Crossing Borders: Body and Digital Technology
by Tony Yu Zhou

Crossing Borders:  Body and Digital Technology Panel

EADMT conference Oct. 6, 2018, Athens Greece

欧洲舞动治疗协会年会 (2018.10.6, 雅典)

圆桌专家会议:跨越国界 一 身体与数字化技术


Chairperson:  Marcia Plevin ( Italy)

Members of the Panel: Eila Goldhahn (UK), Julia Marozova ( Netherlands, Russia), Suzi Tortora ( USA),  online: Elena Sokolova (Russia), Tony Zhou ( China/Netherlands)

The Body and Digital use of technology for dance therapy training, therapeutic practice, body movement movement practices such as authentic movement, presentations  (apps, webinairs, etc.)

Main Questions:  Where is the Body Online? How is a screen embodiment different from a physical embodied relationship within the same time and space? Has the use of digital on-line – streaming technology transformed the dance therapy profession? How?

Main themes are grouped in two large areas.

  1. Embodiment
  2. Paradigm shift

We have become humans who click, dab and swipe.  In this day and age we use different gestural movements to write language.  A majority of our writing is longer cursive or calligraphy, it is the FB text, the twitter, the digital email. Things have changed.  Many of us professionally use screens/monitors or what I call “teaching or therapeutic mediators” in dance therapy training and practice which includes in various ways video moving and witnessing, ipads, apps, portable computers, Skype, platforms such as Zoom, smart phones, etc.

The following questions are to open the discussion and not necessarily addressed in sequence. these questions will probably birth other questions.

  • Is there a perceptual shift concerning embodiment (as both pillar and foundation of dance therapy) and the use of technology for dance therapy training and practice?  Is it a freedom, a boundary or a barrier?
    • therapist/ teacher – what changes or stays the same in the monitor?
    • patient / student – what changes or stays the same in the monitor?
  • By using cyber space what do we gain as a profession, what do we lose?

A “ physical”  setting is a living energetic field, an open dynamic landscape subject to moods and metamorphosis in the spaces  “in between” two people or “in between” people in a group.

  • How are we conditioned (a paradigm shift?) by the screen/the monitor? Can we have or observe a “direct experience” through the screen/monitor?
  • What do we relinquish in embodied sensory input or output? Can we have access to the immediacy of the sensual world through the monitor?
  • What is the spacial/temporal edge of the Body on line? Time, it seems becomes more important than a physical space. It is 2.p.m. in Rome as I begin a supervision with a Chinese student at 8.p.m. in Shanghai.
  • Looking into the screen we may be “ closer” to the student/patient in terms of what we see (ex. a face close-up) which may stand in opposition to how distant we may feel energetically from that person.
  • Our sight may be limited: We may only see the person from the chest or waist up – not able to see the whole body. We do not see what is happening under the table.  Vice versa for whoever is looking at us.
  • Is the use of this technology a “paradigm shift?, a “trans -temporal/spacial shift”? of  how dance therapists “see” or are being seen as a profession?  How we are being seen and understood in the world?

Response and reflection from Tony Zhou (panelist)

This topic is really relevant, timely and important for our dance therapy professions.  It is also a big subject for the whole human beings to deal with the ever merging new technology which has been a double-edged sword in our history.

Marcia has given us excellent questions to think about and reflect.  I actually tried to imagine how myself would react as human being to do the online session for either training or therapy.  My first reaction was I would never do the therapy online with my therapist since it feels a strange and awkard. But I will do the training with my teachers or students. Why?  Since I have had quite some experiences with the webinar trainings in the past one year but nearly none for the online therapy session.  So I would say before we answer the questions about online or not, it might be helpful for us to have some experiences for both situations so that we understand our own real feelings and resisence.  Let’s imagine how equally terrifying our ancesors might have felt when watching the movies century ago. Have we ever doubted that the sharing human feelings via the digital media like movie was not authentic and we would not have real connection and relations with the characters in the films and beyond?

Let’s discuss the essence of digital or online.  It is indeed a shift of the pattern or change of the media for our communication.  Face to face mode provides different embodied experience, in a way, more comprehensive because we see and feel more and smell.  In this situation, the information or energy is also more analouge versus digital.  Analog is more smooth and continuous or with more flow, while digital is stepping and discrete, so to speak. So apparently when we do online or digitally, it is not only less comprehensive but also of less flow which we might feel with our body. But how about the virtual reality, when the digital technology becomes so advanced in the future, it might imitate or fake so well that you can literally obtain all the sensory experiences inlcuding seeing, touching, smelling etc, just similar to real life. Do we feel this is an evolution or a disaster for human beings?

I am a movement analyst and also trained in dance therapy. When witinessing the impact of the digital technology nowadays, I become more concerned about the limitation of our movement volcubuary and choices.  We use less space when playing with mobile phone and use less strong movement, basilly Dab in Laban Basic Action Effort term (Light, Direct and Quick) …yet, human beings have the ambition to expand their capacity and conqure the world, perhaps as part of our survival strategies to gain evolutionary advange in the universe as one species. Looking back at the thosands years of human history in agriculture age, industry age and information age, we can see how we tried to expand and conqure different dimensions like space and time, no matter we build the skyscrapers at vertical dimension or drive car at horizontal dimension for space, or use computer to conqure the time, to make it faster and faster. But eventually human beings also tempt to conqure the mass, the fundamental part of the life, so are having material science and biotechnology to modify the structure or gene of the species. Apparently the human emotions are not always synchronized with the technology development. Are you scared?

I don’t think we can reverse the evolution of human beings, the digital or online seems an inevitable stage in our history.  But we can make concious choices and find a more balanced way to cope with the environment and situation.  It is more adaption than competition, or gain or lose as a profession with the ditigal technology.  The Chinese word for crisis actually has the character of opportunity as part of the word.  Maybe we see the online and digital as the challenge, threat or crisis for dance therapy profession, but perhaps we can also see this as an opportunity.  On one hand, the online technology helps us to reach more people far away in big country and globally to disseminate the knowledge at a scale we could never reach before, on the other hand, the more online and digital we become, the more people will miss and need the embodied experiences, making dance therapy a more desirable and unique form of interaction and therapy.  Another good example is there was worry in publishing world years ago that the e-books would threaten the print book business, however, it turned out the e-books at end have increased the sales of print books in general.  Human beings, as an analogue entity with the flesh and flow, will never be fully digitalized.  After all, the analogue and digital will co-exist in this universe as duality without replacing each other completely.

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