before. old-couple

The egg and the sperm.

Emily Martin has brought a new perspective and subjectivity into the scientific field. She discusses how the social and cultural constructions of the male and the female affect the way biological observations and discoveries about the reproductive systems are shaped and formed. For many generations, the roles of the egg and the sperm are perceived in a very objective and standard way which supports the ideology that the sperms in the male reproductive system are active, strong and powerful while the egg is very ‘passive’ and vulnerable. This ideology is usually perceived as the objective truth and not often is questioned. What makes Emily Martin special is that she digs deep and far to question this ideology and proves that these generalizations are in fact socially constructed and not as ‘neutral’ as many think. Emily Martin brings into attention that culture shapes how biological scientists discover the ‘natural’ world. It is indeed a long historical process in which the binary oppositions between woman and man were created, placing males as more superior than females. Although times have been changing and today these stigmas are less visible, they still play an indirect role and are seen through things like the scientific explanations of the reproductive systems of the egg and the sperm.

In her article on page 490, Martin talks about Gerlad and Helen Schatten and the way they give the egg the role of ‘sleeping beauty’: “ a dormant bride awaiting her mate’s magic kiss, which instills the spirit that brings her to life”. On the other hand, the sperm is perceived as an active thing with a “mission” to find the ovum and rescue it.  Scientists seem to emphasize the notion that the reproductive system of a woman creates a lot of waste while ignoring the fact that males produce an extraordinary amount more waste than a woman.  There are many more examples in her article which indicate the reproductive system of a woman as much more inferior to the reproductive system of a male. Although as time passed, some of the references have changed but the generalizations and stigmas are still reflected in the inferior roles females play in our society as opposed to males. This makes me wonder, in a society where women are perceived differently than our society, how would they describe this process of the egg and the sperm? Would their scientific discoveries be seen through a different paradigm and subjectivity thus would the results be constructed differently?

I think this was an excellent article that relates to our course because it also focuses on the subjectivity that our society has and the way one, for example a male scientist in this case makes sense of his world through these cultural constructions that have been stringing for many generations now. I feel like even the way scientists interact with their technology is shaped and constructed to certain subjectivity. The realm of interpretation and the episteme that they partake in lead them to discover things in a limited and particular manner.  The way scientists refer to these processes may not seem intentional but they contain built in stigmas that affect the way women are perceived in our society and culture. Giving the female organ a passive and slow and useless kind of role can reflect how women can be perceived in our society too; dependable on men and passive. On the other hand, the social constructions of males are seen as superior, active, in control as well as independent. This active and superior role can also be seen in our society.

This topic has to do with play because speech is a form of play as well. If this story about the egg and the sperm was told in a different manner, it could transform the gender relations. There is a play through power relations. Male scientists were always considered higher up than female scientists because they were empirical and scientific and did not use ‘emotions’ to scientifically discover new discoveries. Due to this, the ‘objective’ and empirical knowledge that was transmitted through these scientists are often accepted as truths in our society.

We must always de-naturalize the things that seem ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ and question, where did they come from? How did they come about? And how did it circulate?  These things are most certainly not natural and are constructions that come from different stream of discourses and episteme. In this case, these scientific discoveries emerge from a particular discourse in which the role of a male is perceived as active and strong, independent and powerful and the role of a woman is perceived as passive and dependent. This is reflected through the scientific discoveries that are made seen as natural and normal. It becomes the way they perceive and make sense of their discoveries. Play is a capacity building block and it provides us with the opportunities to de-naturalize and question where the objectives came from and how they came to circulate.

Emily Martin de-naturalizes the scientific objectives that seem normal and empirical and allows to bring out a completely different perspective that exposes the fact that these scientists whom are believed to create ‘objective’ and ‘neutral’ observations are  in fact very subjective and are highly influenced by the stigmas and generalizations made about women and men in our society.

mimesis

The article “8 After Affect” written by Anna Gibbs introduced the new term of mimesis. She describes mimesis as the “corporeally based forms of imitation, both voluntary and involuntary (and on which literary representation ultimately depends” (Gibbs, pg 187). The article further explains that these forms of imitation may be intentional and unintentional and in mimesis there is an affect contagion such as synchrony, sympathy and empathy. Something has to change in the body during mimesis and there must also be a response. When engaging with mimesis you can affect a situation, and by doing so you can create a vibe and get results.  A person may not intentionally copy another person but he or she may take off a state to have a relation with that person and as a result act a certain way depending on the situation.

Mimesis is a transformative concept which means that a person takes things from other people and mimics them. The ability to mimic and experience a transformation is what mimesis is. For instance, if someone walks by and smiles at us, we subconsciously tend to smile back because we take on that state and engage with it.

This got me thinking of the in-class activity we had engaged in one of the classes. A few students from the class got a scenario they had to engage with while the rest had to look for those scenarios and mimic them. At first everyone walked in circles with a confused expression on their faces, which I would argue was also a sense of mimesis (unintentional mimesis) in which students took off a state from other students. Shortly after, people started to catch up and started to look at peoples expressions and students were able to catch on to some expressions and follow them. One of the scenarios had to do with a person being deep in thought and self-reflecting, this was something I was able to catch on to and mimic. This was my intentional imitation act of being affected by the state of another person. However, what I found much more interesting was the unintentional mimesis that took place during the experiment.  The one scenario that had both intentional and unintentional results was the part where one of the students stood against the wall as part of the intentional act she put on and some students in the class possibly caught on to that and joined her. However, when more and more people were joining in to stand against the wall, even those who did not clue in (such as me) stood against the wall as well. I could not explain why I had the urge to stand against the wall like everyone else did but I guess this is the exact definition of unintentional mimesis. It is something that will create a response in the body and as it was said in class sometimes while engaging with mimesis we forget self-control and we end up mimicking things that might necessarily be understood by us. I did not think of it at the time, but thinking about it now, I wonder why did I feel compelled to stand against the wall? According to the article, Gibbs touches on the idea that mimesis is not just a simple mimicry act depended on the vision but it is actually a very complex communicative process in which other senses and modalities are involved as well(Gibbs, pg 190). While engaging with others in social contexts in which socials bonds are created or destructed, mimesis allows to create a sense of ‘belonging’ and ‘acceptance’ amongst the social circle. I found this really interesting because in a sense when everyone was standing against the wall, a social bond was created and everyone engaged in it through mimesis since majority of the social circle was engaging in it.

Overall, this was a very interesting experience and it helped me further understand the concept of mimesis and how it works when consciously engaging with it. It also allowed me to see how we take on other peoples states intentionally and unintentionally in order to have certain relations with the people around us. While consciously engaging with mimesis I was looking to intentionally take on the state of other people but I had not realized that at a subconscious level I had also taken the states of other people, as did everyone else.

Giving up a sense.

If you were to give up a sense- which one would you choose and why?

Although one may be deceived by the complexity of this question, it sure is difficult to find an answer to it. This is because from the day I was born I was able to absorb all the senses and use them together as a whole. Every day, minute and second of my life I am attuned to my surroundings with all my senses, although I never acknowledged that before this class. Whether I ‘see’ something, or ‘hear’ something, I use my other senses subconsciously as well. It was known to be before that when someone for instance is blind, they have a ‘better’ sense of hearing and are more attuned to touch. However, in my opinion, it is not that their other senses are better than a person that can see, but it is just that they spent a long time developing their other senses. They know the world in a different way. Many in our society may think that blind people, such as Virgil do not experience the world to its full potential, and hence push for operations to revive this ‘miraculous’ sense. But who is to say that these people do not experience the world on their own terms? The hierarchy placed on the ocular sense allows people to believe that those who do not have it suffer, but I believe that these people have adapted into this world in a different manner and can enjoy life just the way that those who can see do.

The idea that if the cataracts of a blind person are removed and now the retinas are able to process and receive images, the life of a blind person would transform for the better is something that should be also viewed from a different perspective. It took us a life time of different experiences to come in tact with our vision; we had to learn to see the world in a certain way. It is wrong to assume that a blind person who could not see his or her entire life could view and comprehend the same things we do in a month or two or even a year. The argument stated in the article that suggests that sight is not like learning a new language, but it is like learning language for the first time is a profound perspective that should be taken into account. Toddlers for instance at first do not know that distances between objects, hence we put them in cribs so they do not fall out. As they grow they are consciously and subconsciously taught the distances, perceptions, shapes and meanings of things. As they become older it is already embedded in them and they continuously on a daily basis learn more and more. We teach ourselves and others how to use the sense of sight, but it is not because sight will simply make things easier or better but because of the social hierarchy we have in our culture that allows us to believe so. Virgil, without the sense of sight was able to perfectly fit in within his surroundings (although it may not seem like it). He was able to understand and enjoy sports, communicate with others, eat, sleep, even read (in a different way) and work as a massage therapist. My mom is a massage therapist, and I would assume that vision is an important aspect in this field as you have to know where to massage a person based on the place that was injured. However, Virgil was a massage therapist for 30 years, thus one must assume that he knew where these spots were as well. He gained his knowledge and tactics through a different medium and different experiences. Of course those who have been using their sense of sight throughout their life can embrace what they ‘see’ and find things beautiful, yet I believe that those who cannot physically see find the same joy and beauty using their other senses.

That being said, back to the question asked, I would say that it would be extremely difficult to live without even one of my senses as I am used to living with all in harmony. However, if I really had to, I would give up my sense of taste or touch. I would certainly not give up my sense of sight or hearing or even smell but this is all due to the fact that I partake in this socially constructed society that places hierarchies on senses. As we discussed earlier this year, sight and hearing are considered to be the most ‘valuable’ senses and are associated closely with civilization, meanwhile taste and touch from a historical perspective are associated with animal senses. I think I would give up these particular senses because like many others; I am not as consciously attuned to them as I should be. Being a student in this class made me become more attuned to my senses overall but I am still in the process of beating these social constructions and further discovering my senses. That being said, in no way do I think I would be able to continue living my life the same way I do now. I would experience the same sense of confusion Virgil and other people did when their sense of sight was suddenly revived. In a way, I believe that gaining a sense is similar to giving up a sense. Without touch, I would not be able to feel anything and I would have to adapt into this new way of living. Without taste, I would not be able to taste or feel the texture of anything it and that would also affect my other senses. In this case, referring to the article, it would not be like a learning language for the first time but losing the ability to communicate as a whole.

Interestingly enough, I do not think that I would be perceived as a handicapped or disabled if one knew I could not “feel” or “taste” something, nor do I think people would try to push me to get operations in hopes that I could gain back these senses. This goes to show how much importance is placed on a few senses, and how isolated other senses are.

To conclude, I said I would lose the sense of touch or taste but frankly I know that I would not be able to live the same way without them. This is because I have spent a life time of living with these senses. However, if I was born without these senses, it would be a different case because I would live my life without knowing what these senses are good for and embrace my other senses. That being said, I believe that we should get rid of the notion that someone is unhappy or misfortunate because they lack the senses we value most. These people have their own way of experiencing the world and gaining immense knowledge about it. This article also made me realize that I should be more attuned with my other senses because I should not be able to choose and give up on a particular sense this easily.

Sounds and silence

I lost count at how many times I have sat in a coffee shop trying to do my work and gotten disrupted by the loud noise of the espresso machine making a foamed latte for someone. I also cannot think of how many times loud noises such as a plate dropping and breaking, someone continuously screaming or loud music during unwanted times annoyed me. In honest truth I have never acknowledged the concepts of sounds and noises in general. However, now thinking about it and after reading the article I have realized that not only sounds are assimilated with things, for instance when a plate drops and makes a loud noise, one knows that the plate broke because of the sound and noise it made. Sounds play such a tremendous role in our lives but we do not acknowledge it, at least I didn’t  We can distinguish between pleasant sounds and noise, and can relate the two to pleasant things and unpleasant things. For instance, if you enter a spa, not in any way do they play hard core metal music because that would destroy the peaceful atmosphere and will not give the ability for a person to relax. That being said, it made me wonder, can sound really affect how a person feels? Or is it the social constructions of sounds that make us feel differently about it. According to the article, people have been trying for many decades and in this case even centuries to reduce the amount of noise produced, whether from cars, airplanes, trains and even church bells. However, as we have entered the industrial revolution, noises that have never been heard before have entered our society. Thus, as our culture develops, changes and advances, so do the sounds and noises. That being said, in this sense noises are being removed from our society too (depending on our personal surroundings). For example, earlier in the century people have used horses, and the sounds of their hooves tapping were most definitely heard by residents. However, since now we are in a more developed period of time, and use cars as a means of transportation, the sounds and noises the horses create are not part of our culture anymore (speaking about our specific urban culture). Another factor to include is that the essence of silence according to the article had to do with spirituality, and for that reason the sounds of the bells were eliminated in order to be spiritual. However, in my opinion it is not that silence really makes someone more spiritual but is because silence was socially constructed to make someone believe that if they go into a silent environment they will be more connected with their god.

This has also made me wonder, how is it that the sounds of a person making a latte at a coffee shop disrupts me when I try to do my work but is dismissed and not even noticed when I am the one who purchased the latte? Why is the sound of loud music bothers me at times when I feel like being in silence but at other times during a party, an event, show or concert is acceptable and even perceived in a positive way?

Is it really that we have become more sensitive to hearing sounds and noise after the 19th century, or is it simply because our industrial society produces unwanted noise? Despite that, sometimes even unpleasant noises are appreciated. For instance, no one likes the sound of a loud alarm but how come when a robbery takes places in someone’s house, they thank themselves that the alarm was loud enough to alert them as opposed to being annoyed at the sound it produces.

I have never realized how important sounds are and how much by simply hearing a specific and distinct sound we can protect ourselves from hurting ourselves and be alert to our surroundings. Although at times I wish it would always be silent and peaceful, what is life without sound? The ability to hear sounds is just as important as to see or feel or touch and all of our other senses.