October 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Theoretically you could also inject meat into that meat, so the metaphor HOLDS.

Lisa Nakamura, Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (2008)

In 2000 we argued that race, class and gender prefigure online discourse; in 2008 we’re considering the various ways that users consciously perform these same cultural markers. Online identity may therefore be framed as a signifying practice through which women and people of color become subjects, as opposed to objects, of interactivity. Case studies include: “embodied” AIM avatars, YUMMY MUMMYS’ digitally-rendered baby bumps and other GIF-clogged proclamations of gestational horror and racially (en)coded representations of (filmic/virtual) network interfaces. Also an examination of visual culture generally (which is rarely considered through the filter of CMC) as well as questions related to “access” and what that even means. Plus THIS VIDEO, which is a case study within a case study within an episode of I Love the 90s.

Because apparently I need to go eat a fucking hamburger, the arguments presented in Race in Cyberspace and Digitizing Race can be synthesized thusly: the solid flavor injector that is INTERNET ACCESS is always-already positioned against a person’s datastream. As in, there’s always a basic and material link between our bodies and the machines we use. In order to affect a “real identity” (as in, an online persona that reflects/embodies our actual rl selves) we stuff our injectors full of carefully-chosen solid flavor, including racial and gender and personality markers. In short, we fashion our online selves in the image of our real-life selves — a characterization I’m tempted to describe as the Facebook imperative. Because what is Facebook if not a personality anchoring device? We present our bodies, well, the most flattering angles of our bodies, for all the world to see. WE INJECT THAT MEAT, right into our code.

Obviously there are issues here; see every post I’ve ever written about Facebook. But let’s table that shit for fifteen minutes and consider what it means to perform meat via algorithm. The Facebook imperative tells us that we are what our profiles say we are, and that we’re only as fun as the pictures we’re tagged in. Ultimately we have control over what we show and how we show it (lol except for the shadowy advertisers and god knows who else who monetize that same carefully-mainculred meat); as a result our selves becomes a kind of brand (also a literal brand, thanks Zuck). We’re very smart about maintaining said brand, though markedly less smart about how our current brand might damage our future brand. Still — we are who we post, and who we post is (supposed to be) our most authentic selves. Authenticity (yes yes THIS WORD) demands “realness,” i.e. a body. So a body we provide, alongside a slew of likes, and listening tos and currently readings. Verily, it is the triumph of the digital meatsack.



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