Vertical worlds: technology, hybridity and the climbing body

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Abstract:

This paper uses Actor Network Theory to study rock climbing as a technologically mediated pursuit and to argue that climbers are more-than-human fusions comprised of the human and non-human. Using empirical data collected via participant observation and interviews with rock climbers based in northern England, the paper highlights three case studies that help us rethink our situated activities as implicitly mediated and co-constituted by technology. First, it explores how new spaces of climbing co-produce climbing bodies resulting in differing and sometimes geographically specific skills and attributes. Second, the paper examines the climber's foot-shoe-rock assemblage in order to rethink the plasticity of body and technology as enhanced capabilities emerge through the co-evolution of the assemblage. Third, it investigates how bouldering mats extend safe levels of climbing performance whilst altering climbers' relations with the crag. The paper concludes by illustrating that the study of climbing provides insight and critique about the role of human/non-human agency and the situated dynamics of human-technological hybrids.

Keywords: assemblages; climbing; co-production; embodiment; technology

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2011.574797

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Hull, Hull, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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