Examining Issues of Body Image and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Within the Digital


Session Title:

  • Digitization of Biological Data

Presentation Title:

  • Examining Issues of Body Image and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Within the Digital




  • Body image can be altered by pain, ‘peripheral ‘injuries such as amputations, or insults to the central nervous system. These conditions have also formed the basis of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophical enquiry into how we might understand embodiment. Within clinical practise attempts are made to ‘repair’ patient’s body image through rehabilitative techniques however the means of assessing these changes has been that of self-portrait sketches.

    The use of self portraits has been problematic in that it has often been limited by the abilities of the patient and not without irony the additional limitations that the condition itself can place upon them.  Alexa Wright’s work on the Sci-Art funded After Image project (1997) investigated the phenomena of phantom limbs however the techniques involved in creating these images were not ones that could be easily utilised by patients within a clinical setting. As a result of this research was instigated that examined the possibilities of the manipulation of an avatar for suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPD) within the Digital to communicate their experience of their body image; this was instigated by allowing patients to remove, scale, displace and render the body in a variety a ways. Alongside this it has also been discovered that games utilising devices such as the WiiMote have allowed patients suffering from conditions such as CRPD to begin reintegration of ‘disowned’ and painful limbs into their body image.

    This paper will examine issues surrounding issues concerning the perception and depiction of the body within the digital. It will draw upon research interviews with users of the system to explore how the digital, rather than promoting notions of ‘virtual’ self can help us understand our experiences of the physical. In so doing it will draw upon a phenomenological understanding of embodiment and seek to critique the structures that often assert the digital a space of the incorporeal.

PDF Document: