The image depicts a woman, whose body entails several electrical devices. One of her eyes is covered by a camera lens, her back is filled with cables, and her right shoulder and arm are marked by further devices including a display and buttons of a remote control. Further, her appearance – including her tend skin, hair style, and make up - is that of a typical modern idealized female body. In the following, I will explain how this image can be related and applied to the modern conception of the body.
Generally, modern societies view the body as something that is constructed – both by society as well as by the individual. While the meaning and use of our bodies are shaped by society, we modify our body according to our own preferences and in order to expose ourselves through our bodily design. In comparison to historical times, the situation was similar in the ancient times. Greek and Romans defined themselves, in terms of social status and power, in their bodily appearance. However, during Christianity, this practice decreased as the body was regarded as a part of the natural order, which should prevail as God created it. In modern times, however, the body is viewed similar to the ancient conception of the body. This treatment of the body as a project that can be modified as one wishes, is well depicted in the above image.
The electrical devices that are integrated into the body suggest how much the bodily appearance can be controlled and modified. Like a switch with the remote control, we can change our whole appearance within a very short period of time, being supported by the plentiful offers of goods and services to consume. By making use of those possibilities and modifying oneself according to one’s own preferences, people construct their identities through bodily appearances. This phenomenon is discussed by Goffman, who states that people make use of their body as a form of self-presentation.
Yet, he also mentions that people do not act completely autonomous; an important issue which introduces the next aspect that the image refers to – social constructionism, meaning that the body as well as social phenomena as a whole are shaped by symbolic and cultural aspects. This perception goes in line with Foucault, who claimed that the body is the product of constructing discourses. These include, for instance, the media and its role in influencing people’s perception of the body. The constant presentation of certain idealized beauty ideals has an effect on how individuals will perceive their body – a fact that is supported by the issue of unconscious imitation of certain things as discussed by Susan Hurley. Hence, when being constantly exposed to certain body images, one develops a taste for such and aims to modify oneself in order to assimilate to them. This channeled and rather narrow-minded way of thinking and perceiving is illustrated by the camera lens covering the right eye of the person. The person sees a certain ideal body image through the media and then, by the help of technical devices, is able to modify the body and assimilates it to the idealized body, be it through plastic surgery, implants, or other technological methods. This is a very sociological view on the body as being shaped by cultural aspects, in opposition to the sociobiological approach, that regards human bodies rather in terms of their genetic information and fitness.
In short, the image depicts modern constructionism within society leading to a certain common image of ideal bodies that people try to achieve in artificial ways and take a basis for the construction of their personal identity.