Sophia Oppel

“Docile Bodies” is a chapter in Michael Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish that discusses control exerted over bodies through discipline and surveillance. Foucault points out the dangers of bodily control being exerted over us in the facets of our lives that we believe we hold agency over; the things we instil with notions of freedom, Foucault argues, are often the ones that are able to most easily exert control over us.

Our online environments serve to re-affirm and augment existing body policing; Hashtaging, Fitbit tracking, profile pictures and location tagging are all practices we view as within our own agency, but they serve as symptoms of an insidious and self-perpetuated bio-surveillance. This bio surveillance brands our bodies and fragments us into strings of numbers that can be sold as assets to multiple corporations.

This interactive website focuses on notions of transparency and the body online; docile bodies addresses the concept that digital infrastructure exerts bio-power just as much as physical and social structures. This website takes the form of a composite, branded body as a reaction to identity performance online, while simultaneously making the viewer aware of the architecture of the web and its illusions of transparency. The website gives the viewer an interface to position pieces of a non-linear narrative and create correlations between different texts, images and videos. Docile bodies employs transparency as a motif throughout; multiple fragmented pieces of text and scanned bodies can be layered over one another. The colour white is also a reoccurring motif in order to directly address notions of net neutrality while pointing out an insidiously colonial attitude that exists online. The text in the website integrates location tags, bodily statistics such as heart rate and calorie count and phrases about control through docility. The text is presented alongside the images, resembling the layout of an advertisement.

By using a 3D scanning application to translate bodies into digital assets, I allow an algorithm to make my aesthetic decisions for me and give it agency over the branded body it presents. In this sense, the body exists in a state of negation, saying more about the software used to capture it than its own state of being. In rendering a body as the composite of all these supposedly “transparent” architectures, I hope to point out the physical ramifications of invisible power as it exists online. By collaborating with the algorithm I am also positioning myself as an entity that can perpetuate control over others.

docile bodies
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