Published in 1995 in The Cyborg Handbook edited by Chris Hables Gray, “Split Subjects, Not Atoms; or How I Fell in Love with My Prosthesis” by Sandy Stone has intrigued me for its particular insight into the possibilities of transcoding, in particular the evocation of other sensory modalities through the transmissions emanating from one restricted modality.
[T]he more I observed phone sex the more I realized I was observing very practical applications of data compression. Usually sex involves as many of the senses as possible: taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing — and, for all I know, short-range psychic interactions — all work together to heighten the erotic sense. Consciously or unconsciously, phone sex workers translate all the modalities of experience into audible form. In doing so they have reinvented the art of radio drama, complete down to its sound effects, including the fact that some sounds were best represented by other improbable sounds, which they resembled only in certain iconic ways. On the radio, for example, the sound men (they were always literally men) represented fire by crumpling cellophane, because to the audience it sounded more like fire than holding a microphone to a real fire did.
I slow down my reading and parse that “involves” not as a simultaneous plenitude but a telling sequence. Note that “hearing” is the last in the sequence and it is pivotal in the account of mimetic rendering that follows. I am sure that the “working together” doesn’t necessarily translate to a working in unison. Attention can rotate. And often does.
It is interesting how consideration of mimesis and representation can lead one to reflect on consciousness in its everyday and its heightened forms. Through the recreated signals that harken to a sensory experience (without duplicating that experience in its particulars), one comes to appreciate that the experience outside the recreation is also dependent upon (cultural) codes.
And so for day 869