The Body Electric
The Body Electric explores how we design and engineer our own bodies. Prosthetics were once the domain of specialist professionals but a new generation of makers, designers, hackers and everyday people are finding their own ways to adapt their bodies to the environment, explore new forms of creativity, and reflect on what it means to be human.
Here we look at how artists, hackers, designers and everyday people are finding ways to modify their bodies, augment their senses, express themselves in new ways and even gain new abilities. Through accessible technologies people are able to experiment and collaborate to create unique solutions to unique challenges.
Engineering at Home
Engineering at Home tells the story of Cindy, who after a heart attack in 2009, experienced medical complications that resulted in amputations involving all four limbs: both of her legs below the knees and varying amounts of each of her fingers. She received the most advanced medical care and technology available (including a myoelectric hand). But she also needed to find dozens of ways to make a new life for herself, and for that she needed deceptively simple engineering.
Created by Caitrin Lynch and Sara Hendren, faculty members at Olin College of Engineering and their students, the Engineering at Home archive documents the adaptations, hacks and appropriations she developed herself, as an ‘informal engineer’.
In stark contrast to traditional images of the engineer, Cindy uses her own body, home and tool use as sites for design thinking and creative problem solving. Engineering at Home helps us extend our idea of engineering beyond that of a career, into a life skill that we can all apply, and acknowledges approaches to adaptive design that start at home and go beyond the high tech, and the institutionally approved.
Together with his father, the composer Rolf Gehlhaar, Vahakn Matossian-Gehlhaar formed Human Instruments, a company dedicated to the design and production of digital musical instrument interfaces for people with varying physical ability. They are developing the world’s first commercially available, hands-free instrument that will give its player total musical freedom of expression, with a resolution of sound as close as possible to traditional orchestral instruments.