From the Internet Text: Gender, Embodiment and Ontology

Alan Sondheim

Abstract

The Internet Text is an extended analysis of the environment of Internet communication, an extended meditation on the psychology and philosophy of Net exchange. As such, it is concerned primarily with virtual or electronic subjectivity – the simultaneous presence and absence of the user, the sorts of libidinal projections that result, the nature of flamewars, and the ontological or epistemological issues that underlie these processes.

Internet Text begins with a brief, almost corrosive, account of the subject – an account based on the concepts of Address, Protocol, and Recognition. This section “reduces” virtual subjectivity to packets of information, Internet sputterings, and an ontology of the self based on Otherness – your recognition of me is responsible for my Net-presence. The reduction then begins to break down through a series of further texts detailing the nature of this presence; a nature which is both sexualized/gendered, and absenting, the result of an imaginary site.

Eventually, it has become clear that everything revolves around issues of the virtual subject, who is only virtual on the Net, but who has a very real body elsewhere. So Internet Text has evolved more and more in a meditation on this subject – a subject which will perhaps be one of the dominant modes of being within the next millennium.

Finally, it should be noted that there are no conclusions to be drawn in Internet Text, no series of protocol statements or declarations creating any sort of ultimate defining or explanatory position. The entire history of philosophy mitigates against this; instead, I side with the Schlegels, with Nietzsche, Bataille, Jabes, and others, for whom the fragment is crucial to an understanding of contemporary life...

It is dedicated to Michael Current and Clara Hielo.

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