Although we most often think of technology as a scientific term, we can use the work of German philosopher Martin Heidegger to trace the word back to its Greek root, techne, in order to recognize that the word was originally linked to episteme, meaning a way of knowing the world. Technology, then, is not just about the capacity of machines, but also about the social worlds in which they operate. Technique is also related to techne, and dance techniques are not simply methods of training the body, but also ways of coming to know the world. The interesting thing about dance is that the physical experience of doing a certain type of dance literally creates a certain type of body. Circle Walker uses the technology of the wheel structure to elaborate a technique of moving with and through the sculpture, while Wild Blue Yonder uses the trampoline as the basis of the dance’s technical focus. Although they may play on two different kinds of structures, both these dances foreground a highly trained body, with a lot of physical strength in the upper as well as the lower body. The purpose of the following class activities is to encourage the students to think about the cultural implications of their interactions with machines.
Discuss: Brainstorm for examples of which machines most shape our bodies in our daily lives. Some examples may include cars, weight machines at the gym, bicycles, computers, industrial equipment for factory workers, etc. What is the result of these interactions? Are our bodies stronger and more fit, or less so because of our use of these machines?
Write: Imagine and then describe in one paragraph your ideal machine. (What would it look like, what would it do, etc.) Share these in small groups. Then write one paragraph on what body would result from the interaction with that machine. Share these responses in small groups (where everyone reads their paragraph in succession) and then discuss in the full group what you learned in this activity. One aspect that may surface is the inverse relationship of machine to body in the sense that a machine that does everything may very well yield a body that does practically nothing.
Write More: Compose a 1-2 page essay exploring the ways in which you use machines, and describe the physical implications of this use of technology. In your writing, reflect on what happens when the machine breaks down? If we treat our bodies like machines, what does that mean for us?