In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Carrier:Forever Bound
  • Melinda Rackham

a virus has burrowed deep inside me,sHe has penetrated my cellular core . . .breaching my last boundary,shattering my last illusion of autonomy.cross-dressed in a seductively innocent protoplasmic envelope,sHe slips past the antibodies and nestles safely within the folds of my DNA;whispering in the secret language of my body 'replicate me, replicate me'hEr strands of RNA twisting and twining with mine—conjugating, slicing, merging, integrating.I am infected,my blood is contagion,I am hostess to another being.I am a carrier [1].

Carrier [2] crosses a dangerous and sacred boundary into the domain of dynamically gendered cross-species relationships. The Carrier web site examines viral infection by weaving an intimate, almost erotic, relationship between the viewer and the virus, which is the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Hepatitis C currently affects 200 million people worldwide. Users of the web site experience being a symbiotic organism—sharing genetic resources with other species, being at once viral, human and machine.

An infectious agent called "sHe," written in Java and located at the bottom of the browser window, navigates the viewer through the site by posing questions and adapting to individual responses as would a virus in the real world, creating a unique pathway through the different zones of information, including:


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Fig. 1.

Melinda Rackham, Carrier screen shot: Identical Machine Language, 1999 <http://www.subtle.net/carrier>. The biotech revolution mechanistically reduces and classifies humanity to unique data files, strings of texts or code that animate the living body.

© Melinda Rackham

  • invalid, which positions the user as a viral carrier in a global database who is situated to contemplate both the textual qualities of the Human Genome Project (Fig. 1) and personal stories from people living with HCV

  • immune, which has Shockwave games, where no matter what one does, the 60 nanometer virus just keeps on growing, reinventing itself and interacting with the host/ess body

  • intimate, which likens viral life to artificial intelligence, incorporating seductively poetic text fragments on the erotics of viral replication

  • immerse, which is written in Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) and lets the viewer navigate through the delicate lattice of human nerve receptors for pleasure, pain, warmth and touch

  • inform, which links to HCV scientific and medical research, support and social sites on the Internet.

To be as accessible as possible, Carrier also provides alternate navigation options for those with older computers or less popular operating systems, and a text-only interface for those who only want information and links.

Carrier redresses the fantasy of sanitized safety and singularity when data packets are in constant transmission, negotiating the fragile webs of intentions and relations of the species soup. The illusion of pure, clean and rational code is consumed by the reality of the slimy and promiscuous, as cross-dressing viral code reproduces with other codes—as they decode, insert, recode, replicate and integrate in both the immune system and the operating system. We can no longer ignore viral life as the information age mutates into the age of infection, of mutual dependence, of transpersonal ecology. The boundaries of human/machine/species entwine as we become symborg. [End Page 103]

Melinda Rackham
P.O. Box 1744, Strawberry Hills 2012, NSW Australia. E-mail: <melinda@subtle.net>. Web site: <http://subtle.net/carrier>.
Received 19 March 2001. Accepted for publication by Roger F. Malina.

References and Notes

1. Melinda Rackham, "Carrier—Becoming Symborg," in Alison Bashford and Claire Hooker, eds., Contagion: Historical and Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 2001) p. 217.
2. For information, see <http://www.subtle.net/carrier>. Authored and produced by Melinda Rackham, with Java and sound by Damien Everett, additional Java by John Tonkin. [End Page 104]
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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 103-104
Launched on MUSE
2003-04-30
Open Access
No
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