“I’m not a dancer, no no, not a dancer.”
(In other words: how I got into the idea of dance and code / technology, and why you should too, or rather find your own way to dance)
At least that’s what I always tell people. And yet somehow I find myself working on a project around dance. Well, dance and code anyway.
The idea of having to perform outside of myself, to enact a dance that is alien to my self-as-I-know-it-self, automatically makes me draw up my stubborn shield. No. No and no, not even a little bit. Don’t even try. If you know me, you know.
But give me a little time to watch and observe, to figure out how that self can fit into the mix, and I’ll dance right in the mix of bodies, swaying along, still a bit stubborn at first, but learning fast to find my way in the beat. It’s a challenge and I’m often up for it.
I in fact did this with Salsa dancing. I went once with a friend and had a great yet awkward time. From then on, I geekily (and stubbornly) would go every Monday, alone, to an old balhaus in Berlin. No I wasn’t comfortable. Strange, sweaty men, who knew their intentions, asking to me dance, saying I was doing it all wrong, laughing, not asking me to dance cause I wasn’t good enough. But I kept going and I kept teaching myself. Sometimes it was satisfying, more often, frustrating. I achieved it though: the really good ones finally asked me to dance. And as soon as that happened, I stopped going.
I didn’t need it anymore. Salsa dancing was my therapy. It was my way of forcing me to deal with emotions after my dad passed away. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a way of getting myself back through the structure of a dance that forces me to question my own structures of moving within the world.
And here is where technology, codes, finally come in. This may surprise you. How can something so much about the body and emotions be connected to something so finite as technology? And that’s exactly the point.
I understood myself through the learning of myself within a larger structure of a dance. And technology is a structure we can from learn within as well. I came across this article today about the quantification of what makes a user’s experiences pleasurable and shared it on my project Flee Immediately!’s facebook page, perhaps too optimistically, hoping to raise critical questions around it and not simply endorse it.
I asked: what about the bodies that don’t fit within the quantification of norms? And who defines what is pleasurable anyway? We should all be able to take control of the technologies we use everyday to help dictate the ways they come to structure our lives and our bodies. At the very least, we should (and can) understand the logic of them. And yes, put down your stubborn shields — you can — this doesn’t mean you have to learn the coding languages by heart in all their strict forms, or even be good at it. It’s about finding your way within the structures and the systems.
It’s often talked about how technology is hidden behind interfaces and pretty screens, but what about the discussion of how it’s also hidden behind a layer of knowledge and teaching that leaves it abstracted to this hidden world? Oh codes are too hard to understand, oh my computer doesn’t work and I can’t fix it. Maybe you can’t, but whose to say you can’t at least learn where to look.
I propose we dance. Just as my 1–2–3 pause steps of Salsa helped me to figure out the feelings I had, the opposite can happen too. The feeling I have of a link between dance and code (and maybe I’ll find it even comes from the same place as Salsa dancing) can help me — and you — to understand the larger relationship between technology, society and control and the logics at play in and between them and through us. I may never dance salsa perfectly, you may fail at learning the steps, I may never be an excerpt coder, but at least you and I can understand the powers that flow through the dance and through our bodies (and the codes too).
Still you may be stubborn: dancing, no way! But how about cooking? Or poetry? Or music? Or bike riding? Or running? Or history? Or, what’s your feeling?
Call me an optimist. But it’s my small way of fighting back, of encouraging people to ask questions and to start to dance contra-tempo to the systems we interact with everyday.
What’s your dance?