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June 25, 2006

The Body and the Screen:


Theories of Internet Spectatorship

The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship by Michele White -- Internet and computer users are often represented onscreen as active and empowered--as in AOL's striding yellow figure and the interface hand that appears to manipulate software and hypertext links. In The Body and the Screen Michele White suggests that users can more properly be understood as spectators rendered and regulated by technologies and representations, for whom looking and the mediation of the screen are significant aspects of engagement. Drawing on apparatus and feminist psychoanalytic film theories, art history, gender studies, queer theory, critical race and postcolonial studies, and other theories of cultural production, White conceptualizes Internet and computer spectatorship and provides theoretical models that can be employed in other analyses. She offers case studies and close visual and textual analysis of the construction of spectatorship in different settings.

White shows that despite the onscreen promise of empowerment and coherence (through depictions of materiality that structure the experience), fragmentation and confusion are constant aspects of Internet spectatorship. She analyzes spectatorship in multi-user object-oriented settings (MOOs) by examining the textual process of looking and gazing, contrasts the experiences of the women's webcam spectator and operator, describes intentional technological failures in net art, and considers ways in which traditional conceptions of artistry, authorship, and production techniques persist in Internet and computer settings (as seen in the creation of virtual environment avatars and in digital imaging art). Finally, she analyzes the physical and psychic pain described by male programmers in Internet forums as another counternarrative to the common tale of the empowered user. Spectatorship, White argues, not only affects the way specific interfaces are understood but also helps shape larger conceptions of self and society.

Michele White is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Tulane University.

Table of Contents

1. Making Internet and Computer Spectators


Rendering Liveness, Materiality, and Space

Notions of the Empowered User

Addressing the Spectator

Stabilizing Identity

Erasing the Interface

Conclusion: Active Users by Design

2. Visual Pleasure through Textual Passages: Gazing in Multi-user Object-oriented Settings (MOOs)



The Look and the Gaze

Character Creation and Attributes in MOOs

The Look and the Gaze in MOOs

Gendered Gazing in MOOs

Graphical MOOs

Conclusion: Between Multiple and Coherent Identity

3. Too Close to See, Too Intimate a Screen: Men, Women, and Webcams


Feminism and Spectatorship

Critical and Journalistic Considerations of Webcams


Women and Webcams

Regulating the Spectator

Women Webcam Operators and Authority

Visibility and Webcams

Making Texts Real

Some Problems with Webcam Viewing

Just a Guy

Conclusion: The Politics of Being Seen

4. The Aesthetic of Failure: Confusing Spectators with Net Art Gone Wrong


Aesthetics and Net Art

Net Art

An Aesthetic of Failure


Peter Luining

Michaël Samyn

Conclusion: The Limits of Failure and Repetition

5. Can You Read Me? Setting-specific Meaning in Virtual Places (VP)


Virtual Places


Painters and Avatar Galleries

Owning Texts

Criteria for Originality

Theories of Internet Authorship

Gender, Race, Sexuality, and the Avatar

Making Differences in Virtual Places

Conclusion: Authorship in Other Internet Settings

6. This Is Not Photography, This Is Not a Cohesive View: Computer-facilitated Imaging and Fragmented Spectatorship


Making the Digital Imaging Spectator


Digital or Post-photography

The Scanner as Camera

Carol Selter's Animalia and Punctum

Susan Silton's Self Portraits and Images of the Partial Self

Ken Gonzales-Day's Skin Series and the Cut

The New Media Grid

Conclusion: The Morphed Spectator

The Flat and the Fold: A Consideration of Embodied Spectatorship


Carol Selter, Susan Silton, Ken Gonzales-Day, and the Fold

The Body Folded and Evacuated

Hierarchy and Control

The Spectator in Pain

The Fat and the Fold

Men and the Weight Loss "Challenge"

Erotic Folding

Conclusion: A Technology of Waste



Selected Bibliography


Posted by jo at June 25, 2006 04:37 PM