Sobchack’s Carnal Thoughts

Vivian Sobchack

Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture

Area: Digital Media


·                  Embodied existence ‘in the flesh’ lays the concrete foundations for a materialist – rather than idealist – understanding of aesthetics and ethics

·                  The body and consciousness is an irreducible ensemble

1: “The major theme of Carnal Thoughts is the embodiment and radically material nature of human existence and thus the lived body’s essential implication in making ‘meaning’ out of bodily ‘sense.”

2: “The focus here is on what it is to live one’s body, not merely look at bodies—although vision, visuality, and visibility are as central to the subjective dimensions of embodied existence as they are to its objective dimensions.  In sum, the essays in CT foreground embodiment—that is, the lived body as, at once, both an objective subject and a subjective object: a sentient, sensual, and sensible ensemble of materialized capacities and agency that literally and figurally makes sense of, and to, both ourselves and others.”

2:  “Don Idhe characterizes existential phenomenology as “a philosophical style that emphasizes a certain interpretation of human experience and that, in particular, concerns perception and bodily activity.”

3: “Contemporary scholars tend to ‘study the body and its transformations while still taking embodiment for granted,’ but ‘this distinction between the body as either an empirical thing or analytical theme, and embodiment as the existential ground of culture and self is critical.’ Hence the need to turn our attention from the body to embodiment.”

Chapter 5: Susie Scribbles: On Technology, Techne, and Writing

·                  Today we write with technologies we differently incorporate into our bodies and our experience of writing

·                  Five key features that inform activity and production of writing

à           Directness: suspension in time and directness in space

à           Uniformity: whether letters are shaped by hand or pre-formed

à           Speed: potential speed of transcription relative to other tools

à           Linearity: the extent to which the tool allows the user to jump around in a text

à           Boundedness: limits on the frame size of a particular writing and reading surface

·           Pen and ink are more thoughtful—the marking is a permanent commitment

à           Not so much technologically challenged as temporally challenged

110: “Which is to say that writing is as much about mattering as it is about meaning.  Making things matter, however, requires both a technology and a technique.”

111:  “These five features all ‘relate to the handling of space and time both by the tool and by the writer, and, since, as phenomenologists argue, such relationships are fundamental to our structuring of experience, it is hardly surprising that they may be experienced as transforming influences.”

132:  “Heidegger reminds us, technology consists not merely of objective tools, nor is technique merely their objective application.  ‘Technology is…no mere means,’ he tells us.  ‘Technology is a way of revealing.’ Thus, he returns us to the Greek notion of techne: ‘the name not only for the activities and the skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts.  Techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poetic.  Furthermore, techne is a way and manner of knowing.  Making, bringing forth, and revealing are integral not only the existence of matter but also to why and how some ‘thing’ is known and understood as ‘mattering.’”


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