When we go online, we bring our bias with us

Abstract from Megan Boler’s Hypes, hopes and actualities: new digital Cartesianism and bodies in cyberspace in the journal, New Media & Society

‘New Digital Cartesianism’ investigates the socio-material power inequities embedded in text-based, computer-mediated communication (CMC). Is the body really transcended in text-based computer-mediated communication? This article  summarizes software and hardware advertising ‘hypes’, cyber-enthusiast ‘hopes’, and the ‘actualities’ of CMC which contradict this virtual dream of pure minds communicating. Marketing hypes and cyberhopes mythologize disembodied CMC with promises of anonymity and fluid identities. However, the actualities of how users interpret and derive meaning from text-based communication often involve reductive bodily markers that re-invoke stereotypes of racialized, sexualized and gendered bodies. Ironically, despite claims that CMC achieves Descartes’ dream of ‘pure minds’ and the transcendence of body, users frequently rely on stereotyped images and descriptions of bodies in order to confer authenticity and signification to textual utterances. In digital Cartesianism, the body actually functions as a necessary arbiter of meaning and final signifier of what is accepted as ‘real’ and ‘true’.


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Filed under Anonymity, Identity, Same as it ever Was, Technology, our Mirror, Virtual Communities

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