While immersive virtual reality dominates discussions of the possibilities and dilemmas of identity and the cybernetic body, a discourse burgeons in bulletin boards and on the internet about the issues of gender, identity and technology in terms of the relationship between textual language and telecommunication. The issues raised in these forums range from gender switching to the politics of rape. The overwhelming growth of the internet population has recently generated what could herald the need for the regulation of behavior raising many issues about free speech, the material effects of language, and the presumption that cyberspace is a neutral zone exempt from responsible agency. The internet is increasingly conceived as a community where words and actions are tangible.
Touted as a cure-all for every sort of distance, the net exposes some of the deepest frailities in the relationship between presence and meaning at the same time that it offers (at least now before it is regulated) access to communities whose interests are specialized and dispersed. Beneath the zeal to simultaneously create and exploit a developing technology, exists a
collapsed set of assumptions. The most important of these believes that communication in cyberia is going to be an electronically adapted form of communication via the phone, modem,
or through the television. And while it is clear that grounding these ideas is a logic of commodification, production in cyberspace will require a wholly revamped consideration of
exchange mostly having to do with the consequences of language. Indeed, the seeming immateriality, and hence inconsequentiality, of language in cyberspace permits rapacious expression to dangle between moral relativity and rationalized simulation. At issue is not the difference between seduction and abandonment, illusion and simulation, fact or fiction, the
Real and the virtual, but the logic of a system that either links the two as oppositional or that fails to theorize the symbolic as deeply consequential. This talk will attempt to unravel some of the consequences of the use of languages of identity, gender. sexuality, and politics in the not-so-virtual environment of the networks.
Timothy Druckrey, USA