Exoskeleton Project (2016-2021)
Curator: Isabel Pedersen, PhD | October 2016 - ongoing
This collection relates to a case study on the emergence of the Exoskeleton across academic, government, military and popular culture discourses. This unique collection supports a critical analysis of representations of exoskeletons, a kind of wearable technology that covers the individual in a powered suit bringing about enhanced capabilities (e.g., run faster, lift weights, fly). Exoskeletons include exosuits and soft robotics that cover the body. This collection also foregrounds advancements geared to people with mobility challenges that may involve promotional material on supporting movement in different ways. Most of these technologies are in pre-release, housed in well-funded academic research centres.
Often glorified in film franchises, including those drawn from the Marvel Universe, exoskeletons contribute to an ‘imagined future’ that frames society as progressing toward a way of living that will be much more technologically immersive. Exoskeletons are a trope of Militainment. Aside from film, this collection also includes gameplay clips from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to
foreground another way that fictional exoskeletons contribute to the idea.
Most of the artifacts for this collection are fed by four interdependent discursive domains: popular science journalism, state-legitimized military advertising, advertising for differently-abled citizens and recent science fiction films. Celebrated both as an exciting prop of fictional superheroes and as a hyped real-world technology for human enhancement, exoskeletons both generate and promote value systems including militarism, popular science boosterism through the military industrial entertainment complex, and transhumanism.
Research has been published based on this curated collection:
Isabel Pedersen and Tanner Mirrlees. (2017) "Exoskeletons, Transhumanism, and Culture: Performing Superhuman Feats" IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Vol 36(1), 2017 pp 37-45. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7879371/