Visualizing a Broken Body - Cyborg art implications for visual and functional prosthetic design [art, cultural reflection]

Introduction

It has been remarked by individuals that believe of themselves to be quite observant - such as - that a prosthetic hook is, culturally, referencing "Captain Hook", such as Geoffrey Ling, and although we cannot think greatly of people that spit on established, proven and functioning prosthetic devices, we can try to see where they come from. What they do is look at popular culture to shape their unreflected but acid critique.

chook

Their problem is only, that they do not keep looking at popular culture. They just go half way to name Captain Hook (if they go that far at all) in talking bad about hook devices, when really they do not consider popular culture all the way. If at all, they should do that with heart and with focus. How can I believe any researchers that talks down to me, as a hook user, by referring to terms such as "arcane" and "Captain Hook", when they are culturally unaware? Because when they are sloppy with their pop culture, what tells me they are not totally sloppy with their "technical" work? Alright, one glance at the edgy iLimb hand and torn up gloves and we know that answer. After all, if one is to look at pop culture, it is not just about extending research programs for preconceived ideas that end up without accessible devices on a small market, is it. It is not just about trying to sell "bionic" hands that may be just about as useful as a bugger in the nose (but cost more). It is about actually trying to understand what that popular culture can tell us were one to go that way, all the way.

And Captain Hook is the earliest pop culture "cyborg" in that he, in some way, integrates human body and technology under a new umbrella identity, that of "Captain Hook". As a famous tweet proposed: if he was given a prosthetic hand, he'd be "Captain Hand". Would have been quite a game changer, that.

Analysis of popular culture imagery and their significance for amputees

The way a damaged body is visualized both when in despair, when suffering damage or disintegration or loss, and when it is at ease, repaired, is present throughout our cultures.

So we can not only look at what the non-disabled public believes in when portraying damage or loss. We can also have a close look at visual elements of recovered, re-established people, and here, people that are "bound" to repair type technology.

The damaged body is visualized differently throughout art and cultures, and more importantly, time. What was cool in terms of visual arts twenty years ago may or may not be cool today.

desintegration

A while back, the general trend seemed to be that cyborgs were not to be trusted. There was rust or mechanical decay, gory liquid and betrayal wherever one looked. And some head banging.

terminatore

Now that changed.

So I have now checked again, it is now 2015 - after having checked in the previous years. I just went a bit across the web, and that is roughly what I came up with.

Whole body, head

Whole body, head: shattered pieces,  deformation, posture signaling defeat or suffering and inability to act, absence of hope.

(C) Copyright MILO Designer

img_1023-0

Head

Apparently female head: partly absent anatomy, fragments, fracture lines and scratches without visible attempt for restoration, but subject not in any apparent distress instead fierce look ahead and ready to voice opinion.

(C) Copyright Flavia16 @Deviantart

broken_girl_by_flavia16

Male damaged bodies

1. Head, chest, arms

Male head, chest, arms: metal parts replacing damaged areas; red glow 80s technology cool; plates, bolts, screws; choice of materials is meant to convey a sturdy look, which overall is exhibited with a relaxed facial expression. Skin areas with abrasions and bruising, as well as dripping blood.

(C) Copyright bobbymonnerat @Deviantart

71dafeee21cefafa91bdaca75b5f6d06-d55t4eu

2. Head, neck and chest, ripped off arms and abdomen

Male head, neck and chest, ripped off arms and abdomen: seriously damaged body with parts missing, metal pillar, many cables and tubes looking out, fierce facial expression. Tattoos of a tribal pattern type.

(C) Copyright Ultradialectics @Deviantart

Cyborg

3. Head

Assumedly male head: no soft tissues, metal technical skull, no damage, decay or fracture visible.

(C) Copyright Jameschg @Deviantart

cyborg_by_jameschg-d5kuncp

4. Head, neck and upper chest

Apparently male head, neck and upper chest: technical skull cap with a helmet type appearance ostensibly metallic; face containing various big lamps, air filters to the sides, more hard plastic and metal appearing plate parts. Leather bolted to upper chest to give opportunity for others to "lean on", otherwise no actual soft tissue elements there.

(C) Copyright Zerojs @Deviantart

alien_cyborg_by_zerojs-d605py3

5. Head, neck, torso and arms

Male head, neck, torso and arms: white or bright gray surface, no colors; neutral shaven expressionless face, helmet and plated armor for face, neck and torso, all parts looking extremely muscular, no hands but instead weapon grade type massive gripper (left side) and weapon looking rocket or launcher of sorts (right side); pearl type ornament on forehead, chest and as belt buckle.

(C) Copyright Blackplague1348 @Deviantart

cyborg_sculpt1_by_blackplague1348-d4r087t

6. Head

Apparently male head: just skull structure containing hydraulic cylinder like structures, side of head with craniectomy like opening revealing gears instead of jelly like brain.

(C) Copyright mmarti @Deviantart

t800_wireframe

7. Whole body

Male whole body: three face renderings (fierce, laughing, angry, pouting) with normal human looking head and neck, but left eye and temple with protruding metallic cyborg parts. All body covered in armored clothes with left forearm and hand not covered. Right forearm not-human installation of what appears to be a massive taser and launcher type weapon.

(C) Copyright Kevineleventh @Deviantart

cyborg_redesign_by_kevineleventh-d6ai7qz

 

Female damaged bodies

1. Whole body

Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface, including face and hands.

(C) Copyright Temycroco @Deviantart

cyborg_by_temycroco-d3jdp9w

2. Whole body

Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface, including face and hands.

(C) Copyright ADES21 @Deviantart

Cyborg_by_ADES21

3. Whole body

Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and mostly well defined green lines segmenting the skin surface, including face and hands.  Right hand detached. The umbilical region appears rough as if superficially damaged.

(C) Copyright Nablo92 @Deviantart

cyborg_by_nablo92-d52pnih

4. Whole body

Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface, including hands but not face.

(C) Copyright RedTriangleStudios @Deviantart

dcc5890298ac27e941ce1016d52110a6

5. Whole body

Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface, including hands.Two red lamps suspended on black round network patches. Confident facial expression.

(C) Copyright Sinpeople @Deviantart

Style: "NEUTRAL_00050"

6. Whole body

Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface.

(C) Copyright Taiyoo Wa Shinanai @Deviantart

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7. Ex machina - various images

Ex machina - various images of female cyborg: peaceful times with intact human like skin on face, human shape for chest and breasts, around abdomen and pelvis with buttocks, and animated fully skin covered hands. Absence of facial parts signal a time of crisis.

exmachinaimage

exmachina3

exmachina2

exmachina1

Summary

Whole body (male / female) damage

  • Whole body, head: shattered pieces, deformation, posture signaling defeat or suffering and inability to act, absence of hope.

Male

  • Male head, chest, arms: metal parts replacing damaged areas; red glow 80s technology cool; plates, bolts, screws; choice of materials is meant to convey a sturdy look, which overall is exhibited with a relaxed facial expression. Skin areas with abrasions and bruising, as well as dripping blood.
  • Male head, neck and chest, ripped off arms and abdomen: seriously damaged body with parts missing, metal pillar, many cables and tubes looking out, fierce facial expression. Tattoos of a tribal pattern type.
  • Assumedly male head: no soft tissues, metal technical skull, no damage, decay or fracture visible.
  • Apparently male head, neck and upper chest: technical skull cap with a helmet type appearance ostensibly metallic; face containing various big lamps, air filters to the sides, more hard plastic and metal appearing plate parts. Leather bolted to upper chest to give opportunity for others to "lean on", otherwise no actual soft tissue elements there.
  • Male head, neck, torso and arms: white or bright gray surface, no colors; neutral shaven expressionless face, helmet and plated armor for face, neck and torso, all parts looking extremely muscular, no hands but instead weapon grade type massive gripper (left side) and weapon looking rocket or launcher of sorts (right side); pearl type ornament on forehead, chest and as belt buckle.
  • Apparently male head: just skull structure containing hydraulic cylinder like structures, side of head with craniectomy like opening revealing gears instead of jelly like brain.

Female

  • Apparently female head: partly absent anatomy, fragments, fracture lines and scratches without visible attempt for restoration, but subject not in any apparent distress instead fierce look ahead and ready to voice opinion.
  • Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface, including face and hands.
  • Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface, including face and hands.
  • Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and mostly well defined green lines segmenting the skin surface, including face and hands. Right hand detached. The umbilical region appears rough as if superficially damaged.
  • Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface, including hands but not face.
  • Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface, including hands.Two red lamps suspended on black round network patches. Confident facial expression.
  • Female whole body: human appearance with the exception of even, clear and well defined black lines segmenting the skin surface.
  • Ex machina - various images of female cyborg: peaceful times with intact human like skin on face, human shape for chest and breasts, around abdomen and pelvis with buttocks, and animated fully skin covered hands. Absence of facial parts signal a time of crisis.

Drawing consequences for prosthetic design

Cyborgs are "designed" from scratch. They are drawn for visual entertainment.

As that, they provide a unique insight into an area that is not possible to examine elsewhere with the same ease: how do we design prosthetic body parts so we keep anxiety and repulsion to a minimum? Interestingly, psychology and neurology researchers with a strong fMRI focus so far avoided to conduct any such study. Why, one wonders, truly. But then, it is all about quantifying and measuring stress levels, and no high tech, degrees or fMRI is necessary for that. I can do such stuff by performing simple field tests. And as long as we have been given eyes, we can visually analyze imagery.

What is perceived as "good", as "pleasing"? What design elements are there, which one's are avoided or not there? After all, disability and prostheses with a visual impact on others make non-affected humans cringe or feel disturbed (Cloerkes), with the effect that such a disability amounts to a stigma (Goffmann). I contend that the visual aspect alone is responsible for these effects, so any solution or remedy necessarily is also visual.

  • Male and female have a distinctively different design approach. Facial expressions relaxed, indifferent if not fierce or confident. Symbols or tattoos are not worn other than where absolutely necessary.
  • Male cyborgs must exhibit intact hard structures, either as armor or in the form of skeletal support, they may contain soft padding such as skin or leather but that is not necessary. Some degree of damage, abrasion, decay and dirt may be there (to indicate prior exposure to hardship, obviously). Most definitely, the human shape may be abandoned if it serves any functional purpose. In fact, visually communicating "true physical function" seems to be more relevant than visually communicating "whole human shape".
  • Female cyborgs require clean and intact appearances (as opposed to the male cyborg), and they (as opposed to males) are shown, typically, with an intact human shape outline. They require skin-like padding most definitely for the whole face and both hands as well as, preferably, for most of their body surfaces, and the skin-like padding has to be skin-colored (and does not contain other colors). Conversely, non-human looking skin colors or surface structures are strictly banned (reference to the "Mystique" character in X-men, where genetic mutation lead to a different appearance that deviates from the recipe I tried to extract from this art here). To avoid the Uncanny Valley (link, link), separating structures or lines as well as the occasional blinking light may be further requirements for the almost too life-like appearance of so much coverage with skin, to politely alert others as to the actual cyborg nature.

 Analyzing current designs

  • Men: Hooks or other technical grippers seem to be totally cool for men, at least from a range of male cyborg designs. Men wearing prosthetic hands may be a bit off, as they seem to exhibit their female side with that, according to this visual analysis, rather than exhibiting a tendency to "function".
  • Women: they may consider wearing the respective extremity-shaped prostheses in order to make their environment feel better. Or at least, the chauvinistic cyborg designers seem to prefer it that way. And if one follows that code, then any skin colored hand shape is fine.
  • Avoid brand logos: Bebionic 3, iLimb hand models: the large printed logos attempt to convey brand security. That attempt fails to do so. In fact, one study (link) and real life examples (link) strongly suggest that brand logo presence on a prosthetic arm may be a preference particularly of pubescent boys but not so much of actual adults. Prosthetic hands should be designed free of signs of any indentured servitude, and in fact, of any established signs or symbols unless absolutely necessary. Let us keep in mind that the term "brand" (as in: brand iron, branding) is a dead giveaway for being someone else's (unpaid) worker. Conversely, a brand logo covered device should be considerably cheaper than an unmarked item. So once insurance has paid off the manufacturer for their prosthetic hand, the manufacturer should desists from forcing people like me to carry advertising for their commerce.
  • Uncanny Valley: LEDs can provide a very light and trendy way to establish a better position along the Uncanny Valley. No current prosthetic hand has LED diodes or other lights as decoration. And yet, artists provide cyborgs with all kinds of indicator lights. Also, mechanical switches are definitely in order. How easy and reliable (!) would it be to have mechanical switches, and a display, on the hand (to indicate which pattern was selected). And how truly cyborg!
  • Pads, not gloves: gloves should be replaced with small clam-shell like clip-on pads, instead of gloves. First of all, it would make the production, sales and exchange (these relate) of consumable pads a lot more efficient: since a prosthetic glove is a drama to pull on (removal is easy, just rip it away), and since one glove usually costs a fortune, I will think twice before even using the prosthetic for anything. This spirals down what otherwise may be a blossoming business. Secondly, gloves are uniformly soft or slick or whatever they are - causing problems. Because really, I want the back of my prosthetic hand to be firm, slick, hard, smooth and easy to glide through a sleeve (for example), but flexor side finger and palm pads should be soft, a bit sticky, and deformable to offer a good grip at low grip forces. After all, perfect surface materials are the solution to mechanically weak grip forces of the hand geometry. Furthermore, prosthetic hand surface damage is typically local - and to replace a whole glove for 800 bucks just because of one gaping hole is excessive - replacing single patches may address real life issues with prosthetic hands in a far better way. So, clam-shell like clip-on pads would fulfill the design requirements for cyborgs (above) with breaking the surface with lines, and yet, offer good ergonomic opportunities.
  • Dynamic appearance: Any cyborg extension seems to contain seamless integration. Relevant at this point for me to point out: not just static images are relevant (as shown here, mostly) - no, dynamic appearance is what really counts in the end. Fluidity, ease, analogue body - analogue prosthetic (which is the real secret why body powered works so well: no paradigm shift for motion control! but until y'all understood that another 90 years will pass I am afraid), - until my appearance test (link) finds a wider use, these all will have to be tackled.

Visualizing fluidity, ease as dynamic body integrated analogue motion and grip control

Further reading

 

Technical issues of prosthetic arm usage / design / build is discussed in this article in depth:

Publication [link]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Visualizing a Broken Body - Cyborg art implications for visual and functional prosthetic design [art, cultural reflection]; published July 10, 2015, 19:30; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=4880.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1582667247, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Visualizing a Broken Body - Cyborg art implications for visual and functional prosthetic design [art, cultural reflection]}}, month = {July},year = {2015}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=4880}}