Flexibility of the “ideology machine”

Lisa Nakamura’s 1995 piece about the ways people chose and perform racial and gender identities in the virtual reality online community LambdaMOO made me think about recent research and discussion about online gender and classification.

Nakamura focuses on the experience of users, characterizing the community as “congregating” within a portion of a “consensual hallucination” (all of cyberspace). The idea of cyberspace itself was relatively novel at the time she wrote this. Cyberspace seemed to be a new “frontier” upon which utopian fantasies could be projected. For example, Wendy Chun writes about a 1997 television commercial that imagines a utopia without messy social categories. This text appears in the MCI commercial “Anthem” Chun refers to: “There is no race. There are no genders. The Internet. Is this a great time, or what?”

In my own thinking about online realities, rather than the subjective experience of users. I am more concerned with the way programs underlying internet platforms place constraints on what can be done and represented online, often without the knowledge of users.

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1 thought on “Flexibility of the “ideology machine”

  1. I really enjoyed this piece. It made me think of online dating sites and the fields/categories available for people to fill out. Also, when fields are left blank (ie. race) and pictures are used to speak for themselves, how that changes representation.

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