Accepted Paper:

Hybrid bodies and the materiality of everyday life  

Author:

Nelly Oudshoorn (University of Twente)

Paper short abstract:

Implanted technologies such as pacemakers transform everyday life. I argue that disentanglement work, i.e. anticipation to prevent specific entanglements between bodies and objects, is key to understanding how hybrid bodies can survive and intimacy is enacted in today’s technological landscapes.

Paper long abstract:

Technologies inside bodies introduce novel challenges for living in a technological culture. For pacemaker and ICD patients, passing security controls at airports and museums, visits to the doctor or the dentist, and intimate contacts with their loved ones turn into events where the proper working of their device may be at risk. Although at first glance these technologies don't seem to require any actions of its users, they demand that patients adapt their daily life to protect their hybrid bodies from negative interferences with their physical environment. Anticipation of potentially harmful events and places thus becomes an important part of the choreography of everyday life. Technologies inside bodies not only provide a challenge for patients living with these devices but also for theorizing the relationships between bodies, technologies and intimacy. Whereas most studies in STS address the co-adaptation and entanglement of bodies and (external) technologies, technologies inside bodies ask us to do the opposite. How to understand body-technology relations in which the entanglement of hybrid bodies and objects external to the body has to be avoided rather than achieved?

Based on an empirical study of the daily life practices of patients living with pacemakers and ICDs in the Netherlands and the US, I will argue that disentanglement work, i.e. anticipation to prevent specific entanglements between bodies and objects, is key to understanding how hybrid bodies can survive and what intimacies and responsibilities are enacted in today's densely populated technological landscapes.

Panel T059
Making Worlds: Feminist STS and everyday technoscience