The Online Body Breaks Out? Asence, Ghosts, Cyborg, Gender, Polarity and Politics

Fibreculture Publications
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Fibreculture, 2004, 3 (3), pp. 1 - 21
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Representations of the online body seem constantly involved with issues of imprecise, crossed or broken boundaries. Online boundaries, both personal and group, appear especially fluid when contrasted with moves towards establishing impermeable boundaries offline. This contributes to perceptions of disembodiment or potential unity with machines. Online bodies are thus described in terms reminiscent of other constructs such as ghosts partly because experiences of materiality can be described in terms of boundary issues, and partly because it is difficult to bring offline bodies to bear. From another angle, gender, when constructed as a polarity, also serves to ghost experience. However, online bodies are also connected to constructions and feelings of offline bodies to reduce ambiguities and to establish authenticity online. For example, mood, as sustained by the offline body, acts as a framing for communication in netsex, mourning and flame. Another popular body metaphor in this context involves the description of people as cyborgs. It is sometimes claimed that cyborgs form radical hybrid entities. Yet cyborgs also get caught in boundary issues. The cyborg is, for example, caught in narratives that further capitalist technopower, whatever our intentions. The situation becomes even more complex when we consider that both the ghostly body and the cyborg body are often contrasted with a virile and active offline body. This provides a further set of paradoxes if we consider the possibility of online action affecting the offline world. There are no easy answers.
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