5: Technologies of difference

We come to see ourselves differently as we catch sight of our images
in the mirror of the machine… A rapidly expanding system of
networks, collectively known as the internet, links millions of people
in new spaces that are changing the way we think, the nature of our
sexuality, the form of our communities, our very identities. (Turkle
1997: 9)

[W]hat these VR encounters really provide is an illusion of control
over reality, nature and, especially, over the unruly, gender and race-
marked, essentially mortal body… In this sense, these new
technologies are implicated in the reproduction of at least one very
traditional cultural narrative: the possibility of transcendence whereby
the physical body and its social meanings can be technologically
neutralized. (Balsamo 1995: 229)

Cyberspace depends for its existence on real space, real time, real
bodies. Without space/time/bodies the cyber- is inconceivable. It is a
metaphor — not a place. Similarly, immersive spaces are not real, and
the body's 'experience' is not real. (Hawthorne 1999: 228)

There are no Utopian spaces anywhere except in the imagination.
(Grosz 2001: 19)

The opening of Sherry Turkle's Life on the Screen, quoted above, at once references a familiar conceptual framework in feminist theory - the screen as Lacanian mirror-image, with its illusory promise of selfidentity — and declares it redundant. Screen as mirror is replaced by screen as network, and with this shift comes the promise of a collapse not only of familiar binaries (nature/culture, human/machine, real/virtual), but also of the split self of psychoanalysis. In its place is a 'multiple self, 'fluid, and constituted in interaction with machine connections' (Turkle 1997:15). This self is not, like the Ί' narrated by Irigaray (see Chapter 2), 1 frozen… on this side of the screen … paralyzed by all those images, words, fantasies'; on the contrary, it can 'step through the looking glass' to

-113-

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Women, Feminism and Media
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Fixing into Images 23
  • 3: Narrating Femininity 55
  • 4: Real Women 84
  • 5: Technologies of Difference 113
  • 6: Conclusion: Everyday Readings 145
  • Bibliography 152
  • Index 169
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