Body Delirium

Recently, we were thinking about the childhood myth of finding your double while watching a French television documentary on twins. In particular, there was one set of female twins who talked evocatively about the constant 3-D mirror imaging of themselves, where every beauty and imperfection, every lump and line, was magnified one hundred times in stereoscopic imagery. Each twin was a living mirror to the other, with a biological need to see. A closed circle of two, always dressing the same, always sleeping in the same bed, always sharing the same lover, like a nerve connection between two bodies that could be one; even answering the phone with "It is us."

The twins talked with real emotion about the special pleasure that came with touching one another's skin, a pleasure they didn't experience with the same intensity when touching their own skin, and never when touching someone else. As they explained, touching one another's skin was like touching your own, only better.

Twinness was their being.

Sound familiar? Think about the most avant-garde of computer hackers wearing digital gear as part of the body apparatus, feeling a twinness with the machine - an overriding need not to be a machine but to be twinned with one. Digital twins with mirrored identities for a time when digital reality can be your twin, a long lost, but for that matter always desperately sought out electronic double in the digital vortex. Like those hackers at MIT's Media Lab involved in the "Body Net" project: actually externalizing the electro-magnetic field of the body only to better mirror themselves electronically with a digital Other. Not skin on skin, but skin on synthetics. Or those other extropians and futurists and uploaders who are determined to interface human flesh with digital reality - heads as passive terminals for virtual cellular telephones, hands embedded with electronic bank cards, DNA as a living computer matrix. It has always been assumed that computer hackers - cyberboys - have been motivated by a strong desire to dump human flesh, to mutate their skin, taking autistic shelter in an electronic homeland of their own creation.

But we don't think this is true, or, even if it is, it is certainly incomplete, and not complex enough to capture the mythical, even psychoanalytical processes, involved in inventing the digital future. In the same way that the French twins abandoned individual identity in favor of a life of the doubled Other, the digital uploader has found his double in the electronic womb. In the electronic mirror, digital and human reality have been twinned: the interface is complete between human and synthetic identity.

Or, as hackers involved in the Body Net project like to say: "It is us."

"Body Delirium" is excerpted from the CTHEORY book Digital Delirium, Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, eds. New York: St. Martin's Press; and Montreal: New World Perspectives; 1997. More information is available from the Ctheory Books website.