Now before I go any further, you might be thinking, "Ok, Becca if we're going to form a tissue for the next part of your analogy, red blood cells don't form a tissue, they form a liquid, blood!" Yes, that's true, but did you know blood IS a type of connective tissue. So thus my analogy still works!
The World Wide Web has become a way of life for Americans. An article by The New York Times shows,
At home, people consume 12 hours of media a day on average, when an hour spent with, say, the Internet and TV simultaneously counts as two hours. That compares with five hours in 1960, say researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Computer users visit an average of 40 Web sites a day, according to research by RescueTime, which offers time-management tools.Social networking sites, Facebook and blogging sites above the rest, have become social platforms for people to "update" about themselves. A colleague, Amanda, did some research on this topic of self-disclosure on the internet and its effects. She found an article published by The Open University where studies found,
"New, meaningful relationships can be formed in cyberspace because of, not despite, its limitations." He (Reingold) further argues that `the medium will, by its nature...be a place where people often end up revealing themselves far more intimately than they would be inclined to do without the intermediation of screens and pseudonyms'. Wallace (1999) argues that `The tendency to disclose more to a computer . . . is an important ingredient of what seems to be happening on the Internet'In the same post, Amanda also makes reference to a New York Times article "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy" in which it states,
It is easy to become unsettled by privacy-eroding aspects of awareness tools. But there is another — quite different — result of all this incessant updating: a culture of people who know much more about themselves.So what's the point of all this? It is important to understand that today's internet is part of self discovery. Traditional objective methods of evaluating and judging another have all but vanished with the emergence of social networking sites where representation is highly subjective.
Enter the theory of disembodiment and use of avatars.
Disembodiment= The idea that while one requires the use of the body to connect to the Internet, once the user is online, the need for the body is no longer required, and the user can participate completely separately to it. This ultimately alludes to a sense of detachment from the identity defined by the physical body (Sexual Identity Online)
As a person creates an online avatar (a manifestation; display [OED]) sexual and gender representation becomes a choice! Just as we discussed in yesterday's post, the transvestite theater used costumes and adopted characteristics of the gender they were portraying to assist their audience in how to understand their words, the "costume" a computer user "dresses" their avatar with (profile pictures, username, color themes, music play lists, widgits, word font, etc.) creates a gender base which readers use to interpret the words.
If we all have both masculine and feminine aspects within our biologically biased body, and if we are no longer constrained by biological factors which bias a listener to what we say, perhaps just as Elizabeth was able to convincingly manifest her masculine parts without her audience having a bias, a writer on an online social networking site, such as a blogger, could either create a bias in his readers by obviously "dressing" his avatar with gender "indicators," or remove that bias through removing any gender indicators and having the words speak for themselves. Yesterday we explored the idea that we are all hermaphroditic in gender and that situation dictates what role we are to play. The idea of removing gender indicators presents the possibility of a hermaphroditic reading of a text. One where the reader not only understands things from both a masculine and feminine view point, but where the words themselves promote an unbiased reading in terms of gender. Can you read a text without trying to guess "Who wrote it?" Can you take words for simply that, words and ideas?
Gender exploration is just one "cell" of the many issues (culture, social class, economic status, race, etc.) which make up the "tissue" of "Online Identity," the next topic to be explored in my series on "The Big Picture" of why understanding that transvestite theater exploration of gender during the Renaissance echos that of today's blogosphere matters! So stay tuned!