[dance-tech] Sensordance, etc........The language of technology - the technoloigy of dance

  • From: "Jaime del Val" <jaimedelval@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2006 17:16:41 +0200

Dear all,

please excuse my overwhelming two months delay, I was wanting to participate
in the discussion all the time, but too busy always.

So I still would like to pinpoint some of the elements of the discussion
which I see
as recursive and perhaps key questions that we seem to be addressing all
the time in the dance-tech environment. Take it as a new discussion if you

It is indeed true that we seem to be more concerned about certain kinds of
technicalities than about content in the dance tech environement, even if it
is also true that what eventually makes us an existing dance-tech community
is somewhat different from let's say usual hackerculture or other domains of
strict concern for the technology. There is indeed quite a generalized
concern for a diverse range of fields of theory that problematise technology
to a certain extent, and there is also a concern for the technology as an
instrument (rather that a pure fascination for the technology for its own
sake, as is so common in other domains and in the traditional posthumanist

On the other hand we don't always question the assumption of technology and
dance being two separate categories, which becomes problematic: there is
indeed an intrinsic relationship between the technology and the language,
even if one can subvert, invert or pervert the original thinking that the
technology was attempting to reproduce and produce. Such is the case with
all our fascinating effects and filters, which tend to be used all over the
place because we are embedded in this assumption that technology is a blank
tool and a liberating and democratic one... when in fact we are often
reproducing a
certain standardized language of effect, which is the predominant feature of
digital culture.

So we do need to make a more specific debate on this intrinsic relation of
technology and dance (technology and music, technology and image... and how
the relations between all of them are being also dislocated in different
ways) and that will take us to the morphology, rather than to the content at
a first instance (which relates to Marlon's idea of the designing of
designing, a metarepresentational framework). And this would indeed bear
with itself a whole set of political issues regarding the forms of implicit
power in latecapitalism, how they are embedded in the technology, in
specific forms of standardisations of the bodies, not regarding the matter
(here the posthumanist materialist framework doesn't help us anymore) but
regarding the language, the body as field of communicationg forces.

What I see as a possible turn of paradigm in our post-postmodernist context,
as Marlon likes to call it, is perhaps this potential turn to the
morphologies, to the morphogenesis of language and communication, after
decades of simulation in which postmodernity as parody has finished off
devouring itself: when everything has in fact become a parody, simulation
stops having any sense any longer.

It is so difficult in a globalised context (and the dance tech community is
indeed a globalised one) to generate specific focuses of approach and
concern, specific
"schools", because specificity grows in the here and now of the body and its
context, the more dislocated this specififity is in the streams of  global
standardisation the more difficult it is, and conflictive, for specificity
to emerge. And excuse me if i make this claim of schools... many of us
including myself will have a hate for schools, because we have endured their
inflexible essentialism. Can we create more open kinds of contexts, of
"schools" which nevertheless produce specificity? Indeed this would take us
on a debate on the very instruments we use, on the speed of transformation,
on their being mostly (with significant exceptions) produced within a
globalised context of the industry and the
market, on the fact that the instrument is also the écriture and the
language... on the need to generate a culture of the instrument that is also
dealing with its écriture and its language.

We are dealing with one of the great paradoxes of our time: the specifity
openness of the dancing body vs. technological determinism. And be aware of
the fact that bodies are being increasingly formalised in
determinist frameworks in HCI.

That's why I think that we stand in such a terrific moment and crossroads
because we can and tend to think this dislocated field of the body in terms
of specificity and as communicating field: we occupy a potentially crucial
site. I wander what we will make of it.

After all dance is not a set of movements, but rather an emergent process of
embodiment, transduction, indeed transubstatiation...

Just a word on contingency and the paradoxes of control vs. aleatory: there
are no absolutely aleatory and no absolutely determinst systems: contingency
will always be in play, with all its multiple dimensions, some more
predictable than others, in the understanding and embodying of an event in
communication. This contingency is responsible for the everchanging shifts
that account for the radical openness of communication altogether, and
perhaps our great challenge is how to bring this opennes back to technology,
learning from specific forms of thinking of the body, (music, dance...) and
thus challenging logocentrism in ways well beyond deconstruction.

Most of these issues, and of my own approaches to the challenge, I address
in my forthcoming article in PADM issue
"Situated Tekhne". I hope to have it available online once it has been

warmest regards
(from Steim in Amsterdam)


Jaime del Val
Instituto REVERSO
Aguila Real 24, 28232 Madrid, SPAIN
Tel.: (+34) 687 558 436

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