The Cyborg project, as articulated by Haraway, is at its core, a utopic project. It is the melding of mechanical and organic, digital and physical, human, machine, and animal in such a way that categorizations cease to hold meaning, and in turn, cyborg bodies break through repressive boundaries.
And yet here we are, at the pinnacle of a cyborg era, inundated with high tech, engaged simultaneously in digital and physical spaces, maintaining relationships with organic and mechanical beings, constituted with and through language, medicines—and increasingly—machines, and we STILL have to deal with bullshit like this (click below to view):
Nothing like a nice post-gentrification stoll!
As if we needed more examples to demonstrate that ‘the digital’ & ‘the physical’ are part of the same larger world, it seems there’s no end to the applicability of demographic metaphors to trends in social media. I wrote about App.net and “white flight” from Facebook and Twitter last month, so you can imagine how my head broke on Monday when I first heard about “New MySpace.” My first question—after, “wait, what?”—was, “Is this like when the white people start moving back into urban cores to live in pricey loft conversions?”
I didn’t do a detailed overview of danah boyd’s (@zephoria) work on MySpace, Facebook, and white flight last time, so I start with that below (though I recommend that anyone interested in this topic check out boyd’s very readable chapter in Race After the Internet, which you can download here [pdf]). I then look at some of the coverage of New MySpace this week to make the argument that there are some strong parallels between the site’s impending “makeover” and the “urban renewal” efforts sometimes called gentrification or regentrification.
Photos by Nathan Jurgenson, taken in Washington, D.C., 17, January 2012.
Malcolm Harris has posted one of the most provocative things I’ve ever read about social media, “Twitterland.” I’d like to point you the story and go through some of the many issues he brings to light. Harris’ story is one of theorizing Twitter and power; it can reinforce existing power imbalances, but, as is the focus here, how it can also be used to upset them.
Harris begins by taking on the idea that Twitter is a “tool” or an “instrument”, arguing that, no, Twitter is not a map, but the territory; not the flier but the city itself; hence the title “Twitterland.” However, in nearly the same breath, Harris states he wants to “buck that trend” of “the faulty digital-dualist frame the separates ‘real’ and online life.” As most readers here know, I coined the term digital dualism and provided the definition on this blog and thus have some vested interest in how it is deployed. And Harris’ analysis that follows indeed bucks the dualist trend, even though I would ask for some restating of the more theoretical parts of his argument. I’d like to urge Harris not to claim that Twitter is a new city, but instead focus on how Twitter has become part of the city-fabric of reality itself. (more…)
White flight happens both online and offline. What is it with some white people?
Recently mentions of a new “real-time social feed” called App.net have been creeping into my Twitter feed. Just as the quietly simmering Diaspora and the running joke that is G+ were geared to seize on collective Facebook malaise, it seems App.net is trying to seize on some degree of unrest among Twitter users before taking on Facebook as well. In this case, App.net promises that “users and developers [will] come first, not advertisers”; in an era of “if it’s free, you’re the product”—remember that the much love/hated Facebook “[is] free and always will be”—App.net proposes to offer a Twitter-like social feed (and eventually a “powerful ecosystem based on 3rd-party developer built ‘apps’”) on a paid membership basis instead.
"For Trayvon Martin" mural by "Israel" in Third Ward Houston. Photo taken by Jenni Mueller.
On February 26, 2012 Trayvon Martin, a Black, 17 a year old, unarmed, high school student, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a White Hispanic man acting in the self-appointed position of neighborhood watch captain (click here for more details).
The case has become a symbolic battle ground for two important issues: gun laws and racism. Although both of these issues are inextricably entwined, for purposes of simplicity, I will focus here only on the issue of race.
As Jessie Daniels importantly points out on Racism Review, battles over racism have shifted into the realm of social media, where digital and physical race relations persist in an augmented relationship. We see this in both the progressive anti-racist discourses, and the racial smear campaigns surrounding the Martin/Zimmerman case.
Although it is important to expose the overtly racist tactics utilized by some of Zimmerman’s defenders—of which there are plenty—I want to talk here about a more subtle, and so perhaps more problematic form of racial discourse. Specifically, I will talk about how a prominent strategy of protest—coming out of the liberal left—may inadvertently perpetuate, rather than challenge, racial hierarchies in their most dehumanizing form. (more…)
This brief essay attempts to link two conceptualizations of the important relationship of the on and offline. I will connect (1) my argument that we should abandon the digital dualist assumption that the on and offline are separate in favor of the view that they enmesh into an augmented reality and (2) the problematic view that the Internet transcends social structures to produce something “objective” (or “flat” to use Thomas Friedman’s term).
Instead, recognizing that code has always been embedded in social structures allows persistent inequalities enacted in the name of computational objectivity to be identified (e.g., the hidden hierarchies of Wikipedia, the hidden profit-motive behind open-source, the hidden gendered standpoint of computer code, and so on). I will argue that the fallacy of web objectivity is driven fundamentally by digital dualism, providing further evidence that this dualism is at once conceptually false, and, most importantly, morally problematic. Simply, this specific form of digital dualism perpetuates structural inequalities by masking their very existence. (more…)
Orcs, Trolls, Elves and more. With such fantastical races and landscapes, online gaming is an area where people can seemingly escape reality and all the expectations of society. For newcomers to the world of online gaming, it seems like anything can happen. You can be whomever you want to be, your race, gender, sexuality or physical limitations no longer matter. Games without avatars provide an even deeper layer of anonymity for players; for all you know, you could be playing against a faceless being behind a computer.
However as most people will quickly realize, the online gaming world is very similar to the “real life” world and strong assumptions and stereotypes regarding players still exist. Players can largely avoid racial stereotypes as it’s hard to tell the race of the person behind the screen, however, gender stereotypes are harder to escape.
After a short period of time, (more…)
Presider: Jessie Daniels
The panel I organized for the Theorizing the Web conference was called, “Cyber Racism, Race & Social Media.” A key theme of all the papers in this session was that race, racism and caste, are enduring features of media across geographic and temporal boundaries, and across cultures.
In the late 1990s, a popular television commercial advertisement captured the zeitgeist of thinking about the web at that time.
This notion that the Internet is a place where “there is no race,” is also one that’s permeated Internet studies. Early on scholars theorized that the emergence of virtual environments and a culture of fantasy would mean an escape the boundaries of race and the experience of racism. A few imagined a rise in identity tourism, that is, people using the playful possibilities of gaming to visit different racial and gender identities online (Nakamura, 2002; Turkle, 1997).
Presider: Katie King
Panel members’ research and stories take us across and beyond assumptions or claims that social media have isolating effects or reduce intimacy, or that they train psyches to reside in virtual spaces removed from embodiment. Instead these particular “augmented encounters” add rather than subtract embodiments, multiply intensities of affect and its meanings, and complicate political intersectionalities across media, together with identity formations.
Multimodel communication and transmedia storytelling are forms of transdisciplinary research here, both objects of analysis and ways of sharing analysis. They include projects addressing
- transnational migration and connection across space and race,
- rape discourse standards across media platforms with implications for communication across worlds,
- queering the normativities of computer code embodiments for an augmented critical study of codes, and
- exploring how the techno-organic social worlds of college students are pressured into and by these very multimodel communications.
The abstracts for the panel includes: (more…)
As many of you already know, the Cyborgology editors decided to throw a conference called Theorizing the Web. The conference will be in College Park, MD (just outside of Washington, D.C.) on April 9th. Today we are excited to announce the program for the conference and attach a flier that we hope you all can distribute to those who you think might be interested.
As you will see, the response was terrific. We built 14 panels out of the 56 papers we accepted (from the over 100 submissions). There will be three invited panels (on feminist activism, race, and methods). There will be two symposia (one on the role of social media in the Arab uprisings and another on social media and street art). There will be two plenaries (one by Saskia Sassen and another by George Ritzer). And we are excited to have danah boyd deliver our keynote.
If that was not enough, we have plenty of art-related surprises in store for those who attend. We have invited artists of all types to display and perform art specifically tailored to the themes of the conference. This will be one busy carnivalesque day for those who love technology and/or theory!
The program is found here: http://www.cyborgology.org/theorizingtheweb/program.html
Last, a flier for the conference [.pdf here]. Please distribute widely!