Navigating Boundaries and Taboos in the Digital Frontier

John Carter McKnight, Katrin Tiidenberg, Michael Burnam-Fink, Cindy Tekkobe

Abstract


While “digital dualism,” the notion that online life is categorically different from offline, either as a site of utopian or dystopian imaginings, has largely been discredited (Jurgenson 2012), we have barely begun to understand the ways in which internet technologies, user and developer cultures, and the wider society in which they are embedded, co-construct each other.

Contrary to the dreams of transhumanist “uploaders,” who sought an Apollonian, post-embodied existence as pure constructs of thought – or software – (e.g., Moravec 1988) we have not escaped the gendered body and its politics in our online spaces. Rather, software mediation can foreground body politics by providing a contested space of negotiating the transgressive, its boundaries and meanings.

These papers provide a range of perspectives on the politics of the gendered body as developed in particular online environments, from representations of the physical body to avatarized constructs to the text based to a transmedia phenomenon. Each examines a discourse politics of the transgressive, detailing practices of policing normative identity expression through a mangle (Pickering 1995) of gender roles, power dynamics, software affordances and shaming systems. Collectively, they suggest an exaggerated manifestation of gender and power roles which, far from living up to the dreams of cyber-utopianism, point towards a strict policing of traditional roles.

Full Text:

PDF