Over the past few months, a lot of theoretical work has been done to further develop the concept of “digital dualism.” Following a provocation from Nicholas Carr, a number of thoughtful people have chimed in to help both further explicate and defend the theory. Their responses have been enlightening and are worth reading in full. They have also clarified a few things for me about the topic that I’d like to share here. Specifically, I’d like to do a bit of reframing regarding the nature of digital dualism, drawing upon this post by Nathan Jurgenson, then use this framework to situate digital dualism within a broader field of political disagreement and struggle.
In his reply to Carr, Jurgenson helpfully parses apart two distinct-but-related issues. (Technically he draws three distinctions, but I will only focus upon two here). First, Jurgenson identifies what he calls “ontological digital dualism theory,” a research project that he characterizes as focused upon that which exists. Such theory would seem to include all efforts that seek to explain (or call into question) the referents of commonly used terms such as “digital” or “virtual,” “physical” or “real.” In contrast to this ontological theory, he then identifies what might be called normative digital dualism theory—a branch of analysis concerned with the comparative value that is attributed to the categories established by one’s ontological position. Such theory would thus analyze the use of value-laden modifiers such as “real” or “authentic” in describing the “digital” or the “physical.”
I posit that digital dualism, in fact, draws from both the ontological and the normative analyses. Specifically the digital dualist: (more…)
A distinct feature of academically oriented blogs like Cyborgology is that these are spaces in which theories take shape over time through conversation, contradiction, progression, and stumbles. Rather than a finished product, readers find here a theoretical process, one that is far from linear and often fraught. It is in this messy and fractured way that theories of digital dualism and augmented reality continue to develop here at Cyborgology and connected sites. In this spirit of processual-theorizing, I want to further refine my material mapping of digital dualism for yet a third time*. With the ongoing dualism debates, the time is ripe for theoretical rethinking and adjustments. (more…)
Watching the ideas materialize, disseminate, get knocked down and picked back up all in near real time is either the greatest advantage digital dualism theory has, or its biggest downfall—its best feature or worst flaw. Or both. Personally, I’m having a blast, even if it’s a bit of a distraction from my dissertation. It’s the spirit of this blog, a rare academic space to try ideas out, work on them, debate them, meet new people, and watch the idea, one hopes, get better and stronger. Or sometimes no one cares and we move on. This is what I love about my colleagues on Twitter (I’ll never type the word tweeps), this blog, and the Theorizing the Web conference.
The drawback is (more…)
I have a dear family friend. She is highly educated, happily married, a wonderful mother, and incredibly successful in her career. She has also, however, always struggled with her weight. Like many people, she tried dieting about a million times. This produced the kind of yo-yo style results which bring people to maintain several wardrobes of varying sizes. Then, about five years ago, she started journaling. She wrote down everything she ate and the approximate caloric count of each item. With this tactic, this dear family friend was, for the first time, able to maintain her desired body size.
Don’t worry; this is not a post about how to lose weight. I could write one of those, but the anti-feminist self-loathing would probably be too much for me to bear. Rather, this is a short post about self-tracking. We all know that Cyborgologist Whitney Erin Boesel (@phenatypical) is our resident expert on self-tracking however, as she makes her way from one side of the country to the other, I will pick up the self-tracking ball and talk about some recent findings from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. (more…)
I took a few screenshots at Vinepeek
Check out vinepeek.com. Watch the random videos—called Vines—follow each other without context. Take it in for a moment. (more…)
I’ve poked fun at these lazy op-eds before and, indeed, it must be tempting to retreat into the safe conceptual territory of “The Internet is fake!” when a juicy story of lies, deception, and computers makes headlines. The Te’o case is an almost unbelievable account of a football star allegedly tricked into falling for, and eventually mourning, a woman who didn’t exist. It’s the kind of fiction only non-fiction could invent. [More on the Te’o case]
What I’d like to point out is that people have incorrectly called this a cyber-deception, a digital-deception, an online-hoax, when this is not exactly right: it was a deception, and one that happened to involve digital tools in a significant way. This mistake is what I call “digital dualism”: conceptually dividing the digital and physical into separate realities. Dualists speak of “real” interaction as opposed to digital interaction, digital selves, and a digital life, like Neo jacking into The Matrix. [More. On. Digital. Dualism.] (more…)
This piece was supposed to be about porn star James Deen.
After reading about Deen here and there and everywhere, I had the idea that perhaps there was something worth writing about. Only the problem was, that the more I watched of his work, the less I had a desire to write about it. Perhaps the point is not Deen himself and how he has been lauded via the wheel of favorable ratings by female audiences online. What needs to be written about is what happens when a woman sits down and engages with sex—specifically, her own, as tied to an exploration of her individual sexuality and liberation therein—via the medium of a computer screen. (more…)
The semantics of Silicon Valley Capitalism are precise, measured, and designed to undermine preexisting definitions of the things such capitalists seek to exploit. It is no coincidence that digital connections are often called “friends,” even though the terms “friend” and “Facebook friend” have very different meanings. And then there is “social,” a Silicon Valley shorthand term for “sharing digital information” that bears little resemblance to the word “social” as we’ve traditionally used it. From “Living Social” to “making music social,” “social media” companies use friendly old words to spin new modes of interaction into concepts more comfortable and familiar. It is easier to swallow massive changes to interpersonal norms, expectations, and behaviors when such shifts are repackaged and presented as the delightful idea of being “social” with “friends.”
But is this “social” so social? Yes and no and not quite. To elaborate, we propose a distinction: “Social” versus “social,” in which the capital-S “Social” refers not to the conventional notion of social but specifically to Silicon-Valley-Social. The point is, simply, that when Silicon Valley entrepreneurs say “social,” they mean only a specific slice of human sociality. (more…)
When I first began as a graduate student encountering social media research and blogging my own thoughts, it struck me that most of the conceptual disagreements I had with various arguments stemmed from something more fundamental: the tendency to discuss “the digital” or “the internet” as a new, “virtual”, reality separate from the “physical”, “material”, “real” world. I needed a term to challenge these dualistic suppositions that (I argue) do not align with empirical realities and lived experience. Since coining “digital dualism” on this blog more than a year ago, the phrase has taken on a life of its own. I’m happy that many seem to agree, and am even more excited to continue making the case to those who do not.
The strongest counter-argument has been that a full theory of dualistic versus synthetic models, and which is more correct, has yet to emerge. The success of the critique has so far outpaced its theoretical development, which exists in blog posts and short papers. Point taken. Blogtime runs fast, and rigorous theoretical academic papers happen slow; especially when one is working on a dissertation not about digital dualism. That said, papers are in progress, including ones with exciting co-authors, so the reason I am writing today is to give a first-pass on a framework that, I think, gets at much of the debate about digital dualism. It adds a little detail to “digital dualism versus augmented reality” by proposing “strong” and “mild” versions of each. (more…)
PJ Rey just posted a terrific reflection on hipsters and low-tech on this blog, and I just want to briefly respond, prod and disagree a little. This is a topic of great interest to me: I’ve written about low-tech “striving for authenticity” in my essay on The Faux-Vintage Photo, reflected on Instagrammed war photos, the presence of old-timey cameras at Occupy Wall Street, and the IRL Fetish that has people obsessing over “the real” in order to demonstrate just how special and unique they are.
While I appreciate PJ bringing in terrific new theorists to this discussion, linking authenticity and agency with hipsters and technology, I think he focuses too much on the technologies themselves and not enough on the processes of identity; too much on the signified and not where the real action is in our post-modern, consumer society: the signs and signifiers. (more…)