Weekly Post 10

by alexcarson

1: Putting aside the Turkle reading’s romanticism over communicative technologies (I honestly find the term “cyborg” a bit tiring in academia), I was very interested in the point raised via the man on the subway train. She claims that people seem to go out of their way “not to listen” to people on the phone in public, but I’ve observed the opposite effect, especially in situations where being on one’s phone is frowned upon. I think that her second notion, though – that the rest of the world becomes invisible to the individual using digital communication – is meritous and feeds back into ideas if disembodiment and digital technology, as well.

2: Ito’s article raised an interesting idea for me very early. In his “kit” notion, he raises the presence of credit and transit cards as “digital” technology. I just bought something earlier today, and going back over the process, I realized that if someone got my debit card they could use it for any number of things. Given how signatures work, they don’t even have to know my name. That goes double for my Metro card. This state of affairs raises a question for me. Are we directly connected to our identities anymore in day-to-day life? Certainly, many banks have measures in place such as demanding photo ID that would stop someone from walking into a bank and taking my money, nothing would stop someone with my metro card from spending it. Does this mean that they, in a sense, become me? Has my identity become separated from my actual body when someone possesses my digital device?

3: A question I believe is raided in the Fischer reading, particularly by the notion of “friends” in a digital age, is if we hold our online and offline friends to different standards. I know growing up, my parents were pretty clear that my online friends did not constitute “real” friends, and to a degree I wonder if a lack of physical proximity to someone does impact the ability to make friends with someone. On the other hand, some of my most enriching relationships at least began online, so even if there is a barrier I wonder if it’s a permanent one or one that will become thinner as the people born in the digital age grow older.


Disembodiment: I consider this a major theme in this chapter, especially with the second question I’m posting. With the presence we’ve established in the digital world, do we maintain our identity when separated from our devices

Social Network: I think the use of the term in the Fischer reading perhaps calls for a comparison of how physical social network (inasmuch as they exist in the physical world) “look” compared to digital networks, and how the two have begun to intertwine.

Life, The Internet, and Everything In Between?

by alyssaneuner

1. In terms of the Reconstruction of Space and Time I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about two of the ideas presented (a) camping and (b)cocooning and how these terms are similar in their construction but different in their location. Both are designs that focus heavily on personalization, from the physical device to the use of technology within that space, from which device is being transported and to what it is being used for. When reading the section on camping I made a note to myself “silence? You’re writing in a public café” (in regards to Bob who goes to his local café). Then I started thinking, the location is his to navigate but it is not his to control – the control comes from the portable technologies and what the infrastructure of the public space allows him the opportunity to do as well. The silence is his lack of interaction with the occupants of the space, so he creates his own cocoon. This cocoon is his way of privatizing a public space and creating his own sonic space. I’m also thinking about private cocooning. This idea needs to be fleshed out a bit more, but this is something I’m interested in researching and looking at a bit more, the idea of cocooning oneself within their private space, what about people with agoraphobia, who have a constant fear of leaving their own space, how do they experience location based media devices (other than cell phones)?
2. While reading Still Connected I couldn’t shake this sense of loneliness as a meta term for everything and anything that could potentially describe aloneness (which was mentioned in the first chapter). The idea that these reports used such meta terminology as a scare tactic of some sort. I also think its language like this that perpetuates misinformation and the misled public into believing that technology is the root of all evil. Or language like this that forces me to do the research that I do and inform the public that technology does not necessarily create loneliness and can be a factor in the perpetuation of communities and community ideals. I think it’s also interesting how the differences from the 1970s to today is mostly societal, albeit there have been technological innovations that have changed the ways in which we live our everyday lives, the societal changes have affected us across the board. With the lowering of the birth rate, the raising of the average marriage rate, all of these things change the ways in which we interact with each other.
3. One main thing that I was struggling with in Turkle’s chapter was the idea that the Internet is this heavenly thing that allows for consequence free experimenting – so much so I used an interrobang to show my confusion and somewhat disdain for this type of thinking. This isn’t to say that the Internet is not used to explore identity; however, the case can be and has been made the body still gets read in very racialized and gendered ways, especially through the use of language that it is nearly impossible to reach a utopian picture of the Internet. Communities are still forming around specific ideas and allow for people to explore within the community same as the material world, but the idea of the Internet as utopian is a bit of a stretch. I also find it interesting that she uses The Guild’s “Do You Want to Date My Avatar?” as an example of the body in virtual worlds saying that “once we remove ourselves from the flow of physical, messy, untidy life — and both robotics and networked life do that — we become less willing to get out there and take a chance. A song that became popular on YouTube in 2010, “Do You Want to Date My Avatar?” ends with the lyrics “And if you think I’m not the one, log off, log off and we’ll be done.” I struggle with that because it is a parody of what MMORPGs are and do. I would argue that in this instance there is no removal of ones self from this physical, untidy life, because MMORPGs represent a place that is a replication of the material places in which we exist. There is a life that we start living that gets messy, untidy, but is still physical. In short I think she gives the Internet too much credit and fails to acknowledge the actualities.

Week 9

by tatianabenjamin

Space: as multiplicity, being able to occupy multiple spaces through virtual extension

  1. I am interested in the discussion of authenticity and real and how these concepts can apply to our understanding of nation and belonging. What makes an authentic citizen in the digital age? What makes one an American? Or a transnational subject?  I am trying to conceptualize/ complicate the transnational subject in the virtual.
  2. I think the concept of being everywhere and now where is interesting way to play around with the Diasporic subject.  Where and what point in time does one become or stop being a Diasporic being. Stone’s article made question these ideas of being and becoming with in the virtual. Are we always becoming the space of the virtual?
  3. When dealing with the virtual we are is always fragmented and complicated. The extensions of who we are in the virtual force us to question how that impacts the real. How does one create a transnational virtual subject? What is this subject allowed to do post deportation? Are they able form virtual communities that allow them to have embodied experience while no longer being in the states?

Liveness and the Digital

by emilywarheit

I found the discussion of photography, particular Barthes’s take on it, kind of quaint coming from the perspective where photoshop is the norm and the idea of an image being proof of something is almost laughable. We expect images to be manipulated, and indeed an inexplicable amount of digital space is devoted to memes of manipulating and juxtaposing images. However, I do agree with Dixon in his assessment that in performance the images wield more power than bodies, so has the power and seeming veracity of the image remained even though we know images can and do lie?

Of anything, I think Stone’s descriptions of Stephen Hawking and phone sex did more to bring home the idea of how the digital could replicate actual space for me than anything else. I think the Stephen Hawking story also illustrates the debate between Auslander and Phelan pretty aptly. I just had my undergraduates read Auslander and they get so upset (as do I) at his dismissal of the importance of the live, and I am always still left with the question of why we care about being present in the room, even if Hawking is speaking through a digital device?

When thinking about liveness and the digital, there is also the phenomenon of temporal liveness. This is particularly important for things like sports or the presidential debate. No one wants to watch these things on TiVo, because they have very little meaning once the moment has passed. This brings to mind for me Anderson’s concept of simultaneity, and how it is perhaps changed by the different ways we can consume and interact with information in the moment.

Live: Witnessed a) in person at the time of performance or b) simultaneously but remotely.

Virtual: replicated in some way that distinguishes it from the real.

Prosthetics, Language and Space

by justinsprague

1) Stone briefly addresses technology and the shift from sleekness to leaking and derelict looking items. I wonder, what does this say about apple? Not only is there a palpable shift back to sleek and streamlined accessibility, I wonder about the (now outdated) notions that apple products were impervious to viruses, much like prosthetics are sleek imaginations of human body parts, but they operate outside of the human body system. Your prosthetic leg cannot get a blood clot. Where does the apple/pc debate fall in line with this discourse aligning technology and digital spaces with physical topographies/commodities?

2) I’m interested in this idea of authority and agency in digital environments. If authority and agency, as Stone notes, is predicated on ‘presence,’ then I’m interested in the way language acts to impose some sense of presence to digital spaces. For instance, using shields for virus protection or calling the gateway to the Internet an ‘explorer.’

3) In the same vein, with Sobchack in mind, what are the ways language creates a terrain that’s imaginable in physical terms, to incite both self-surveillance and notions of physicality to understand this landscape? Also, how does shifting the use of a descriptive word (using it as an adjective or noun, etc) alter our understanding of both what it is describing as well as what it signifies physically?

Life is a cabaret

by jessicawalker

My question in relation the Dixon article is about power and authority. Firstly, I wonder how the real gets marked as valuable and is the reader to assume that the real is sacred or just a supreme paradox and then I would have to ask from what cultural and social locations is it deemed an paradox—basically to whom is reality a problem? This isn’t a question about bodies and identity but rather about power. Barthes writes that “the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation” in arguing for the ability for photographs’ to be a certain kind of reality. What power? From where does it emanate? Does the power come from authenticity? And if so is authenticity a disciplining discourse that categorizes reality so that different facets of reality can be acted on unevenly by power? Auslander is also noted to give authority to live and mediatized forms so that he can argue for their reciprocal relation list in the live performance of Pps Danse’s Poles (124). There is also a reliance upon the language of domination to characterize the role of the virtual in live performance. Again, is the authority, power, dominance, and authenticity of the forms of representation and performance in this article given by the theorist summarized, assumed by the reader, or assumed to be a universal cultural phenomena?

Dixon notes the Phlean in particular fetishizes ephemeral experience by privileging it to a point where its divorced from its material conditions and becomes as stand alone, temporary expression.  Sobchak explains how the metaphor of prosthetic has become fetishized because it is used as a floating signifier that has no grounding in its literal material functioning. I’m trying to think about the work of fetishization in how we express lived reality. Is fetshiziation necessary for the articulation of experience where experience is always about privileging being present in something in relation to not privileging being present in something else? And does the fetishization of certain formations whether it be the prosthetic as metaphor, or the ephemeral experience as the essence of performance, help us point to how sensing or making sense of experience is an ability? Sobchak writes “the current metaphorical displacement of the prosthetic into other contexts because of its analogical usefulness in pointing out certain…structural and functional resemblances between idea also—and mistakenly—displaces agency from human to artifact… (212).” Do we need the fetish to reveal these structural and functional resemblances?

I think Sobchak’s piece speaks not only to the problematic use of the prosthetic as metaphor but also to a certain preoccupation with explaining the chasm between ideal and material existence. She writes, “That is, the prosthetic’s many inconsistencies in use and its combination of elements that are theoretically paradoxical yet creatively functional not only account for the fascination it holds for others but also open up imagination and analysis to an expanded range of both action and description (216).” How is liveness implicated in these same paradoxes’? Is it implicated in them?

Space: A infinite processes whereby interconnecting systems of global, social, cultural and embodied knowledges inform the value of place. Space is a right.

Place: Fixed in the material and moving freely. Facilitated by place marking objects like maps.

Identity: The processes of having the ability to sense your presence in space—to know you are alive. How you make sense of places’ relationships to the idea of individualism.

Liveness and Telepresence

by averydame

1. In Dixon’s chapter on “liveness,” he’s focused primarily on staged performance, which has a particularly staged quality, versus audiovisual recordings. However, I wonder how his insights can be applied to other communicative forms, particularity asynchronous ones–which would, by virtue of being being asynchronous, are not necessarily live. Dixon’s assertion that presence vis-à-vis audience engagement is “dependent  on  the  compulsion  of  the  audiovisual  activity,  not on  liveness  or  corporeal three-dimensionality” (132) is useful here, I think.

2. One of my big recurring problems with Stone’s piece was how culture/enculturation was entirely absent from her understanding of how others communicate. In example, she argues information and communication technologies (ICT) operate under the assumption that “humans act at a distance by delegating their agency to someone or something else that has the freedom to travel out of their sight, and if we follow that agency back far enough, eventually we can trace it to the original human’s physical presence, where the buck stops” (183). I would argue it’s not just the body the speaker returns to, but their cultural background equally influences their communicative ability (which is connected, but not synonymous, with the body). The contextualization cues of one speaker may be lost on another, creating miscommunication. Where can we place culture in Stone’s framework, then?

3. Reading Stone and Sobchack side-by-side, I was struck by the role of “play” and metaphor in both. Stone’s use of “prosthetic” is explicitly playful, but as Sobchack persuasively argues, Stone’s usage empties the term of value. As some who works with trans folks (a favorite object of similarly problematic “play” by gender theorists), I’m interested in thinking about the boundary between metaphor and metalepsis in other areas as well.

Prosthetics, language and presence

by felixburgos

1. As we have discussed in different classes, we have used metaphors to understand what is currently happening in the age of technology: the computer emulates the human brain; the virtual space emulates imagination and creativity; prosthetics (as shown in Sobchack and Stone) is the way in which we explain the notion of an epoch in which technology is the extension of social and human experience. Indeed, those metaphors are only ways to explain something that cannot be explained with new words or concepts. If this is the case, should we think about new manners to talk about technology and its influence on social relations? What should be the foundations of this language that helps us explain what happens in the realm of the virtual, the physical and their boundaries?

2. There was a part in Stone’s article that made me think about our discussion of the Virtual and the Physical space: “In cyberspace you are everywhere and somewhere and nowhere, but almost never here in the positivst sense.” After all our readings and discussions so far I thought I had understood that the “virtual” space was an extension of the “physical” space (I’m not trying to be too simplistic here because these concepts bring several philosophical considerations that need to be carefully revised). My point is that embodiment seems to become a problematic aspect in these virtual-vs-physical discussions. What is a body when we consider these conceptual divisions? What are physical and virtual bodies?

3. Something fascinating about Dixon’s chapter is his discussion on presence in contrast to liveness: “presence is about interest and command of attention, not space or liveness.” (p. 132)  It is possible to think that on the internet we are “asynchronous” performers (think of youtube videos, blogposts, etc) and “live” performers (Skype?).  I wonder whether the way we interact on internet is more based on “presence” than on the experience of a space in the virtual realm.

Making the Body (oops, forgot to tag!)

by cassygriff

As I read Sobchack and Stone’s work, I began thinking about the slippages between the notion of prosthetics as metaphor and materiality. That is, while Sobchack takes to task the tendency of scholars to use the idea of the prosthetic as a metaphor for just about everything, especially in terms of the digital, I wonder if there are ways in which the digital and the material collide to break down the distinction Sobchack sees. For example, while a cell phone camera is, at least materially, very unlike a prosthetic leg, the ubiquity of certain types of cell phones renders them very nearly necessary. In a sense, they do function as prosthetic eyes, ears, and voice boxes not because they replace that which is missing or non-functional, but because we need them to exist in the material (and digital) space. Which leads me to my next question…

How do processes of globalization, capitalism, and neoliberalism (sorry for the buzzwords) create the need for certain devices to become prosthetics? While, again, I am not arguing that a laptop is the same as a leg, but hasn’t our growing use and reliance on certain types of technology created a body that is always incomplete (I’m looking at you, Donna Haraway)? I’ll share an anecdote: on my very first day of graduate school, I sat down at the table in the room we always meet in, took out my notebook and waited for class to start. After everyone arrived, Dr. Farman sat down at the table, said a few words about the course, and (this is the part I remember really, really well) looked at the table in front of me and said, “you have a laptop, right?” He then proceeded to look horrified at himself and said something along the lines of “Oh God, I can’t believe I just said that.” I did have a laptop and proceeded to bring it with me to every class since. It, of course, has proven not only useful, but necessary to my ability to function in an academic space. Without it, I am neither fully present nor able to engage completely with the class. So, the question: what processes turn certain objects into prosthetics?

I am troubled this week about the fact that a series of articles in which embodiment is a key aspect does not deal directly with aspects of race and class. Although Sobchack does explain that her insurance pays for her incredibly expensive prosthetic and that she would not be able to afford it otherwise, I still found myself yearning for some sort of discussion about the ways that race and class impact the availability of prosthetics or the way that prosthetics are theorized or utilized.


Body: The physical/corporeal form which, in a complex process of internal and external discipline, is shaped to interact with that which is outside of it in a temporally, culturally, and socially specific manner. Not necessarily organic.

Place: A space whose specificity is connected not only to the bodies that occupy it, but also the ideas that are mapped onto it. Also impacts the ways in which the body can/must be configured and utilized.

Discussion Lead – Stone, Sobchack, Dixon

by alyssaneuner

1) In ‘A Leg to Stand On’ it is quite clear that Sobchack is in no way offended by metaphor of ‘technology as prosthesis’ – however she finds it rather incomplete. In my understanding and reading of this chapter I found myself questioning my own usage of the term prosthetic in terms of technology. I caught myself in my own work romanticizing the term and fetishizing it, similar to those she is discussing, I found myself reevaluating my own language as I have with many things over the course of my academic career, to find better suited words to describe the ways in which we use technology and how we have become connected to and with technology in this day and age. Although I have not found a new term in my own language, I will be refraining from metaphor after reading this. But this aside, what I find most helpful about this article is the idea that the metaphor of ‘technology as prosthesis’ removes agency, lived experience, and embodiment from the amputee body. The amputee body becomes invisible and silenced by the representation of the prosthetic as having agency. This metaphor also privileges the whole physical body, rather than a body compiled of ‘parts.’
In this metaphor we see the prosthetic receive specific types of agency, Sobchack refers to popular culture examples to explain this concept – “as an effect of the prosthetic’s amputation and displacement from its mundane context, the animate and volitional human beings who use prosthetic technology disappear into the background – passive, if not completely invisible – and the prosthetic is seen to have a will and life of its own… For example, Alison Landsberg, in “Prosthetic Memory,” cites an Edison film, made as early as 1908, called The Thieving Hand in which an armless beggar is provided with a prosthetic arm that once belonged to a thief and, against his will – but not the arm’s – starts stealing” (211). But I’m curious to see what the class thinks about the physical body losing its own agency in both the metaphor and popular culture examples of the prosthetic and prosthetic technologies, because a technological prosthesis is something that acts as an extension of the body while an actual prosthesis is a part of the body.

2) In the piece Split Subjects Not Atoms I’d like to focus on this argument that Stone posits of power relations and location technologies. To continue on this line of thought, Stone suggests that digital technologies change the ways in which governmental institutions or the government more broadly, display power over our bodies or tries and maintain control over bodies. Our bodies exist in multiple locations (and are no longer fixed objects) and therefor governments “[respond] to [this] fragmentation of their subjects [by developing] a hypertrophy of location technologies. These [technologies] work by fixing people in place in a fiduciary sense, by creating a paper trail that attaches to a particularized physical body; for example, social security numbers, passports, and street addresses.” I’d like to probe this a little bit in terms of surveillance as well as power and/or perceived power. Thinking also about technologies as not only digital and what this means in the terms of this class.

3) While going through Dixon’s chapter entitled ‘Liveness’ I must pose the question, is this all to say that reproduction is not authentic? Continuing this line of questioning, What does it mean to be authentic, to have authenticity, or even exist authentically? [Even going back to the discuss we had about the virtual and the actual — which we struggled to define.] 3b) What about media involvement — does this devalue the liveness of something?
3c) As I continued reading I also started to again approach some ideas of seeing and the visual. The section entitled Ontologies of Media made me think of film in terms of our eyes. Each blink a shutter closing and giving us “blackness,” similar to a film projection gives us blackness (or rather did) — so here lies another instance of the question I posed, what does it mean to see and experience seeing?

Week 9

by alexcarson

1: Maybe this is a simplification, but in Stone’s article there is one sentence which states “as I watch them, or rather their bodies (since their selves are off in the net)…”. It somewhat sums up some of my critiques of the theory put forth to ask why the projected self is no longer a part of the body? When someone is projecting themselves into digital space, do their selves suddenly become detached from their physical bodies? Even as I write this for the internet, I am noting that I’m hungry and will have to get food, but I don’t consider it to somehow sever my extension into the digital network I’m in.

2: Drawing from the above and the Sobchack reading, is it possible that the prothetic is an apt metaphor for the use of technology as a sense, to a degree, but that it’s being utilized wrong? By my reading, the manner that Sobcheck descibes his own prosthetic is similar to how I would describe engagement through digital “prosthetics”, but that broader academia has been utilizing it incorrectly for the same purpose. Maybe this goes into my belief that we do not disengage our bodies when we engage a digital network, but it seems like it is not the term that is wrong, but the way in which it is used.

3: In the Dixon article, why start the discussion of “liveness” with photography? I simply don’t see why photography is principally any different than a realistic portrait or a statue of someone created before the rise of modern technology. These embodiments of a person and all of the associated baggage with that person have been studied in various ways, so I wonder if we couldn’t glean more value about this concept of “liveness” by going further back.

Cartesian: Stone’s article in particular seems to draw on a separation of the senses from the body, and I suppose I would find myself siding with the first author in emphatically disagreeing with the notion.

Book Review: The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)

by averydame

Google’s omnipresence has become something of a cultural meme, as it seeks to “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” (Google 2012). Even Google has mocked of its own pervasiveness, with its 2009 April Fools prank, the “Brain Search” google mobile app, which promised to “index your brain” (GoogleMobileBlog 2009). But this shaping of perception and memory is exactly what is happening to the average Google user, according to Siva Vaidhyanathan. In The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) Vaidhyanathan seeks to “generate a fuller picture of what is at stake in this apparently costless transaction [between Google and its users] and a new model of surveillance that goes beyond the now trite Panopticon model” (9). Each chapter is themed around a particular function og Google, beginning with an introductory anecdote that frames the function in practice before moving into its specifics.

Early on in the book he establishes that his focus is on being accessible to both popular and academic audiences. While this does not affect the strength of his argument, Vaidhyanathan’s tone is more conversational, and the depth of detail he goes to is rather more shallow than one might expect from an academic text. However, this choice is reflective of his larger argument: there is distinct value in shining a light into the black box that is Google, demystifying its interior functions, motivations, and pervasiveness for its consumers, who span from academics to the interested reader who communicates only through GMail.

Vaidhyanathan begins by tracking Google’s rise from a project by two computer science Ph.D.s at Stanford to a $9.7 billion dollar corporation. He presents Google as a kind of Caesar who orders the disorganized and undisciplined Rome of the Internet through its search function. Google was set apart from its competitors by the sheer amount of data it seeks to consume in pursuit of better search. Google’s continued predominance merely increases its power, making it “better because it’s bigger, and bigger because it’s better” (20). Ultimately, Vaidhyanathan sees Google’s rise as a result of a larger “public failure” by the state to provide services to the general public–the inverse of market failure (40-41). And Google discourages the impulse for government regulation through liberal reference to its “motto,” “Don’t be evil,” a rhetorical trick that emphasizes faith over skepticism.

This faith is reflective of Chapter 2’s focus, the philosophy that has facilitated Google’s rise: techno-fundamentalism, wherein all problems can be solved by technology, even problems solved by other technology (55). Techno-fundamentalism,  Vaidhyanathan argues, hides the role of human bias and majority opinion in ordering how Google presents information to its users. In order to pull back the curtain, so to speak, he focuses on the functions of Google Search. The search list is representative of precise comprehensiveness, which “appears to be clear and ranked in order of relevance” and encouraged user trust (59). However, this precise comprehensiveness elides the role of the human in the ordering of search, an example of this being searching for “Jew.” Ultimately, Google search results represent a comfortable middle ground (60) often influenced by internet “elites” who determine the relevance of sites.

Chapter 3 considers the role of the user in Google’s ecosystem, specifically regarding privacy, surveillance, and the role of infrastructure. Choice, in Google’s system, is an illusion: though Google provides an array of options for users to control their privacy, few users understand these switches, making them irrelevant (89). Instead, most users use the default settings, which many not actually best protect their privacy. Instead of merely being about the information we share, Vaidhyanathan argues privacy should “[refer] to the terms of control over information, not the nature of the information we share” (93). Vaidhyanathan considers these issues by looking at user concerns outside the United States, particularly in Japan and the United Kingdom, around the Street View project. Google’s inclination to assuming universal surveillance as a default is itself an expression of ideology, reflective of a larger “infrastructural imperialism” (110-111). He proposes a “cryptopticon,” “we don’t know all the ways in which we are being watched or profiled–we simply know we are” (112).

Infrastructural imperialism then raises the question of just what Google’s role is in the global public sphere. In Chapter 4, Vaidhyanathan spends a large section of the chapter challenging public perceptions of both China’s Great Firewall and Google’s own position as a vanguard for the cause of free speech. As he points out, having access to a variety of information does not automatically promote change. Web search is “inherently conservative” by limiting “the number of surprises users will encounter.” Such search “inhibits rather than promotes social and political change” (133) by increasing users’ inclinations of tribalization.

The final two chapters focus primarily on Google’s attempts to fill in the gaps left by public failure: Google Books and Google’s increasing presence in higher education. Google Books, begun with the intent of making knowledge more accessible, instead increases Google’s overall power by exploiting weaknesses in copyright law. Google places faith in the power of search and the accuracy of metadata, but fails to replicate the knowledge and precise curatorial, filtering power of the librarian. Google seeks to fill a similar filtering role, but it cannot make distinctions regarding the value of the information it provides as “true or false, dependable or sketchy, polemical or analytical” (191). Thus function, according to Vaidhyanathan, is best left to professors and librarians, who can train students to understand these distinctions.

Vaidhyanathan closes the book by proposing a “Human Knowledge Project” modeled on the Human Genome Project, staffed by individuals trained in library and information science. This project would involves firms such as Google, but would not serve any one company’s financial interests. Instead, the focus would be placed on making knowledge available for the good of all. Though I am skeptical of his final exhortation, I think this work is particularly important because it does much to peel back Google’s layers and reach beyond the surface to bring forth Google’s hidden functions. For scholars who study communities with strong internet presences, particularly those where members communicate primarily online, this book is especially useful. It provides the groundwork for studies considering just how Google shapes community members’ perceptions and knowledges.


by melissarogers


Space: that which we create in and around us by virtue of our embodiment, by virtue of our relationships with other bodies (including objects), and by virtue of practices of representation (digital or otherwise).

Place: those specific spaces or locations to which we are affectively attached, bound, or oriented toward by virtue of meaningful relationships with other bodies (including objects), through embodied practices of power (biopolitics), and through practices of representation, visualization, and mapping; those spaces or locations that come into being through technologies of surveillance.

Identity: the enduring bodily and psychic perception and conception of self across spacetime(s), including the extension of self through cultural tools, technologies, and virtualities; the disciplining of self through technologies of surveillance; and the imagination of self in relation to virtual and actual communities.


To help organize our discussion today, I thought I would compile the questions from the blog posts as I’m noticing some common threads.

  1. Here’s a question of mine from last week, since I accidentally read de Souza e Silva and Sutko:

I find the frameworks that de Souza e Silva and Sutko lay out for thinking the virtual and the real to be immensely useful, especially when it comes to potential. I am also preoccupied with the language of “possible and incompossible worlds” (32), which I think has implications for community organizing of various kinds. They write, “For Borges, as for Deleuze, there is no longer a person who chooses among several worlds, as in Leibniz, but a person who is pressured by several selves, which are not masks or appearances (like in Plato), but indeed constitute the same person. This perspective frames the virtual into something that is ready to emerge, to be created, or to transform” (32-33). This is particularly useful for conceptualizing identity and intersectionality; it gives us a way to think about identification as a process, with multiple forms or modes of consciousness operating or salient at different times, a la Chela Sandoval. My question therefore is about the difficulty of writing about this process in an analysis, as language seems inadequate to the task of apprehending being/becoming. In our own research, how do we each deal differently with representing the slipperiness of identity as process?

2. Felix and Justin have asked about the role of the psychological, cognitive, imaginative, and I would add, affective in spatial practices, all of which have implications not only for theorizing the virtual through locative technologies but also for the “generative process” of design (Tierney). Similarly, Jessica V. has asked about memory and perception, and many of us seem preoccupied with developing a language for embodied experiences in virtual/actual worlds as well as in spacetime. Does the metaphor of the “virtual house” work for us? It might be productive to revisit our discussions of the cognitive/precognitive, as well as Butler’s arguments on the racial production of the visible. We could also clarify our terms: virtual, actual, real, material, physical, potential vs. possible.

3. Tatiana brought up the in-betweenness of transnational subjects and spaces, as well as the need to think space and place relationally. I agree with her that relationships are key here. How do we conceptualize being/becoming in-between, whether it’s in between past and future or in-between places and spaces? Many of us have also mentioned actualization; if the virtual is the background for our reality and new realities as Tierney claims, then how do we reconceptualize cause and effect and therefore individual and collective agency?

Virtual Insanity

by jessicawalker

If the self that uses locative technologies can indeed be an assemblages of many “selves” then do these selves influence how virtuality is actualized by the viewer? I really appreciate the idea that interactions with virtuality are not transportation into a mirrored, shadowed, or less substantive realm but indeed constitute a process of becoming where the physical environment becomes informed by virtual interactions. Sociality then comes to bear on this exchange so I’m wondering if the negotiation of selves that we find in interactions without locative technologies are also important to social interactions with locative technologies. I’ am especially thinking about strategic essentializing or code switching through social interaction—choosing which self is expressed to which viewer or participant. How is the viewer of your use of locative technology figured into this processes of becoming?

To whom is the virtual a problem or “something we must always experiment and work with in order to see it (Rajchman, 116).  Is there a limit on ones ability to see the potential of different possible worlds based on their location within a social hierarchy?

House is used to point the construction of certain “arrangements that determine our nature (Rajchman, 118).” The construction of the virtual house would seem to allow for the most complex number of arrangements within it. But does the virtual house need technology? I’m confused as to how other metaphors of home, that don’t necessarily rely on a house (as a normative thing that is constructed, has a plan, and is laid out in a certain way to contain) wouldn’t fit into this virtual house.

Space: A infinite processes whereby interconnecting systems of global, social, cultural and embodied knowledges inform the value of place. Space is a right.

Place: Fixed in the material and moving freely. Facilitated by place marking objects like maps.

Identity:  How you make sense of places’ relationships to the idea of individualism.

Virtual? What is it :/?

by tatianabenjamin

Space and Place: Thinking about the virtual and actual this week made me think about relationships. I have been spending a lot of time defining these terms separately. I am now trying to think through them as relational.  Space exists before there is a place. I thought about space as freedom this week, but we can only understand this freedom once we make it a place. Space is freedom because it exists but it has meaning because of the story it is filled with. Wit this story space becomes place. Overall, I want to work out the relationship between space and place.

1. I think we spend a lot of time concentrating on the dialectic. The virtual and the actual tend to be viewed as separate. What about the in-between space? Instead of an either or model can we have an “and”? This may be what the Rajchman reading is raising about possibility, but I am unsure.

2. Thinking about this in-between space made me think about the De Souza e Silva article where she discusses the virtual as an extension us. But she describes this understanding as heavily contested. Is it contested because we do not have a way of talking about an in-between space? For instance, what does it mean for a transnational subject to be in Barbados but talking to someone via skype in the New York? I would argue that they are having a dual experience. What would this experience mean for belonging if they were one U.S. residents? Although the person on the other side of the computer is a representation of the real they are still experiencing it through their interaction with that space.

3. My last question is simple, what are the embodied experiences with in the virtual? I am just trying to move the virtual from the abstract. I struggled with understanding the theorizing of the virtual. Does it only exist theoretical?