We’re here We’re there We’re everywhere

Technology can shrink distance and enhance presence in paradoxical ways. Virtual reality therefore replaces space-temporal reality with a tele-space-temporal world; it extends and enhances bodily functions by denying the body performing the tasks (Longo 2003, 26). Individuals’ sense of distance is significantly reduced and dislocated by denying the body’s primary senses – of seeing, touching and feeling. For a large portion of the movie, it is hard to tell if the “node workers” in Sleep Dealer are operating machines or are machines themselves. “Node workers” remain largely emotionless, their faces are covered by a headgear while contact lenses obscure their eyes, they move in a rather slow and rigid way, and do not physically engage with anyone during work. Ironically, tele-presence is produced and heightened by the erosion of intimate physical interaction. Thus, the border between Mexico and America remains unimportant so long as the workers’ bodies can be translated into disembodied, transnational mechanical labour.

As technological tools become more advanced and powerful, man and machine run the risk of becoming two ends of a spectrum, rigid clichés and opposing categories (Longo 2006, 27). However, digital technology also has significant potentials to erase existing distinctions between human and machine. Here, we can return to the hybridity of the cyborg and learn from it a different type of experience, that of inhabiting two places at once. The cyborg can give us a language to talk about a type of sensibility that is dependent upon both bodily and disembodied experience. Digital technology simultaneously creates both embodied and disembodied presence that influences each other and therefore influences us. The drone that Rudy controls is therefore not merely a flying machine that operates without leaving any effect on the operator; it takes Rudy’s view and brings it several miles away from the control room. As such, not only does the drone act as an extension to Rudy’s sight, it also allows his presence to be in two places at once – in the control room and simultaneously out on a Mexican village.


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