Transductions: Bodies and Machines at Speed

Adrian MacKenzie MacKenzie, Adrian. 2002. Transductions: Bodies and Machines at Speed. Continuum International Publishing Group.

Adrian MacKenzie's book is one of the only sustained inquiries into Gilbert Simondon's concepts in English, this alone makes it an important work, especially with the gaining popularity of Simondon. Also notable is MacKenzie  engagement with the concept of transduction through a range of tools and objects—including forays into hand-axes and nuclear bombs, pendulums and atomic clocks, Stelarc's Ping Body, video games and biotechnologies. It is a wide-ranging consideration of the implications of transduction, time and speed in contemporary society. MacKenzie details technologies in a Simondonian method, examining the functioning technology behind internet protocols powering Ping Body, for example. As such, MacKenzie is able to expand upon Simondon's twentieth century mechanistic view of technologies. This allows MacKenzie to examine the role of technology on the body, the ways in which specific relations allow technologies to mediate experience and to question disembodying narratives of technological supremacy. Following Simondon, MacKenzie problematizes dualistic considerations of technology. He suggests that such readings are reductive and we must consider the multiple ways in which technologies structure society and culture, rearticulate notions of embodied experience, and transform experiences of time. Each informs the other and eschews simple categorization of technical experience.

MacKenzie is clear to bring out the affective and cultural aspects of technology, which is one of Simondon's main critiques of the perceived split between humans and technology. Technology is part of culture for Simondon, and technology carries with it human aspects of a preindividual state, engendering new individuations through its mediation of nature. MacKenzie does not address this directly, nor does he address the explicit ethics Simondon describes in his work. Aesthetics, religion, science and ethics, all part of the last section of On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, are not explicitly addressed by MacKenzie either. However, his attention to the concept of transduction is key, and will assist my research into the transductive capacities of technologies used in art, especially those chapters dealing with bioart and radical contingencies based on embodiment.