This post is not so much a discussion of the content of the Hansen excerpt on skin interfaces, but rather how she structures her argument, and particularly how she identifies her key themes of critique. I’ll start by identifying a couple key passages that for me resonated most strongly with her core argument:

In transmission communication terms, immediacy can be said to be the dream of noise-free communication, whereas hypermediacy is focused on the nature of the noise-adding channel. In representational terms, one could say that transparent immediacy is representation camouflaged as presentation – it is supposed to be as if the represented phenomenon is in front of us. Conversely, hypermediacy is presentation only, as it is concerned with the presentational aspects of the medium; about how the medium represents. (p74, emphasis mine)

Expressed polemically, these dresses are gadgets designed to satisfy the geeky gadgeteer who falls for easily understandable eye-candy and who is lacking so much social competence, and maybe even social intelligence, that s/he is only able to understand other people when they can be translated into algorithms. (p83, emphasis mine)

…hypermediacy is not the conceptual goal here, even though the dresses in themselves do nothing but point at their own mediacy. Conceptually and rhetorically, Skin Probes subscribe to the paradigm of the perfect and invisible servant responding to our needs even before we are aware of them ourselves. (p85, emphasis mine)

To put it in semiotic terms, the Skin Probe dresses have an iconic expression but they ‘pretend’ that the indexical and the symbolic are identical; that the symbolic has been engulfed by the index.  (p86, emphasis mine)

While I am cheating with my model here a bit (with “expressed polemically” mapping in my mind to In polemical terms, and “Conceptually and rhetorically” mapping to in conceptual and rhetorical terms), I found this means of reading and understanding the content useful. I think we can all agree that writers, academic or otherwise, have their own rhetorical cadence and this can used in order to more easily trace an argument from start to finish, particularly over a long span of a book chapter. Hansen opens this passage with a discussion of telepathy, and a brief overview of the norms of communication, primarily to frame her eventual discussion of the difference between immediacy and hypermediacy. This dialectic is then examined through a series of lenses (the “terms”) to develop critiques of the two Philips dresses as marketing efforts, and also as representations of an ideal for perfectly transparent communication, as imagined and manifested by a corporate entity. The overall point that I think Hansen is trying to make is that while the dresses are limiting in their ability to accomplish their goal of bringing latent human thought and emotion to the surface, they are successful as interpretive objects, and thus are valuable in that they allow us to think more critically about what forms embodied interactions can assume.

 

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