Il corpo e l’essere umani oggi: protesi, macchine, moda
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This article focuses on the relationships between the ‘clothed’ body and its technological, communicative, and substitutive prosthesis in the contemporary age. The concept of prosthesis has been deeply and broadly analyzed by social sciences, from Leroi-Gourham to McLuhan, in relation to both the physical and the communicative enhancement of the human body. The two perspectives – one biological and, the other cultural – are strictly connected today. Umberto Eco has described different functions of prostheses: substitutive, extensive, intrusive and magnificative (Eco, 1997). The latter seems prevalent at present. According to Eco, it consists in ‘doing with our body something that perhaps we have dreamed to do, but that we never succeeded in doing’. I explain this idea of ‘magnifying’ the body through the perspective of both cultural studies and fashion theory, using examples including the two cases analyzed by Stefano Rodotà (2012): a) the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne in 2008 to admit double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius to the Beijing Olympics; b) the case of Aimée Mullins, the double-amputee Paralympic athlete, activist, actress and model, who modelled for Alexander McQueen in 1999 on two handmade carved-wood prostheses. In the prosthetic body, the substitutive function of the prosthesis cannot be separated from its aesthetic or communicative functions. Fashion, in this sense, concerns a sort of ‘second nature’ of the body that, far from being a neo-scientific conception, consists in the embodiment of the cultural, sensorial, aesthetic, communicative and technological dimensions, as part of the body itself. At the same time, these dimensions enhance the concepts of both life and nature. The sex appeal of the inorganic (Walter Benjamin) is no longer a paradigm through which the fashionable body is seen as a ‘corpse’; on the contrary, it expresses some new ethical aspects of the vitality of the body itself.
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