Brock University

Bodies without Boundaries: Studies in Science & Technology

Emerging technologies constantly shape and re-shape the way we see ourselves. From medical imaging devices to digital and online interactions, complex sociotechnical arrangements intervene in everyday relationships, mediating understandings of bodies and identities, multiple and mobile. With new hopes and possibilities come new uncertainties about accessibility, about the unforeseen consequences of these relationships, and the emergence of new categories of exclusion. This session appeals to a growing interdisciplinary literature that invites us to question a priori definitions of humans and nonhumans, divisions between nature/culture, science/society, and the use of conventional categories of analysis to explain sociotechnical controversies. It invites papers that explore reality-in-the-making as an ongoing process without finality, and the challenges this presents especially to technology advocates, researchers, and policy-makers.A few suggestions for topics include (but are by no means limited to):-applications of political epistemology, praxiography, ANT & post-ANT work, assemblage, complexity and posthumanist theories-emerging social movements around biological identities (ex: grassroots patient advocacy groups utilizing social media)-controversies around translation (ex: of lived experience into the realm of economics & biostatistics & vice versa)

Session Organizer: Christian Pasiak, Carleton University,


Love in the Retrospect: Love Dolls and the Performance of the Normative Romance

Nathan Wong, The University of Lethbridge,

Love dolls (realistic sex dolls) constitute an ever-booming industry, and their appearance in films such as Lars and the Real Girl (2007) and television shows such as TLC’s My Crazy Obsession (2012) attest to their emergent salience within popular culture. Within dominant discourse these dolls have been cast as simple masturbatory objects and sexual commodities, but my analysis of several Real Doll testimonials suggests that these dolls provide a site for working through popular assumptions and expectations about relationships. Therefore, my study challenges the assumption that love dolls are treated merely as objects to be manipulated and may lend support for David Levy’s (2007) unsettling assertion that genuine relationships with, and even marriage to, robots may be commonplace by the middle of this century. I will elaborate upon the discursive complexities of love dolls suggested in the testimonials to show that, those who keep love dolls appear to be engaged in - what is for them - the mutual performance of a relationship. These relations may reinforce the existing norms that govern how we conduct ourselves within a romantic relationship and may even signal a melancholic fantasy of the chivalrous relationship.


Emerging Contraceptive Technologies: Evaluating Risk Management Responses to the New Generation of Pills

Alina Geampana, McGill University,

The fourth and most recent generation of hormones used in oral contraceptives has stirred a significant amount of debate regarding the safety of these compounds. Most notably, drospirenone, a new type of synthetic hormone used in widely-used oral contraceptives such as Yaz and Yasmin, has been claimed to increase the risk of blood clots when compared to the previous generations of pills. North American governmental regulatory bodies have been actively investigating the serious health risks posed to women using pills containing drospirenone. Such institutions along with most medical associations have concluded that the risk posed by the new contraceptive technologies might be greater than that of the previous ones. However, the risk has not been considered high enough to require pulling the technology off the market. The risk models used by scientific and medical communities are influenced by complex cultural and social factors. I use this recent controversy to provide a critique of these models. More specifically, I look at the risk discourses used by drug regulation bodies and medical associations in the U.S. and Canada. This paper argues that the risk models used to evaluate the safety of new generation contraceptives are heavily influenced by gendered assumptions about pregnancy and women's bodies. In addition, the professional risk/benefit evaluation does not take into consideration the importance of lifestyle marketing aspects as well as non-health related side-effects that influence consumer decisions.


Vaginal Birth Experiences: Contemporary First-Time Mothers’ Perceptions of Technology during Childbirth

Arielle Perrotta, University of Lethbridge,

This paper examines contemporary women’s experiences of vaginal childbirth and perceptions of technology. These experiences are relevant because, particularly with women’s first pregnancy and birth, there is a sense of ‘distrust’ with women’s bodies, and through popular discourse women’s bodies are framed as dependent on medical expertise, care and technology. In contemporary Canada, childbirth is mediated through the use of medical terminology, the advice and the care of medical professionals, particularly within medical spaces. First-time mothers’ expectations of the care they will receive during childbirth and the actualities of their experience with medical professionals reveal how spatial and personal boundaries influence women’s expectations of care and impact women’s performances as ‘good’ patients. Drawing on interviews with first-time mothers, who had a vaginal birth within eight months of the interview in Southern Alberta, I use a feminist phenomenological framework to challenge essentialist views of women’s experiences with childbirth, which often undermine the subjective experience of childbirth, and explore the actualities of women’s lived experiences. This paper illuminates women’s experiences of vaginal childbirth, expressed in their terms, with rich detail and relatedly shows the impact medical technology and care, within hospitals, has on women’s experiences.


Corporate Phenotypical Intrusion into Analog- and Data-Flesh Body Boundaries: Dataveillance, Prosumption, and Capitalization

Graham Potts, Department of Sociology, Trent University Department of Communications, York University Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, Brock University,

There has been an intrusion through language of brands into our (bodily) state of (posthuman) being. This encroachment of phenotypical privatization into the body has been the result of the coterminous medical and digital breakdown, then rebuilding of the self, in both its analog- and data-flesh forms, on and by the open market. This paper seeks to explore the relationships between the dataveillance, prosumption, and capitalization that takes place in and through our various data bodies by private entities and the related yet problematically less studied and/or acknowledged overlapping relationships that are taking place in and through our analog-flesh. Currently, companies such as 23andMe will send one a home DNA test kit, which once returned will be analyzed for genetic issues and mapping, with a personalized web-interface, including "featured links," just as with a Google account. While there is growing popular concern (or at least acknowledgement) over what happens to our data-flesh and bodies, especially after the Edward Snowden's NSA leaks, similar attention is not given to the now dual role companies such as Google play: both over our data-flesh; and over our analog-flesh, as a key backer of 23andMe.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie