Thinspiration Videos: Progress?

“Thinspiration” videos and pages have been popping up all over the web.  As discussed in the bioethics of cybermedicalization, it is hard to ever find a true black or white on these issues.  Original “thinspiration” videos got a lot of hype, and were eventually seen as a negative thing by most of the world.  One of these reasons is how it encouraged girls to strive for unattainable means.  With photoshop and airbrushing, these photos are often not “real” people, which means some girls will die trying to achieve the impossible, by having that perfect, and truly unattainable body.  How can one ever reach the impossible? Another reason that thinspiration was viewed in a negative light is that ways of “attaining” that body would often be embedded in the video or in the text beneath, encouraging starvation if it was necessary. To combat this, some have tried to make “healthy” thinspiration videos. For example,

This video encourages girls that “thin doesnt have to mean anorexic”, and attempts to promote a healthy approach to weight loss.  But the problem is, the pictures they are using are again, unattainable. Using mainly celebrities who have obviously been airbrushed, it creates again an unattainable body that people can fight to the death for.  So, what is the next logical type of thinspiration to employ? How about healthy bodies which are naturally thin?

So called “real girl” thinspirations are real girls, NOT celebrities with airbrushed perfect bodies.  Yet again, it is encouraging girls to reach unhealthy standards.  These girls may be naturally thin, or may be using unhealthy methods to get there. But even if they are naturally thin, girls who are not as thin as that who want to lose weight will try to attain something that will never be there body type.  For example, you could end up weighing 100 pounds, but if you naturally have wider hips, no amount of weight loss will change that.

The negative is all thinspiration promotes that where you are, right now, is not good enough.  Why can girls not be viewed as beautiful, and view themselves as beautiful, just the way they are, at this very moment? Some may argue that some people are trying to get inspiration to lose those stubborn pounds that are putting them at risk for diabetes and other weight related diseases.  Well then isn’t becoming HEALTHY your inspiration? Knowing you will see your daughters wedding day, or can spend more time with family would be more appropriate.  It is not bad to want to lose a bit of weight and look sexy.  But when it becomes a need instead of a want, and happiness becomes a destination rather than something that is with us through that journey, that is when weight loss can become a negative thing.  Weight loss over striving for a perfect (unattainable) body is a much better goal, and thinspiration videos does not promote this.

Pro-Ana Websites: The Ethical Contradictions

In “The Bioethics of Cybermedicalization” the authors mention how individuals’ (young women, as they pointedly identify) choices to live with their untreated eating disorders can be perceived as a lifestyle choice. Miah and Rich then outline the ethical problems that come into play, such as whether or not certain cases can be justified in favour of medical intervention, and also, whether or not these individuals are competent in their judgments and lifestyle decisions. The essay uses the general example of pro-ana websites to examine the moral and ethical issues that arise with bioethics, and how they are translated online.

With the purpose of exploring this topic, I visited various pro-ana sites. Most of these sites established in their introductions or welcome pages that they were not promoting eating disorders. Many also restricted access to their forums and chat rooms to only those who had eating disorders and met age requirements. One site (http://pro-ana-nation.com/) issued a warning that you must be 18 years or older to enter their site. Although I am 19, I recoiled from going any further because I was wary of what kind of content I would be exposed to. Other sites, such as Pro Ana Online (http://proanaonline.com/), advertise that it is not a pro anorexia site, but that it exists “to offer a community to those with eating disorders”. Pro Ana Online also states that it does not offer diet or weight loss tips.

However, I noticed that this site, and many others like it, seemed to be embedded with ethical contradictions. For instance, despite Pro Ana Online’s assertion that they are not promoting anorexia, on its page of links it lists a number of other sites and blogs that seemingly do. This includes Thinspo links (http://thinspox.tumblr.com/, http://thinspox.tumblr.com/) which are blogs that provide “thinspiration” through photos. What I noted was that these thinspiration sites, as well as Pro Ana Online, warn that they are “trigger sites”, meaning that they could impede the progress of someone working towards recovery from an eating disorder. To me, all of these warnings and labels are confusing and misleading. If these sites are confirming their roles as triggering, can this role be viewed as supplementing the promotion of eating disorders? Additionally, do you think that pro-ana sites may be a “productive aspect of the recovery process” (213) as Miah and Rich ask us to reflect upon in their essay?

TEDx Phillip Beesley

A friend of mine went to the recent TEDx presentation on campus and afterwards showed me some of the speakers he found of interest. One of them is UW architecture professor, Phillip Beesley. Innovative and creative, Beesley exhibits much of his work, which include technological life installations. These are man-made environments that mimic conscious or “alive” behaviour and interact with surroundings. As stated on the TEDxUW website (http://www.tedxuw.com/speakers/philip-beesley/), “Art and technology, when designed in such a manner, allow the creator to transcend the limitations of traditional schools of thought that focus on subject/object, organic/inorganic, static/dynamic and other types of binary worldviews.”

An example and overview of Beesley’s work can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v86B9Nz_LVU

This work is called Hylozic Ground. This surreal man-made environment looks like it could be found in the movie Avatar. It has the primitive intelligence of an insect or coral reef. However, it is purely machine, and only inspired by the organic. I think it shows the potential for great shift in human-machine interaction. I think that it is a physical example of where post-humanity could develop. At this point, these structures have a very simplistic “mind”, but there are plans for advancement: for example, a structure that can read your every need and mood and modify itself to fulfill these needs.  Ideas of living architecture bring a new perspective on biopolitics, as well. Rather than modifying the living with machines, we are modifying machines to replicate the living.

Stelarc; Science or Art?

In our discussion about Stelarc’s post-humanism and tremendously unique acts the question of whether Stelarc’s feats were that of science or art.  The dictionary defines art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination” and/or “works produced by such skill and imagination”, and science as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural”.  From these definitions we can see that Stelarc’s display are truly art and science.  It is an expression of self with much creative skill and imagination, as well as being an intellectual and practical activity which deals with the structure and behavior of the physical and natural.  An example of this would be the video of Stelarc putting an ear in his arm and us being able to hear what other people are saying through his teeth.  This indeed may be a foreign concept to us, but is that not what all science and art wants to do: discover the unthinkable and make a statement which will change our way of thinking/living? If post-humanism is man moving further into the technological realm and becoming a cyborg, Stelarc displays this brilliantly. If therefore art and science can act as some of the foundations of post-humanism as shown with Stelarc, what implications do you think this will have for art and science as separate entities? If we keep transending our humanity in pursuit of such things, what would be the positive impacts and negative repercussions of such an act? These are all very crucial and interesting points to look more into.

Does Stelarc move beyond the body?

Stelarc has an interesting perspective of humanity, or rather, post humanity. When we looked at his installation in class, where he hangs by his skin from wires, he says that he is trying to overcome the boundaries of the body. The boundary he is focused on is his own skin. But rather than eliminating it, I feel he is only drawing attention to it. In this installation, he is supporting his body by what? His skin. His disregard for the mutilation only draws focus on the skin’s purpose.  As we see blood dripping down his thigh, we realize that the hold on the skin is the only thing keeping him from falling to the ground, holding his internals in, and identifying him as an individual rather than a blob of a living system.

I think that trying to overcome the body disregards it for the spectacular system it really is. And with our bodies come behaviors that are human. From chemical reactions in our systems we experience joy and grief, and lust and adrenalin. I understand that a physical body has its limitations, but trying to dispose of the body will come with a lost of identity. Being embodied is a root of self, and if the post human is to be just a bodiless consciousness, like I think Stelarc or Moravec believe, that it won’t be post “human” but another species all together.