Posted to my unit bulletin board in relation to readings about post-modernism
and gender issues in the online world;
Personally, I found some of these readings to be a little dry in their supposed
analysis of certain aspects of the emerging world.
"There seems to be no reason why the environment that humans have created
should not reflect their inner selves" says the author of ‘Postmodernism:
People, Computers, and the Internet’; this is a gimme! Of course the things
we create will (always) reflect our inner selves, what else could they possibly
reflect? Admittedly we create things which are intended to reflect our surroundings,
other people, etc etc, but in doing so, everything we do reflects ourselves
in some way. If you want to really ‘do your head in’ about what we can and cannot
do, and about where things might be going, check out http://www.singinst.org/what-singularity.html
The fact that this text went from 3100 words to 1700 when all the block quotes
were removed was somewhat offensive – nearly half the ‘work’ was directly
someone else’s, and most of those quotes don’t even really serve to support
the text anyway, they just provide an interesting pseudo-modern-art feel to
the essay. I didn’t really feel like I came away with much from that essay at
all, in fact I got more from this article about buying donuts and coffee; http://www.kottke.org/03/07/030717business_les.html
– seriously, it’s a good read.
Elizabeth Lawley’s paper, on the other hand, had promise, but flopped for me
as well. She had the opportunitiy to really explore sexless (in the male/female
sense) existence, the nature of de-sexed (again, male/female) existence and
a variety of other interesting issues, but instead chose to walk the well trodden
‘females being oppressed’ path. Her own argument was that in the online world,
women don’t need to be discriminated against, and she is dead right – online,
women are most definitely equal to men, and if they really want to be, they
can be a man as well. I absolutely, 100% agree that in the online world, women
really have a chance to be on a directly equal footing to men, completely aside
from any discrimination and pre-comceptions we might carry from the physical
world, but it’s a case of get moving, get doing, it’s not going to do it it’s
A couple years ago, I used to frequent chat rooms a bit; a very common introduction
might go something like;
User1: hey, howzit goin?
User2: good – u?
User1: not bad – hey, a/s/l?
User2: 14/f/perth – u?
User1: oh ok, 16/m/adelaide
The a/s/l stands for age, sex, location – it was a common question which allowed
you, an one line, to wrap people in a physical context which meant you could
visualise this person you were conversing with – it gave you a ‘face’ for the
‘name’. From what I have seen, this trend is disappearing – people don’t bother
now, because it really doesn’t matter. If, in another forum of some sort, I get
asked anything along those lines, I politely ignore it – it really makes no
difference to my conversations online at the end of the day. Women who are feeling
opressed, disadvantaged, downtrodden – whatever, feel free to take advantage
of this. Get out there and make a name for yourself – if you’ve got something
to say that people want to hear, then you will find there are a lot of ears (eyes?)
out there ready to listen.
Sorry, getting off track here a little.
I do think that gender and race-centric analyses and deconstructions of the
net are valuable, because, as with all other x-centric approaches, they provide
a different perspective, a different angle, and will often expose completely
different information. Without taking the time to look at things from all perspectives,
we will no doubt miss out on important facts about how the net is affecting
Basically, I think to a large extent that the future of the Internet will
bring about more equality, where men, women and CHILDREN will interact on equal
terms, based purely on their ability to interact. It’s interesting to note that
a lot of the young people today are actually quite terrible at interacting textually
(or even verbally) outside their own, very insular circles. I think this will
change, because those circles will be cross-continental and entirely international,
so we are going to need to know how to get along with each other. This may be
a long way off, but it’s coming.
Don’t get me wrong – discrimination will still be rife, but it will be a new
type of discrimination; discrimination of the mind. Those who are more intelligent
and more able to express themselves online, and indeed more able to control
their virtual world, will look down on those who can’t, or choose not to. Sadly,
I think this is just part of human nature (en masse, not necessarily for every
single person). Humans seem to swarm around those who are most capable, most
able and most in control of any situation – it’s probably traceable to a basic
survival instinct. At the moment, we flock to political power, to money, to
sporting prowess and beauty – the last 2 are traits of a physical world which
are not really transferrable to the digital world. political power and money
don’t translate that well to cyberspace either – political power in the traditional
sense is too top-down to make sense in a dynamic, shifting environment like
the web, where an individual has the ability to voice their opinion to millions
– on this landscape the politics are bottom-up, small groups form, and then
they get bigger as they gain support, groups are not imposed down on a group
of people by selecting from a very limited number of options at the top.
Then we come to the show stopper, even given current technologies; at the end
of the day, we are still ruled by "the meat" (Pat Cadigan, as cited
by Lawley). We still have physical bodies, which need to exist somewhere, and
are thus subject to laws, politics and society in the area that they currently
reside. This is another of the ‘problems’ which technology is addressing, but
for a little while yet, I think we are stuck with it. In the mean time, I suppose
all we can do is to continue to assess the progress (or lack thereof) that we
are making, and try to guide things in a direction which will turn out well
These comments are mainly based on these readings, although I must admit that
they have tended to wander quite a bit!