In Closer, Susan Kozel draws on live performance practice, digital technologies, and the philosophical approach of phenomenology. Trained in dance and philosophy, Kozel places the human body at the center of explorations of interactive interfaces, responsive systems, and affective computing, asking what can be discovered as we become closer to our computers—as they become extensions of our ways of thinking, moving, and touching.
Performance, Kozel argues, can act as a catalyst for understanding wider social and cultural uses of digital technology. Taking this one step further, performative acts of sharing the body through our digital devices foster a collaborative construction of new physical states, levels of conscious awareness, and even ethics. We reencounter ourselves and others through our interactive computer systems. What we need now are conceptual and methodological frameworks to reflect this.
Kozel offers a timely reworking of the phenomenology of French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. This method, based on a respect for lived experience, begins by listening to the senses and noting insights that arrive in the midst of dance, or quite simply in the midst of life. The combination of performance and phenomenology offered by Closer yields entwinements between experience and reflection that shed light on, problematize, or restructure scholarly approaches to human bodies using digital technologies.
After outlining her approach and methodology and clarifying the key concepts of performance, technologies, and virtuality, Kozel applies phenomenological method to the experience of designing and performing in a range of computational systems: telematics, motion capture, responsive architectures, and wearable computing.
The transformative potential of the alchemy between bodies and technologies is the foundation of Closer. With careful design, future generations of responsive systems and mobile devices can expand our social, physical, and emotional exchanges. Susan Kozel is Associate Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.
About the Author
Susan Kozel is Principal Researcher at the SMART Lab, University of East London.
“Beautifully presented on black, white and bisected pages punctuated with atmospheric in-motion images, Kozel's visible construction of a true blending of theory and practice is as engaging as it is inspiring.”—Dean Wilcox, The Journal of Theatre Research International
“Closer is inventive and original. Kozel emphasizes the importance of kinesthetic-tactile mobility in the human relationship with the environment. But, unlike some in the phenomenological tradition, she is open to and explores new technologies. Highly imaginative.”
—Don Ihde, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York, Stony Brook
“Clearly written, superbly researched, and theoretically daring, Closer is one of the first major attempts in performance and dance theory to reconcile the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty with the practical philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. Susan Kozel is not only rigorously convincing in her arguments, but she creatively demonstrates how it is the encounter between dancing and new technologies of telepresence that necessitates such an improbable, yet fascinating and much needed, theoretical link. This is an essential book.”
—André Lepecki, Associate Professor in Performance Studies at New York University
“Susan Kozel has managed to shake phenomenology alive, to make Merleau-Ponty function dynamically in movement, to bring philosophy to bear on the most contemporary and dynamic of the arts and digital technologies. This is a powerful transformation of philosophy into performance, of the I into the flesh, of thought into dance. It is an opening up of thought to action, to technological and artistic expansion; and also an opening up of performance and action to new modes of conceptualization, new kinds of thinking.”
—Elizabeth Grosz, Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers University
“Riveting and fascinating. Originating from her own experimental dance experiences, Susan Kozel’s choreography of the dance among performance, digital technology, and phenomenological reflection yields urgent new insights into the meaning of human embodiment. Her wholly humane and humanistic conclusions are a generous and welcome addition to debates over the bond connecting body and computer.”
—J.M. Bernstein, New School for Social Research
“The exceptional qualities of Closer reside in its mix of theory and practice-informed scholarship. This is an original, articulate, and creative vision that yields a deep examination of the intersection between mind, body, and machine.”
—Sally Jane Norman, Director, Culture Lab, Newcastle University