[iDC] participation

Frazer Ward fward at email.smith.edu
Thu Jul 13 23:52:04 EDT 2006

In an earlier post I suggested the need to think through privacy, if we were to come to terms with publicness, i.e., that the two shouldn’t be unhooked. This, where privacy might be the ground or condition of entering into publicness: one factor to be considered,  and we certainly don’t even need the current  discussion to make this clear, is gender. But the discussion seems to be falling back on pretty familiar generalizations (and sometimes essentializations): women do A, men do B, etc. Not sure how far that gets anyone. Statistical tendencies for such a small sample group would probably require more detail: if we took only the instance of academics (forgive me, everyone else, but it came up in a post), wouldn’t we need to know how many of what genders, what age groups, what class backgrounds, how many single/heterosexual/gay, how many with dependents, how many with what kind of rank and workload? How many in each category have posted how often, who spends how much time reading the list? Not sure anyway that such a survey wouldn’t end up confirming pre-existing positions. 

Am interested to note that individual accounts of relations to participation so far emphasize embodied—often very uncomfortable—positions, and while my sense is that these have mainly come from women, I’m fairly sure that many men would identify with them (I know I do). This might suggest that relations to this kind of list—and maybe the technology more generally?—rely on a complex of relations between embodiment and disembodiment, which I think occur along the border of privacy and publicness, or, more dynamically, represent their intertwining. Given that there’s a traditional pair of equations between privileged disembodiment (the disembodiment of the unmarked, the white male) and publicness, on one hand, and embodiment (typically seen as marked, feminine) and privacy, on the other, then perhaps the agitation that’s evident around participation is a sign that a) the private conditions of entry into publicness have become unstable (which may be at once liberating and alarming, for both men and women, and which is likely to be intensified by the temporal disjunctions of this mode of communication), and/or b) that new technologies cannot guarantee new cultural and ideological formations. 
- Frazer

Frazer Ward
Department of Art
Smith College
413 585 3124

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