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Free Content Surpassing human nature: Reinventions of and for the body as a consequence of astronomical experiments in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

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The involvement of mankind in a technologized society has a long history. This article analyses some examples from a crucial period of our history, when the development of the telescope gave rise to a complete new understanding of our world and the universe surrounding us. The use of a wide range of variations of this device has since become an absolutely indispensable part of our relationship with our environment. Many fields of human action and thought were combined with technological prosthesis, without which it became impossible to conceive of our being at all.

Within this context we present some exceptional devices that were neither popularized nor commercialized, but that constitute crucial metaphors for the changes caused by the new technologies. For instance, Galileo Galilei's prototype of a head-mounted display, or more precisely, a head-mounted viewfinder is put into relation with Kindermann's wonderful philosophical device for a global observation of our planet. This article also brings out some examples of the expanded body, as it was understood during this time.

Reflection on some case studies in the seventeenth and eighteenth century helps us understand our society better, insofar as both periods of time are affected by crucial changes regarding the development and implementation of technologies that subvert the entire scientific, epistemological, and tactical system.

Keywords: astronomy; code; elasticity; expanded body; history of science; telescope; ubiquity; virtual reality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Art historian, Humboldt University, Berlin.

Publication date: 2010-11-01

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