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Chrysalis as Utopia

2009 January 28
by Natasha

So I brought a picture into class and then realized a lot of people posted their pictures.  I didn’t get a chance in class to show/talk about my picture, so I’m going to use this space/time to do so a little.  I wasn’t able to get the photo online, and I think it might be infringing copyright to do so (I don’t know… ah the complications of technology), so I’ll just describe.  The picture shows a woman in a metallic circular room in front of a counter, on which a virtual image of a child sits, and a virtual image of the child’s heart emerges from the child.  So why is this Utopia, and what’s actually going on?

So what’s actually going on is that this picture is part of a video clip.  I think the clip is part of a movie called Chrysalis which sounds rather distopic — a world where people can be brought back after dying, which while it might sound good causes a number of societal/ethical problems and dangers.  However I saw the clip in a very different context, as part of a video for the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival.  Hence the clip that I saw is really what I wanted to share with you.

The clip, as I interpreted it, shows a woman doing open-heart surgery using virtual imaging so she can more accurately do the surgery on the heart.  In some ways the video is disturbing, showing a very sterile modern cold room in which the surgery is done.  However at the same time it is beautiful, showing an intimate connection between one woman and the child (or the child’s virtual self) on whom she operates — made possible by technology.  In some ways this is still the same old “women in nurturing roles” stereotype, but the profession of doctor/surgeon is — I speculate — male-dominated, so the woman is taking on a non-stereotypical role.  Also the woman is still in the “using technology” mode, the same role as women using kitchen appliances, and not necessarily creating it.  However according to the societal (patriarchal?) construction of what constitutes skill, the woman is, in doing surgery, doing “skilled” work (as discussed by Gill & Grint).

What I like about this clip is that it shows a woman in an important position in relation to technology.  I had to think a lot about what kind of utopia I wanted.  Originally I image-googled for “women computers” because I wanted an image of women in an empowered role in relation to computers/technology.  A lot of what came up was what appeared to be rich white women sitting in modern sterile environments sitting at computers.  That didn’t seem utopic to me, even though the image I came up with had many of these elements too.  Utopia to me usually recalls some kind of nature, but I, unlike Haraway, wasn’t comfortable with the mix of nature and technology and didn’t want some combination of the two.  So I thought about it and realized that a Utopia for me that did include technology would have to use technology in a positive way, helping out the world in some sense.  That’s why the open-heart surgery appealed to me.

Just in case you’re hungry for images, I did find some pretty cool ones so I’ll include them.  Well oops, having trouble here, there doesn’t seem to be enough space to upload them (something’s buggy here because they’re pretty small — eg one is 8kb and still not able to upload).  I’ll upload them once I can.  Just have the links for now.

1. WALL-E & EVA.  It’s gendered robots (there’s gender & technology…) who are helping clean up the world’s trash (which fits my idea of utopia).

wall-e & eva

2. Comic about God (representing Utopia?) as a Woman (representing gender) using her computer (representing technology).  Interesting how the God-woman wants to undo humans using her computer, so we can see the computer (technology) as both constructive and destructive.  The “irony” of these two opposing dualities in conjunction with each other relates to Haraway’s cyborg: “Feminist cyborg stories have the task of recoding [(creating)] communcation and intelligence to subvert [(destroy)] command and control” (175).

god and computer

3. Old women on a computer.  Liked how they weren’t rich white American mid-30’s women.  Still feel conflicted about the mixing of the old tradition and the new technology.  Maybe I need some serious THEORIZING as Anne discussed in order to change my mind.

old women and computer

3 Responses
  1. Anne permalink*
    January 29, 2009

    dying to see those old women on a computer–fix that link?
    an old woman

  2. Natasha permalink
    January 29, 2009

    The link works for me, so I’m not sure what’s up.

    Here’s the actual url:

    Here’s the url for the site from where the image originates:

    Does that help at all?

  3. Anne permalink*
    January 29, 2009

    got it (and am smiling)–

Comments are closed.