Monday, October 15, 2012

The Body and Risk

Beck's consideration that the scientific processes of determining acceptable levels necessarily gravitate towards 'the average person' was incredibly interesting. While it is clear that for him this averaging is a reduction that makes such 'acceptable levels' nearly useless it is also interesting to consider that such problems of localizable averages seem to run throughout his argument. In the same way that scientists, "pack infants, children, pensioners, epileptics, merchants, pregnant women, people living near smokestacks and those far away... into the big gray sack of 'the' person" so too does it seem that the event risked is an average of a phantasmic array of virtual possibilities (68). Furthermore, for him the scientific assessment of threat is done in almost active exclusion of direct tests on the human body. As he notes, the studies of concern describe the effects of particular toxins in other mammals and extrapolate such information to guess at the toxins effects on the human body.

What I'd like to focus on in with regard to this is his characterization of small differences causing huge distinctions and differing effects on a larger scale. This reminds me of Terranova's explanation of Soft Control and the self guiding forces of masses. Particularly it seems to demand an altered perspective of the human body, shifting from a view of the body as a isolated 'biomass' toward a view of the body as already a mass in itself. This is what I take away from his insistance that toxin threat evaluations do not evaluate the effect of the simultaneous presence of multiple toxins in a body instead focusing on a toxin's effect on an already static body. My question then is how do our considerations of scale affect how we understand these different flows and masses function when the constituents of a mass are smaller and still interconnected masses.

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