Tech Flesh 14: Born to be Wired
Running can be described as natural, simple, and the ultimate
experience in becoming one with yourself and with the world. Many avid runners
feel that it is almost sinful to run with a walkman. I used to feel this way
also and would only bring mine in extreme situations when I really needed a
distraction from life. I soon realized, however, that incorporating this
technology into my "pure" sport is also simple and natural. Some days I cannot
imagine my life without it. In fact, I feel that I have become a cyborg.
I wake up in the morning and lace up my running sneakers. I get ready
to head outside for my run, but not before picking up my radio walkman.
Instinctively, I make sure the headphones are plugged into my ears. I thread the
wire through the neck of my T-shirt and out through the sleeve before inserting
it into the base. This keeps the wire from swinging while I run. The closeness
of the wiring to my body makes me feel more compact and efficient. I wrap the
velcro band of the walkman around my arm and it is tight enough to constrict my
bicep a little as I flex the muscle. I wish it were even more permanent and did
not slide or rotate. My bright yellow piece of technology is apparent on my
human form and I am ready to begin. I am now a cyborg.
I can adjust the volume and switch between five radio stations by
reaching my right hand across my body to my upper left arm. It is almost as if
the controls are on my arm itself. The headphones insert into my ear so that
they are almost inside the ear cavities. I have become wrapped up in wiring and
controllers with the invisible sound of music data streaming from the machine
into the interior of my ears. This information is then processed and spread
throughout my whole body as if it were a material being ingested into my
The music actually does spread through my body; it exerts control much
in the same way as nutrients. It provides energy to my body and mind as I
traverse miles and miles of pavement, sidewalk and trails. If I am feeling tired
it can recharge my body in an instant. When one of my favorite songs comes on,
my body feels lighter, my arms feel freer, and my mind is renewed in its
efforts. I can even switch modes and press a different button if I want to hear
another song. This new song alters my body in its own ways; thus my body changes
gears in response to the technology that entwines it.
The beat of the music is like a command. Implicitly, it directs my
legs to pace themselves with the rhythm of the song. Each time one of my feet
hits the ground the beat reverberates through my body in synchronization. The
tips of my toes feel the effects of the music pouring through my ears. When a
faster song comes on, I cannot help but move more quickly. It is almost as if my
legs are wired into the walkman and are programmed to react to the invisible
sound waves stemming from the radio tower somewhere out of my sight. I know they
are subject to the whim of the disc jockeys picking the songs on the five radio
stations at any given time, but it is the calculated randomness that keeps my
body fresh and receptive to the next song.
As I listen to the music, I am transported into my own world. My
surroundings are irrelevant and my body becomes unnoticeable. I am whisked away
into a bubble in which the music and voices are sounding only for my ears, my
mind, and my spirit. Each phrase has an intensified meaning and each melody is
sweeter. No music has ever sounded and felt so good. I could hear the same songs
on the stereo in my room but they would never have the same meaning or passion
as they do when I hear them as a cyborg on the run. People pass me on the
sidewalk and cars drive by me on the streets. Everyone carries on as usual and
no one notices me in my invisible realm with my personal and unique experience
of sound. Thoughts stream through my head like at no other time of the day. My
mind is mechanical and analyzes every detail of a problem or goes over every
statement of a conversation. I come up with plans, schedules, and solutions to
dilemmas with an ease that is not found during my normal daily routine.
My body feels like a machine as well. The music puts me into a zone in
which I feel I could continue the movements of running forever. I focus on the
energy in the instruments and voices as opposed to my own breath or motion. I
move through the world effortlessly, my mind lost in the depths of the song and
my body functioning perfectly, as programmed by that tower in the distance.
My pace slows as I approach the door. I have arrived home and must
release the world I create when I touch the power button on my left arm. I push
the button, unplug the prosthetics from my ears, de-wire my body, and unhook my
control panel from my arm. In an instant, I return to the silence and noise of
reality. My mind has a hangover from the return trip and it may take me a few
minutes to compose my thoughts. My body is freed from the trance of my other
world and lacks the directions it received from the surges of music. It feels
empty yet completely fulfilled by the hour it spent enraptured in the technology
of music, radio, and portable sound systems. I may turn on the stereo and hear
the same song I just turned off, but it is different in so many ways. The music
is no longer mine alone, because I must share it with others in the same space.
The data streams into the room and disperses like shattered glass instead of
being perfectly inserted into my ears.
For the rest of the day, nothing can parallel the intense feelings I
experienced while running with my twenty-five dollar walkman. I am no longer a
cyborg, but I look forward to tomorrow when I get to transform myself all over
Lisa Anderson is a biology major at Boston College and will attend
Georgetown University Medical School in the fall. An avid runner, she recently
finished her first Boston Marathon.
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