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Re: [xmca] The Sense in Which the Sensory Is Not Artefactual

Some fascinating points, David, but a little dense in terms of figuring out your presuppositions here.

Clearly there is always a degree of mediation, by the body, taken as both material and symbolic/ideal. Not sure what you mean by non- developmental? Do you mean without social partnership in the process? or not readily inter-subjective? It seems to me that there is direct or indirect distribution of the process across more than one individual, even if the mediation is artifactual or in terms of cultural practices and cultural ways of framing the meaning of the events. No? And as to inter-subjective, that would be something learned, or not learned, in one culture or another with regard to one kind of such event/process or another. I think.

I'm not such inclined to follow the Frankfurt School in distinguishing the subtle higher emotions of art from the base, universal-animal emotions of mass culture. These seem to me more matters of degree and choice than inherent quality or necessity. I can derive very subtle satisfactions from pop culture media (cf. Henry Jenkins as a conniosseur of pop! an "aca-fan", academic critic and also just a fan, hybridized), and I can point out the crass appeal in even very high art (and enjoy that, too). Our cultural traditions are too suspicious of the demos, and of pleasure as such. Jouissance (ala Barthes) is as much the pleasure of every text as is sublimity (ala Longinus).

Perhaps this is not quite what you meant, but I was left wondering.

And I really did not understand the transition from saying the even body-artifacts are linked to our biological patrimony from evolution, which I entirely agree with and think is an important point to make, to seeming to radically separate the body-as-heritable from encodings in artifacts. The first point seems to emphasize the unity and integration of the biological-body and the artifactual, and the second to deny it? The only thing that is purely heritable is DNA itself, which is a tiny fraction of "the body", and rest is profoundly also the product of "artifacts" in the broad sense of culturally shaped and interpreted environments. Which now include virtual reality experiences, for example.


Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Visiting Scholar
Laboratory for Comparative Human Communication
University of California -- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
USA 92093

On Dec 1, 2009, at 6:16 PM, David Kellogg wrote:

If I am depressed, and I take alcohol, in what sense is this example of self-mediation? If I am obese, and I have a surgeon perform weight loss surgery, in what sense is this social, peer mediation? If I break a leg and have the bone set, or if I suffer a severe trauma to an artery or major blood vessel and apply a tourniquet, does it make sense to describe the result as an instance of internalization?

It seems to me that the answer in all these cases is that mediation does take place, but on an extremely low, non-developmental level, which is another way of saying that the results of mediation are not very susceptible to conscious and deliberate callibration and control or to sharing across the boundary of skin, much less across national boundaries and generational ones.

This kind of bodily intervention is as different from the cultural interventions that characterize higher level emotional processes (mediated by artworks, for example) as, say, perception is from conception.

It seems to me that the reason this is so is that the body is, like perception, ineluctably linked to our biological patrimony even in its most artefactual forms (e.g. breast implants, pacemakers, dental work). It is never encodable as a cultural artefact; it is only biologically heritable.

That is why the what Adorno calls "the culture industry" always seeks out for exploitation our lower level emotions: terror, sexual arousal, rage, etc. Being more or less biological, these impulses are universal. As Adorno says, the bourgeoisie would like art to be sensuous and life to be aescetic, but we would really be better off with precisely the opposite.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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