[iDC] RE: here, hear _UpgradeSL node

Gere, Charlie c.gere at lancaster.ac.uk
Tue Mar 6 12:28:38 EST 2007


Thanks for your thoughts and believe me I am the last person to condemn
masturbation, and therefore I take your point about denigrating
pornography etc... I fear my polemical zeal and weakness for a beguiling
metaphor overcame my capacity to present a fully reasoned argument. My
point was about the dangers of conflating two different things, the
experience of a virtual space such as SL on the one hand, and that of RL
communities on the other. It's not really a question of embodiment;
after all, as Benedict Anderson pointed out all those years ago, most of
our communities are imagined and don't involve experience of all the
other bodies of which they are comprised. But I do think it is a
question of what actual effects actions have in different realms, such
as SL and RL, and what kinds of responsibilities they bring with them.

I teach my Cultural Studies undergraduate students a couple of texts
that relate to these issues, 'The Cross-Dressing Psychiatrist' by
Allucquere Rosanne Stone and 'A Rape in Cyberspace' by Julian Dibble.
Though both predate SL by quite a few years, the questions they raise
remain pertinent, particularly the Dibble piece. My students and I have
long discussions about whether the virtual textual 'rape' enacted on an
avatar in LamdaMoo is in any sense equivalent to rape as the term is
used in the material world. (Interesting that, as Tobias may well point
out, that rape as an example confirms the 'complex relation all online
realms hold between sexuality, affect... and alterity'). My strong sense
is that there is pretty much no comparison and to conflate the two uses
of the term is dangerous and even offensive. As a thought experience,
imagine a rape victim's possible reaction to hearing someone describe
some experience in SL as 'rape'. By the same token this could be said of
many other terms used in both SL and RL, and of the experiences and
structures to which they refer. Again imagine the reaction of someone
who has been involved in attempting to build and sustain communities in,
for example, Iraq or Palestine, listening to someone describe the
problems of community building in SL. I think grasping and holding onto
this distinction is incredibly important.


Charlie Gere 
Reader in New Media Research
Director of Research
Institute for Cultural Research 
Lancaster University Lancaster LA1 4YL UK
Tel: +44 (0) 1524 594446
E-mail: c.gere at lancaster.ac.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: tobias c. van Veen [mailto:tobias at techno.ca] 
Sent: 06 March 2007 15:54
To: iDC
Cc: Gere, Charlie
Subject: here, hear _UpgradeSL node

Thanks Charlie for your wonderful critical blasts of SL scholarship.

However I do find it intriguing, this constant parallel with
masturbation, insofar as it is part of a long, funny history in
philosophy of guilt and denial and apology and moralism over
masturbation (pinpointed with such acuity and humour in Derrida's
analysis of auto-affection and "that dangerous supplement" in Rousseau,
Of Grammatology).

The point being that masturbation, aka simulacra of sex, is as REAL as
"real sex", it is not derived from real sex and thus a derivation or
perversion, it is just sex with one's other-hand, it already entails
alterity -- there is no need to debase it, is there? Thus to charge SL,
even as polemic, with "cultural pornography" in this case I think is to
offend pornography, not SL. Why degrade pornography and masturbation?
Condemning sexual activities online is yet another facet of the "Bush
administration" as you put it, and I think one of the more complex
analyses yet to be grasped is the complex relation all online realms
hold between sexuality, affect (aka masturbation) and alterity. It's
what them younger kids are up too.

As for SL, Upgrade International has just launched a node there [
http://theupgrade.net]. So has Dorkbot from what I hear. Our current
debate (I curate UpgradeMTL) is trying to find where to put it on our
Google worldMap. Some suggest in the North Pole or middle of the
Pacific; others, a random location to be loaded each time; others, where
the servers are located.

I find this intriguing, the concept of a media arts meeting online, once
a month, like the other Upgrade flesh gatherings, each based in its own
city, in the sense that our avatars can get together in some virtual
space and watch media clips of someone's media art, txt chat about it,
ask questions, and that this might flit over all those nation-state
barriers, save for that odd one concerning the curvature of the
planetoid and that time thing. But it is interesting in the way that
television can be interesting, maybe up a notch to some kind of
participatory level, through the screen, always bounded by this screen.
It might even be that such meetings are really the "proper" place of
such media art, and not in the flesh, this nonplace, nonproper, properly
speaking. Perhaps the rest of us city-based nodes are hanging on to some
outdated mode of the f2f -- many of us struggling to make it work on a
regular basis, the perennial question, "where is the community?" --
while SL demonstrates where media art finds its chez moi.
Toward nonmedia, uncanny nonplace of the screen medium, technics
hyperdrive on affect overload. I'm not sure if this is where my body
wants to go though... which is really nowhere, just my chair, the same
one I've been at all day. Now if Upgrade-I started having SL orgies,
perhaps this would up the interest meter a notch, it would keep one hand
busy at least, maybe even two... and if my partner were involved, would
this classify as real sex, a partial threesome, the third the screen /
webcam interface? Hmm.

Keep the fire comin'.



tobias c. van Veen -----------++++
http://www.quadrantcrossing.org --
McGill Communication & Philosophy

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