When I played violin, we used to laugh at the fingernail girls. They had long nails on every finger that needn’t touch fingerpad to wood: the left thumb, the right index, middle and ring fingers. Their other nails were neatly trimmed, for these girls were often diligent violinists and acutely aware of the need to adjust the body to the instrument. The callouses under their chins were as red as ours but still we laughed, and cut all our nails to the quick.

It’s been years since I’ve trimmed my nails to interface with technology, but just a minute’s texting on my new Z600 has me cutting my modest thumb nails. The lumpy, rubber keys on my old phone were far more forgiving than the sleek flatness of the Z600. It looks better, though, and does more. And I like short, practical nails.

I wonder whether bodies are marked by our computers as they are by instruments. My fingertips are no longer leathery, my throat has lost the aching red mark worn by the violin pushed so often against it in the past, but the memories are there, and I pick my violin up as naturally as I ride a bike or touchtype. And I trim my thumbnails.

6 thoughts on “fingernails and technology

  1. diane

    oh yes, we’re marked. let me tell you about my sciatica…

  2. Katja

    Nerves, skin, nails. And muscles. These days I find it odd and strenuous to stretch my fingers away from each other, to spread them out with strength. The way it was usual when we played handball in school. You had to be able to take a strong hold of the ball with the fingers pulled as far away from each other as possible. Not the same typing on soft keys. And it was different yet on typewriters. In my day we still learned 10-finger typing on a mechanical–not electric–typewriter. I clearly remember the crampy feeling in my ring and little fingers. I’m sure all the muscles I trained back then are long gone.

  3. Francois Lachance

    I recently clipped an article from a weekly magazine that had a headline reading “Mind your motion”. The piece suggests the intelligent use of muslces as a mental booster. It suggests introducing unusual movements into one’s day. And to quote directly “These insights come form the sudy of childhood development and the way physcality opens up new pathways in the human brain.” The question to perhaps ask of computer use is what lies nearby that can move the body for example to look out a window, to stretch a hand to netsuke, to cock an ear to ambiant noise. If the evidence from photos of people captured at their workstations is an indications the environments that suround online enthusiasts tend to be be rich in details. And it is not just the photos. It is also some of the graphic work used to skin weblogs. For example Elouise Oyzon’s close-ups of closed eyes to accompany the main or home page of her weblog and her smile closeup for the comments. A rather interesting mapping occurs on the body of the reader.
    On Jason Rhody’s Miscellany is the Largest category an anthropomorphic robot has readers paying attention to big head and big feet, if the reader/viewer is prone to mimetic moments. Liz Lawley’s Mamamusings neatly layers attention. A small window-like frame in the upper left positions the viewer/reader in a cafe like atmosphere, the blog entries themselve offer another layer like a wall and behind both the expansive peach-coloured rose that really only connects with the viewer with scrolling. And then there is the switches that jill/txt has undergone. There is Alex Halavais’s layout that has comments to the right of the entry to which they relate, both on the same page, and thereby offers great swathes of negative space and invites hand-eye motor coordination via up and down scrollings.

    BTW in the fiction of Samuel Delany nail biters are eroticised.

  4. Dennis G. Jerz

    When I first started journaling, at about age 14, I soon got a big red lump on my right middle finger, right where the pen rested on it. Now that I have a PDA with voice memo, and (last month or so) a PDA keyboard, I hardly write anything longhand, other than personal notes (which I type out first, edit online, and then transfer to paper).

    That red lump on my middle finger never completely goes away.

    Of course, repetitive strain injury is affecting my body, too.

  5. bicyclemark

    Reminds me of old times with my coke-nail. .. what? I kid.. I kid.

Leave A Comment

Recommended Posts

Triple book talk: Watch James Dobson, Jussi Parikka and me discuss our 2023 books

Thanks to everyone who came to the triple book talk of three recent books on machine vision by James Dobson, Jussi Parikka and me, and thanks for excellent questions. Several people have emailed to asked if we recorded it, and yes we did! Here you go! James and Jussi’s books […]

Image on a black background of a human hand holding a graphic showing the word AI with a blue circuit board pattern inside surrounded by blurred blue and yellow dots and a concentric circular blue design.
AI and algorithmic culture Machine Vision

Four visual registers for imaginaries of machine vision

I’m thrilled to announce another publication from our European Research Council (ERC)-funded research project on Machine Vision: Gabriele de Setaand Anya Shchetvina‘s paper analysing how Chinese AI companies visually present machine vision technologies. They find that the Chinese machine vision imaginary is global, blue and competitive.  De Seta, Gabriele, and Anya Shchetvina. “Imagining Machine […]

Do people flock to talks about ChatGPT because they are scared?

Whenever I give talks about ChatGPT and LLMs, whether to ninth graders, businesses or journalists, I meet people who are hungry for information, who really want to understand this new technology. I’ve interpreted this as interest and a need to understand – but yesterday, Eirik Solheim said that every time […]