Shiny Tech for Shiny Bodies

Jussi Parikka's e-flux text on the promotional video for the gold Apple Watch Edition struck a chord - and I will shamelessly reappropriate the beautiful gifs depicting the watch's supra-natural fabrication process that accompany it. These short loops perfectly illustrate the aura of aspirational value which Apple uses with such canniness and to such powerful effect. As Parikka says, "Liquids turn to solids, and when nature fails to satisfy, engineers custom-design alloys specifically for luxury smart timekeeping." The Apple Watch Edition blends the mythologised roles of the alchemist and the craftsperson with the bleeding edge of science, engineering and design to produce an artefact so shiny that its materiality cannot be witnessed to the casual window-shopper. To simply catch an In-Real-Life glimpse of the Edition involves booking an in-store personal appointment, a deluxe one-to-one experience between the consumer and the salesperson (Edition Expert), like a secret tryst in a Apple Store sideroom, possibly entered through an otherwise invisible doorway flush with the wooden wall panelling.

Douglas Coupland's article, titled SHINY, provides an excellent partner to Parikka's commentary. He writes:

Shiny is youth. Shiny is fertility. Shiny is uncorrupted. Shiny smells like the interior of a new car. Shiny is sixty-five golf courses in Palm Springs in the middle of the worst drought in a century.

Typically, the horologist values her/his produce so highly as a consequence of their extensive labour time, as well as their lavish use of high-end materials that are fit for purpose. A handcrafted watch is an artefact that should evade signs of temporal decay or malfunction - the extended personal contact between the craftsperson and the material of the timepiece, the design of its mechanism, its micro-fabrication, is a consequence of the pursuit of reliability and longevity. A timepiece that keeps time beyond the death of its creator, or its wearer.

With the Apple Watch Edition, we are faced with the elevated pricetag that suggests this labour time, predominantly spent in design and research, and Apple's acquisition of bespoke machines that can pseudo-mass produce the watch (although as the Edition title suggests, while machine-made they are artificially limited so as to induce a scarcity value). But there's a catch.

Coupland:

the fear of a glossy sheen is actually the fear that the surface is the content.

The Apple Watch must fall to the accelerated entropy of digital goods - the inevitable turn to technological obsolescence. Who will maintain the software that runs on the first-gen Watch Edition? In the instance of the failure of the internal computer, who is permitted to repair it? For how long will such failures be considered repairable? In that instance, the watch's ability to simply tell the time is erased, it becomes a shiny bricked bracelet, a black mirror on the wrist.


Articles referenced:

Acker and the Language of the Body

the part of the ‘I’ that bodybuilds: Acker and the Language of the Body

As long as we continue to regard the body, that which is subject to change, chance, and death, as disgusting and inimical, so long shall we continue to regard our own selves as dangerous others

Acker writes with an incisive precision which is at once both meditative and generous. Lingustically, she has the deftness and suppleness to navigate, hone, and define the various splinterings of selfhood that you can imagine her applying to the training of isolated and distinct muscular group within her body.

Ironically, Acker writes with punishing eloquence about the difficulty she suffered when attempting to transpose her experience of bodybuilding into written word. She writes of the antagonism between bodybuilding and verbal language, characterising it as an experience that rejects language.

I want to fail

Acker’s account of visceral tuning and the experiential qualities of bodybuilding is characterised by a calculated and profoundly understood relationship to failure. Failure is not encountered as some kind of binary opposition of success but rather as a confrontation with the material body, encountering it’s own edges and limits - wandering within the labyrinths of the body. She writes:

By trying to control, to shape, my body though the calculated tools and methods of bodybuilding, and time and again, in following these methods, failing to do so, I am able to meet that which cannot be finally controlled and known: the body

This notion of failure is particularly valuable within the context of Cursor given that the prevailing ideologies at the centre of many QSelf and fitness tracking applications are predicated on ideas of success and goal oriented or incentivised achievement. They coach the competitive externalisation and articulation of this activity that is rewarded by ‘gains’ that are becoming increasingly material.

Resistance Training - using an opposing force

The space created by bodybuilding for Acker offered a geography of no language, a space that foregrounded gestures of self presentation that are not structurally linguistic.

Self tracking applications could be seen as a kind of violent imposition of language that has colonised the body. A process of enforced contortion, they motivate with reckless agility the urgency to transpose experience to capital that tears, strains, and fatigues. The tacit potency of the slow twitch of deep tissue is wretched into language; legibility is total rupture.

Why You Need The Apple Watch

Our most personal device yet.

Our goal has always been to make powerful technology more accessible. More relevant. And ultimately, more personal. Apple Watch represents a new chapter in the relationship people have with technology. It’s the most personal product we’ve ever made, because it’s the first one designed to be worn.

An incredibly precise timepiece.

High-quality watches have long been defined by their ability to keep unfailingly accurate time, and Apple Watch is no exception. In conjunction with your iPhone, it keeps time within 50 milliseconds of the definitive global time standard. It even lets you customize your watch face to present time in a more meaningful, personal context that’s relevant to your life and schedule.

Entirely new ways to stay in touch.

Apple Watch makes all the ways you’re used to communicating more convenient. And because it sits right on your wrist, it can add a physical dimension to alerts and notifications. For example, you’ll feel a gentle tap with each incoming message. Apple Watch also lets you connect with your favorite people in fun, spontaneous ways — like sending a tap, a sketch, or even your heartbeat.

A smarter way to look at fitness.

Apple Watch gives you a complete picture of your all-day activity. The three rings of the Activity app show your daily progress and help motivate you to sit less, move more, and get some exercise. It’s also an advanced sports watch, giving you real-time stats for a variety of the most popular workouts. Over time, Apple Watch learns your activity and fitness levels. It uses that information to improve the accuracy of your measurements and suggest personalized all-day activity goals. It even provides custom reminders to encourage you to achieve them.

Source: Apple Watch homepage.

~ total embodiment ~

How to Exercise without Sweating: Leisure and the Erasure of Labour

This post is the first of a strand of enquiry that seeks to contextualise capitalist renderings of the body. What are the affective implications if ‘wellness’ is set out to tender as a means of keeping bodies fit and supple for neoliberal agendas?

~ syncing bodies to the incessant rhythm of capital

In Neomaterialism, Joshua Simon explores how machines inflect and design the body to change and reconfigure itself in service of the movement and flow of capital. In the chapter The Language of Commodities, Simon positions the relationship between the post-industrial proletariat and the gym. Here, the ability to expend surplus energy as a leisure pursuit presents itself as an opportunity for the proletariat to continue to perform their propensity to work, demonstrating their seemingly inexhaustible material value.

~ total body conditioning

In this high-performance culture, Q-Self software applications promise self knowledge through numbers, offering individuals top-sight of their own lives. The recent proliferation of Q-self and fitness tracking software applications serve to further co-opt perceptions leisure time in late capitalism. Social fitness is imperative, value is tethered to one’s on digital toil, to one’s ability to transpose experience to capital. This element of ‘gamification’ that these applications introduce mobilise the formally leisure activities in such a way as to extract value without payment. Through their alignment to ideals of ‘self betterment’, these applications colonise the body, positioning ‘self improvement’ as a process of becoming legible to capital. This cultivation of the data-self serves to efface the borders between life and work, between dominance and servitude

~ sweat as public exhaustion

Through the affect of efficiency, work is transposed from a conscious activity performed within a distinct workplace and internalised to become thoroughly habitual - ingrained in all facets of life.

These economies of value are contingent on the systemic exploitation of vital energy. As agents of neoliberal soft control, these fitness applications articulate the demand that the mechanisms of labour be invisible, abstracted and mystified. The idea of exercising without sweating is analogous to how so much of neoliberal working conditions of the global north serve to expedite the erasure of labour altogether ~ results are yours for the taking (without sweating)

Google returns page after page of search results that offer advice on how to work-out without sweating in an effort to conceal the squandering of biopower. Here, sweat can be read as an unwanted indicator of toil, the deprivatisation and public externalisation of exhaustion - a sign that work is taking place, that a bodily limit is being reached.

Sweat belies so called immaterial labour by revealing it’s all too material reality