So far, I have been a silent observer of the Dualism debates unraveling over the past few weeks both here on Cyborgology and around The Web (as well as in conference lobbies, coffee shops, and university hallways). Super brief recap: Nicholas Carr is cheezed off at Cyborgologists for their insistence on critiquing digital dualism and digital dualists, and argues that supposedly “dualist” experiences should be taken more seriously. Alternately, Tyler Bickford is peeved that the critique of digital dualism is not taken far enough, and that the Augmented Perspective assumes, incorrectly, that there is some base reality from which to augment. Cyborgologists have worked furiously to address these points, arguing about the role of bodies and emotion, correcting misleading characterizations, clarifying linguistic ambiguities, reintroducing the “Other” theorists, and pushing the theoretical program forward.
“I’m so thankful the internet was not in wide use when I was in high school”, this article begins, a common refrain among people who grew up without social media sites from Friendster to Facebook, Photobucket to Instagram. Even those using email, chatrooms, Livejournal, multiplayer games and the like did not have the full-on use-your-real-name-ultra-public Facebook-like experience.
Behind many of the “thank God I didn’t have Facebook back then!” statements is the worry that a less-refined past-self would be exposed to current, different, perhaps hipper or more professional networks. Silly music tastes, less-informed political statements, embarrassing photos of the 15-year-old you: digital dirt from long ago would threaten to debase today’s impeccably curated identity project. The discomfort of having past indiscretions in the full light of the present generates the knee-jerk thankfulness of not having high-school digital dirt to manage. The sentiment is almost common enough to be a truism within some groups, but I wonder if we should continue saying it so nonchalantly?
“Glad we didn’t have Facebook then!” isn’t always wrong, but the statement makes at least two very arguable suppositions and it also carries the implicit belief that identity-change is something that should be hidden, reinforcing the stigma that generates the phrase to begin with. (more…)
On constructing a lesson plan to teach Pinterest and feminism
I teach sociology; usually theoretical and centered on identity. I pepper in examples from social media to illustrate these issues because it is what I know and tends to stimulate class discussion. It struck me while reading arguments about Pinterest that we can use this “new thing” social media site to demonstrate some of the debates about women, technology and feminist theory.
We can view Pinterest from “dominance feminist” and “difference feminist” perspectives to both highlight this major division within feminist theory as well as frame the debate about Pinterest itself. Secondly, the story being told about Pinterest in general demonstrates the “othering” of women. Last, I’d like to ask for more examples to improve this as a lesson plan to teach technology and feminist theories. I should also state out front that what is missing in this analysis is much of any consideration to the problematic male-female binary or an intersectional approach to discussing women and Pinterest while also taking into account race, class, sexual orientation, ability and the whole spectrum of issues necessary to do this topic justice.
“What’s a Pinterest?”
Before we begin, let me very briefly explain what Pinterest is [or read a better summary here]. Likely, (more…)
Photo by Howard Schatz
My post today comes from a class on ableism and disabled bodies that I taught earlier this past semester in my Social Problems course. Its inception came from the point at which I wanted to introduce my students to Donna Haraway’s concept of cyborgs, because I saw some useful connections between one and the other.
My angle was to begin with the idea of able-bodied society’s instinctive, gut-level sense of discomfort and fear regarding disabled bodies, which is outlined in disability studies scholar Fiona Kumari Campbell’s book Contours of Ableism. Briefly, Campbell distinguishes between disableism, which are the set of discriminatory ideas and practices that construct the world in such a way that it favors the able-bodied and marginalizes the disabled, and ableism, which is the set of constructed meanings that set disabled bodies themselves apart as objects of distaste and discomfort. In this sense, disabled bodies are imbued with a kind of queerness – they are Other in the most physical sense, outside and beyond accepted norms, unknown and unknowable, uncontrollable, disturbing in how difficult they are to pin down. Campbell identifies this quality of unknowability and uncontainability as especially, viscerally horrifying.
Can an identity have a homepage?
Many have long argued that identity is the result of both (1) performative work on the part of the individual as well as (2) the influence of society with all of its history, structures, institutions, norms and so on. We do not produce our identities in a vacuum, they are influenced by society. And we do not blindly consume our identities from the options given to us; humans are complex beings who creatively tweak, mix and remix to achieve something always unique. Not just producers or consumers, it is best to think of ourselves as identity prosumers. Here, we will show how this process is made most explicit when identities are prosumed through social media technologies. (more…)
Jeff Jarvis wrote a critique of having multiple identities on social media (find the post on his blog – though, I found it via Owni.eu). While acknowledging that anonymity has enabled WikiLeaks or protestors of repressive regimes, he finds little utility for not being honest on social media about yourself. Jarvis argues against having multiple identities, e.g., one Twitter account for work and another for friends or a real Facebook for one group and a fakebook (a Facebook profile with a false name) for another.
Jarvis argues that the problems associated with presenting yourself in front of multiple groups of people (say, your mother, boss, best friend, recent fling, etc) will fade away under a state of “mutually assured humiliation.” Since we will all have the embarrassment of presenting a self to multiple groups, we all will forgive each other so that others will return the same favor to us. “The best solution”, Jarvis argues, “is to be yourself. If that makes you uneasy, talk to your shrink.” This is reminiscent of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who stated “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” or current Google CEO Eric Schmidt who said that “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
The obvious problem with this line of thinking is that the problems associated with displaying a single self in front of multiple populations is not “mutually” the same for all. Just as WikiLeaks or protestors often use anonymity to counter repressive and/or powerful regimes, we know that anonymity is also used by the most vulnerable and least powerful on the personal level as well. Jarvis misses the important variables of power and inequalities in his analysis.
Having a stigmatized and not always accepted identity can bring much conflict (more…)
It is long established that digital identity is a highly fluid concept. Since the earliest days of public engagement with the Internet, this has been a feature of the discourse: the realm of the virtual allows one to construct identity from the ground up, to assume a kind of control over self-presentation not possible in the realm of the flesh, to be or to seem to be anyone, anything, anywhere.
In practice, of course, this is clearly not the case–or not the whole case. Virtuality affords people a kind of power in the construction of the digital body that they do not have with their actual body. But when one presents the self online, they most often present that self in settings and contexts that other people have constructed. This is one place where problems with the presentation of the digital body tend to arise. When one plays in someone else’s garden, one might be expected to play by their rules. This is generally well and good, but things turn problematic when the “rules” involve the imposition of categories or identities that people may not accept.
This issue recently came to a head regarding deviantART’s “gender” field in its user profile. The trouble in question started when a user who identified as “neutrois” took issue with the fact that the choices in the field were restricted to male and female–there had been an “unspecified” option, but for unclear reasons it had been removed, forcing users to choose between only the two. There followed a number of exchanges with deviantART support personnel. These got rather heated, and it became clear that there was significant confusion on deviantART’s part regarding the difference between sex and gender (which amounts to the difference between genitalia and identity). In the end, though an “other” option was added, most people following the exchanges felt that it was not a satisfactory solution. (more…)
While we do not necessarily use the term “cyborg” in the way Donna Haraway used it in her famous 1985 “Cyborg Manifesto,” Haraway’s work is of great importance to many of the topics covered on the Cyborgology blog.
As I see it, the primary takeaway from Haraway is the existence of a recursive relationship between technology and social organization. More importantly, as each iteration of this relationship unfolds, there opens a new field across which power relations operate. Haraway is far more optimistic than Foucault or Baudrillard, however, who opine about our inability to escape the techno-social system. For Haraway, we become empowered by figuring out, and, subsequently learning to manipulate, the code that organizes society in any given technological milieu. (more…)