Embodiment of space

There is something in the space between our bodies that you can sense and feel how another person is. It may be just a slight movement, maybe they moved with their head. It may be the way their voice is projected at that moment.

So the voice is also quite material, it’s very physical. The body is not just what is inside the skin. That is why the physicality is so powerful, being in the same physical environment with another that you can feel, sense. The body is extended out of the skin; the voice is extended out of the mouth. It’s like it encompasses an entire space, like encompassing this room. It projects a whole world of things. It projects how we’re feeling, it projects how we might be thinking, it projects what we might be intending. We do so much with our bodies and our voices.

Once that space is cut off by a piece of glass, I can still see your whole body, but the body space has been cut off. There is no connection any more between the extensions of the body and the voice. There’s just this glass that’s cutting right through the entire possible space of connectivity. So it’s reduced then to what you’re hearing and what you’re seeing. That’s a reductionism. All the richness of feeling a space by being in a space and sharing a space with another is suddenly cut down to a reductionism of sound and movement. And we are more than sound and movement. Our voices are much more than that; our bodies are much more than that. This is never resolvable in a distributed setting because bodies are not physically able to intertwine and share any kind of deep tacit knowing. It is interesting to explore whether witnessing and responsibility also involve the tacit.

Screens are not permeable membranes or such. Once you detach or distance yourself from a shared physical space, human beings try to compensate for other aspects of physicality like in the current emphasis on knowledge sharing for example. When seeing you in a video link, I can project the sense of presence and feel it, but the feeling is qualitatively of a different kind because the nature of the connection is qualitatively different. I don’t know what implications this has for trust, but I know it affects rhythm. In physical space my rhythm is very subtle. The slightest nuance, I feel it, it may just be your breathing, and I feel it. Online I don’t have access to that. So there’s a whole richness of my connection with another human being, which is fragmented when I’m online. So I have to try and piece it together and use my imagination.