IIPC Debate 43
This is a double debate!
Thu 25 April 4-6 pm. Professor Feona Attwood (Middlesex University, UK): The Uncanny Valley: Transformations of the Body and the Sexualization Debate. Dr Rebecca Coleman (Lancaster University, UK): Materialising the Future: Prediction, Measure and the Obesity Crisis
Place: Pharmacity Auditorium, Itäinen pitkäkatu 4, Turku.
Themes of transformation recur in a wide range of media and more broadly in self-help and makeover culture which invites us to join in with the process that Meredith Jones has described as ‘always-becoming’ (2008: 6). The visual effects that are achieved through CGI and Photoshop technologies, as well as a multitude of body modification practices can also be considered as part of a battery of transformative techniques that are increasingly widely used. This article considers how these techniques have been used to interrupt ideas about people –
particularly women – should look and behave and about their implications for our understanding of ageing and age-appropriate appearance and behaviour. It asks how we might consider current debates about the sexualization of culture in this broader context where self-presentation is so closely tied to representational practices and where representational regimes are being radically transformed.
Feona Attwood is Professor of Cultural, Communication and Media Studies at Middlesex University, UK. Her research is in the area of sex in contemporary culture; and in particular, in onscenity; sexualization; sexual cultures; new technologies, identity and the body; and controversial media. She is the editor of Mainstreaming Sex: The Sexualization of Western Culture (2009), porn.com: Making Sense of Online Pornography (2010) and (with Vincent Campbell, I.Q. Hunter and Sharon Lockyer) Controversial Images (2012). Her current book project is Sex Media and Technology.
In recent years, the ideal of progress understood to underpin Western capitalist societies has been questioned, and commentators from different perspectives predict a range of forthcoming economic, environmental and health crises. This paper focuses on one predicted crisis – obesity – and examines the ways in which the logic of this crisis simultaneously predicts a catastrophic future for overweight people and demands action in the present to intervene in and alter this diminished future. Drawing on recent interdisciplinary work on the proliferation of numbers in contemporary culture (Guyer et al 2010), and the kinds of measure and value that are emerging (Adkins and Lury 2012, Muniesa and Trebuchet-Breitwiller 2010, Moor and Lury 2011), it begins to consider how the future becomes crucial to the ways in which abstract or virtual notions such as predictions, calculations, and measures, are materialized in and as particular kinds of bodies. In particular, the paper considers how materialising a slimmer (and therefore what is assumed to be a healthier) body is an on-going process – change must be for life – and how the temporality of the obesity crisis might map onto or make new social inequalities.
Professor Coleman’s research intersts include images and visual/sensory culture, bodies and materiality, affect, temporality and the future, inventive methodologies, feminist, cultural and social theory. She has recently finished a book, Transforming Images: Screens, Affect, Futures, that tracks a socio-cultural and bodily imperative for transformation across a range of different screens: interactive mirrors; makeover television; online dieting; the Change4Life government health campaign. She has also studied the relations between bodies and images through empirical research with teenage girls. This project developed a feminist Deleuzian approach and, taking up concepts of affect, intensity and immanence, it argued that bodies and images should be understood as entwined processes of becoming rather than as separate entities. As a result she published a monograph, The Becoming of Bodies: Girls, Images, Experience, and a number of journal articles. With Jessica Ringrose (Institute of Education), she has recently edited a book on Deleuze and Research Methodologies.