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CRS 1001 Introduction to Cultural Studies. Technoscience and Identity Politics—The Cyberspace. Cyberspace. The virtual lands, with virtual lives and virtual societies Those do not exist with the same physical reality that “real” societies do

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crs 1001 introduction to cultural studies

CRS 1001Introduction to Cultural Studies

Technoscience and Identity Politics—The Cyberspace

  • The virtual lands, with virtual lives and virtual societies
  • Those do not exist with the same physical reality that “real” societies do
  • Virtuality: reinvention of familiar physical space in cyberspace
barlovian j barlow cyberspace
Barlovian (J. Barlow) cyberspace
  • The space computer networks create
  • A vastly complex electronic space where people talk, work and do all sorts of things
gibsonian cyberspace
Gibsonian cyberspace

Neuromancer 《神經浪遊者》 (1984)

  • “Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by every children behind taught mathematical concepts…. A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.”
gibsonian cyberspace5
Gibsonian cyberspace
  • A fictional conception
  • A place that collated all the information in the world and could be entered by disembodied consciousness
  • Disembodiment took place through a computer
  • It offers power to those who can manipulate information inside it
virtual community
Virtual community
  • “community” on computer networks
  • Social aggregations that emerge from the Net
  • When enough people carry on a public discussion long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace
  • Some kind of extension from VC to “real” community is “anticipated”
virtual community7
Virtual community
  • The experience of sharing with unseen others a space of communication
  • It involves the activities, the immersion and the connections it represents
  • Not so much an “imagined community” but a “community of imagination”
virtual as real
Virtual as Real
  • The case of Multi-user dungeons (MUDs)
  • Text-based virtual worlds in which internet users can create characters in a shared, interactive space
  • Emerged in early 1980s around fantasy of Dungeons and Dragons games
  • Concretizing heroic fantasy stories into an interactive, social, distributed form
  • Create a permanent character
  • Choose a character name, a gender, and a race (e.g. elf, dwarf, human, etc.)
  • Begin playing as a first level player
  • The character combats, accumulates more treasure, solves quests, and kills monsters and other players
  • He/she/it builds up attributes and assets and promotes to higher levels in time
  • It means months of very active engagement
  • Commitment to a particular character solidified as he/she/it develops
  • a sense of presence and location in the virtual world
  • substantial commitment gives rise to
    • Elaborate residences, costumes, and social cliques online
    • Strong sense of belonging, identity, and social status
the game vs real life
Playing online

The fantastic, the silly, and the trivial: “just for fun”

stilling of the physical body, a turning one’s attention to the screen

the social aspect: with undeniable effect

E.g. MUDmarry, MUDspouse, netsex, MUDrape, pking (killing other player characters)

a unique network of accountability

“The game” Vs “real life”
  • Both are partial realities that matter
  • Profoundly embodied nature of experience in virtual worlds: it draws “real” emotions and sensibility
the i identity in virtual community
The “I-identity” in virtual community
  • Potentially more fluid
  • more consciously shaped
  • A certain extension of subjectivity: from both intratextual and extratextual connections
  • Rules & practice: acknowledgment of both kinds of relationships
identity subjectivity
  • Both enabled and policed by sociotechnical structures through global computer networks
  • Neither disconnected from nor reducible to subjectivity localized by the biological body in a fixed locale
  • but are concretely re-embodied thru’ computational prostheses
machine bodies
  • For the human user:
    • online worlds provide opportunities for creative bodily forgetting, or plunging into a sort of magical realm of the digital
  • The machine:
    • a faithful extension of user agency
    • its bodily processes rendered invisible to maintain an ideally seamless fantasy abstraction
complex subjectivity
Complex subjectivity

The case of fandom:

  • The “player in action”—simultaneously the avatar, the self in the game world, and the self external to it
  • Player’s self is imaginatively inserted, partially transferring to avatar; no determined paradigm of behavior
  • Neither the avatar nor the player has a discrete identity
  • The game provides a forum for a range of subject positions to be experienced thru’ playing; various positions held in tension at once in the process of game play
continuity in the self and avatar
Continuity in the self-and-avatar
  • A continuity between the subject position of the player and the iconic representation of the avatar
    • effects of the self of the player on the avatar
  • Symbiotic hybridity: the player’s physical and psychological continuum with the avatar
  • A diffuse but distinct relationship between person and machine in cyberspace
a community of imagination
A community of imagination
  • Fandom: in which similar imaginative experiences form the basis of group identity
  • The imagined relationship between individual fans and the text takes precedence over relationships between fans
  • The defining coincidence: affective
virtual community18
Virtual community
  • Unified communities are not imagined thru’ mass media texts
  • But rather lived thru’ negotiating parti locations and relationships within texts that migrate thru’ parti sociotechnical apparatuses
  • The seeming immutability and imaginary homogeneity of a parti text on the one hand
  • The selective positionings of heterogeneous agents that co-construct meaning with the structuring resources of the text
  • Constant subversion by the latter in the former
  • The image of cyborg as a hybrid
    • Blurring of binary identities
    • No more division between
      • Technology vs biology
      • Artificial vs nature
      • Machine vs human
      • Masculine vs feminine
      • Virtual vs real
hi i m alex a cybergrrrl activist
Hi! I'm Alex, a CyberGrrrl activist!

I am going to enter cyberspace as a women's space.  As a feminist space.  As an activist space.  I am doing this because these are spaces in which I am already empowered and confident.  These are spaces where I know where to find support when I need it. …By researching the internet within a discourse and community I care about and feel comfortable in, I will finally become computer savvy, internet savvy, and can HELP other women get there too.  My being on the web and creating my own feminist pages is an act of resistance in and of itself. 

from cyborg metaphor to alternative cyberculture
From Cyborg metaphor to alternative Cyberculture
  • A form of oppositional consciousness
  • A liberating utopia beyond polarity
  • A new frontier of sexual activism and rebellion
    • Allows gender fluidity rather than gender categorization
  • The creation of a new public space, e.g. sites such as Cybergrrrl, geekgrrrl etc.
operation of mud
Operation of MUD
  • Production of MUD worlds: overwhelmingly dominated by the technologically elite
  • Running a MUD server: special access to a university or corporate computer system
  • The fantasy of the mud environment: a complex interaction btw a network of “real world” material technologies ←→the cultural capital of its users and designers
  • Who is in control?
democracy and multiplicity of cyberspace

Dissonance and tolerance are welcome

Creative formation and enactment of identities

Opens up infinite possibilities

Computor cross-dressing


As Battlefields for conquest and extermination (hackers)


Persistence of hierarchical and gendered behavior, e.g. sexist games, violent language

Democracy and Multiplicity of Cyberspace?