I. the private sphere

Document Sample
I. the private sphere Powered By Docstoc
					                                                                       © Julie Levin Russo // jlr@brown.edu
                                                               Brown University // Modern Culture & Media
                                                                       Comprehensive Exams // March 2007
                                                               Philip Rosen // Lynne Joyrich // Wendy Chun

                                           Private Eyes:
                                        Spheres of Mediation

I. the private sphere
          Let's think of this paper as a sort of theoretical ocean on which the more soundly hulled ship of
my project might sail. The ship, in this metaphor, is the question of how the technological, economic, and
popular convergence of television and the internet are reconfiguring the production and consumption of
media (the media formerly known as mass), with what implications -- and more broadly, of how changing
media technologies interface with changing conceptions and formations of subjectivity and collectivity. I
approach these questions via the interrogation of a number of boundaries that constitute our cultural mo-
ment in a variety of interdependent and contradictory ways, and for my so-called ocean I have singled out
the boundaries of privacy as a unifying theme. In order to contain the most expansive flows, this term re-
mains deliberately imprecise, encompassing at least three distinct and potentially divergent discourses: 1)
gender and sexuality, that is, the sphere of intimate positions that are normatively restricted to the literal
or figurative walls of the home (psychoanalysis, moreover, takes these as the ground of subjectivity it-
self); 2) liberal political economy, which defines the realm of capitalist activity as private, meaning out-
side the control of the state; and 3) information security, with its associated panics and polemics about ac-
cess to data considered private in either of the preceding senses. My emphasis on privacy deliberately
reverses the typical hierarchy of terms, but because this domain can be defined only in opposition to its
counterpart, my discussion will also foreground the architecture of the public sphere, as well as various
other contested binaries that are intertwined with this coupling.
          The orthodox account of the private sphere within the tradition of critical theory is Jurgen Haber-
mas' study The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. A defining element of this public was its
imbrication, from the very beginning, with the private domain: "the rational-critical public debate of pri-
vate persons with one another flowed from the wellspring of a specific subjectivity. The latter had its
home, literally, in the sphere of the patriarchal conjugal family."1 In other words, "it was a private auton-
omy denying its economic origins... that provided the bourgeois family with its consciousness of itself."2
Moreover, Habermas argues that "the subjectivity of the privatized individual was related from the very
start to publicity" via eighteenth century personal and literary correspondence and later the "domestic
novel," which were the initial "experiments" that enabled this new form of subjectivity to coalesce by
"communicating with itself" -- that is, "subjectivity, as the innermost core of the private, was always al-
ready oriented to an audience."3 Conversely, the family was, in reality, imbricated in the economy mate-
rially as well as ideologically: "It played its precisely defined role in the process of the reproduction of
capital."4 Habermas emphasizes that democracy, a novel form of specifically bourgeois sovereignty, was
founded on an ideological sleight of hand "in which the interest of the class, via critical public debate,
could assume the appearance of the general interest," "based on the fictitious identity of the two roles as-
sumed by the privatized individuals who came together to form a public: the role of property owners and


   1. Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of
Bourgeois Society, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994), 43.
   2.   Ibid. 46.
   3.   Ibid. 49-51.
   4.   Ibid. 47.

                                                  jlr • 1/28
the role of human beings."5 It is, in fact, the "presuppositions" of liberal economics -- rational self-inter-
est, free competition, the equilibrium of supply and demand -- that buttress the imagined inclusivity of the
public by making it appear that "each person [has] an equal chance... to attain the status of property owner
and thus of 'man,'"6 thereby evacuating any acknowledgment of entrenched power, inequality, and antago-
nism from discourses of politics. Thus, the insulation of private and public spheres is a mutually constitu-
tive fiction that stabilizes bourgeois capitalism as a socioeconomic system. Nancy Fraser charts the ensu-
ing objections to the optimistic dimension of Habermas' model, pointing out that "The official public
sphere was, and indeed is, the prime institutional site for the construction of the consent that defines the
new, hegemonic mode of domination."7 While Fraser believes that the public still has value as a democ-
ratic principle, she calls for an interrogation of some of its more problematic assumptions, among them
"assumptions concerning the appropriate scope of publicity in relation to privacy" -- which, to make mat-
ters more complicated, is a term mobilized to mean at least six different things: the opposite of "(1) state
related, (2) accessible to everyone, (3) of concern to everyone, and (4) pertaining to a common good," as
well as "(5) pertaining to private property in a market economy and (6) pertaining to intimate domestic
and personal life, including sexual life."8 The result of such boundary policing, however incoherent, is "to
enclave certain matters in specialized discursive arenas... [which] usually works to the advantage of dom-
inant groups."9 This paper plumbs the contradictions at the heart of such assumptions, which cast the in-
tertwined notions of public and private spheres as what we might call, first of all, an ideological
formation.

                                                             i. marrying base and superstructure
         The theory of ideology originates in Marxist thought, but its status within dialectical materialism
is ambivalent. In orthodox Marxism, all ideas arise from the system of production as a set of material re-
lations. However, this system cannot exist without the ideologies that naturalize it, nor are material con-
ditions and ideology clearly separable. Marx writes, "The phantoms formed in the human brain are... nec-
essarily sublimates of their material life-process... Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology
and the corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence."10
Not only is ideology (foreshadowing Althusser and even Foucault) virtually material itself, certain ideas
are immanent to the material economic relations of capitalism. Production, for example, is intrinsic to
consumption, which "posits the object of production as a concept, an internal image, a need, a motive, a
purpose" -- as a "desire," in short, and "Production accordingly produces not only an object for the sub-
ject, but also a subject for the object."11 In Capital, Marx explains further that the commodity form on
which capitalism depends is fundamentally a mystification, "a definite social relation between men, that
assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things."12 The impossibility of extricating
supposedly superstructural fictions from the economic base finally comes to fruition in Althusser, who,
acknowledging that the "reproduction of labor power" (of the economic system itself) "reveals as its sine
qua non... the reproduction of its subjection to the ruling ideology,"13 ventures to furnish the theory of ide-


   5.   Ibid. 88/56.
   6.   Ibid. 86-86.
  7. Nancy Fraser, "Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing
Democracy," in Habermas and the Public Sphere, ed. Craig Calhoun (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992), 117.
   8.   Ibid. 128.
   9.   Ibid. 132.
    10. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, Part One, ed. C. J. Arthur (New York:
International Publishers, 1970), 47.
   11. Karl Marx, "Introduction to a Critique of Political Economy," Ibid. 132-133.
    12. Karl Marx, "The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof," in The Marx-Engels Reader (2nd
edition), ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), 321.
   13. Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," in Lenin and Philosophy (New York:
                                                    jlr • 2/28
ology that Marx never quite elaborates14 (perhaps precisely because it is impossible to do so without run-
ning up against the interpenetration of base and superstructure). Althusser insists that ideology must be
understood as having a "material existence," and given the importance of desire to consumption already in
Marx, it's not surprising that he furthermore suggests that this materiality must be understood in the con-
text of the practices of psychoanalytically-inflected subjects -- "1. there is no practice except by and in an
ideology; 2. there is no ideology except by the subject and for subjects."15 In fact, "ideology has the func-
tion (which defines it) of 'constituting' concrete individuals as subjects,"16 thus again marrying what is
considered to be the private and most intimate domain of the individual/citizen to the economy as a public
concern. Althusser as much calls separate spheres an ideological construction when he writes that "the
State, which is the State of the ruling class, is neither public nor private; on the contrary, it is the precon-
dition for any distinction between public and private"17 -- in any case, it is ideology which articulates sub-
jects and material relations together.
          Gramscian thought offers another potential revision of the untenable base/superstructure opposi-
tion in the concept of hegemony. Gramsci, Stuart Hall writes, "sets himself decisively against any ten-
dency to reduce the sphere of the political and ideological superstructures to the economic structure or
'base.'"18 He "recognizes the 'plurality' of selves or identities of which the so-called 'subject' of thought
and ideas is composed... a consequence of the relationship between 'the self' and the ideological discours-
es which compose the cultural terrain of a society."19 Laclau and Mouffe offer an influential exposition of
Gramsci: "The two conditions of a hegemonic articulation are the presence of antagonistic forces and the
instability of the frontiers which separate them... The problem of power cannot, therefore, be posed in
terms of the search for the class or the dominant sector which constitutes the centre of a hegemonic for-
mation, given that, by definition, such a centre will always elude us."20 Laclau and Mouffe identify such a
formation with the Althusserian concept of overdetermination -- "the critique of every type of fixity,
through an affirmation of the incomplete, open and politically negotiable character of every identity"21 --
however, they accuse Althusser of drifting away from this territory and into a regressive essentialism.22
They are equally critical of vestigial essentialist elements in Gramsci's thought: "(a) his insistence that
hegemonic subjects are necessarily constituted on the plane of the fundamental classes; and (b) his postu-
late that... every social formation structures itself around a single hegemonic center."23 A resolutely anti-
essentialist Marxism, they assert, "affirm[s] the material character of every discursive structure... the pro-
gressive affirmation, from Gramsci to Althusser, of the material character of ideologies" and conversely
"rejects the distinction between discursive and non-discursive practices"24-- that is, between superstruc-
ture and base. As alluded to in (a) above (although, as Hall points out, the Gramscian subject is far from
univocal), this approach also raises a problem with the Marxist emphasis on class consciousness --
Mouffe goes so far as to declare herself "opposed to the class reductionism of classical Marxism, in which


Monthly Review Press, 1971), 133.
   14. Ibid. 158.
   15. Ibid. 170.
   16. Ibid. 171.
   17. Ibid. 144.
   18. Stuart Hall, Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, ed. David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen
(London: Routledge, 1996), 418.
   19. Ibid. 433.
   20. Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (London: New Left Books, 1985),
136/142.
   21. Ibid. 104.
   22. Ibid. 97-98.
   23. Ibid. 138.
   24. Ibid. 109/107

                                                   jlr • 3/28
all social subjects are necessarily class subjects... I affirm, instead, the existence in each individual of
multiple subject positions... Consequently, a critique of the notion of 'fundamental interests' is required...
interests never exist prior to the discourses in which they are articulated and constituted; they cannot be
the expression of already existing positions on the economic level."25 Laclau and Mouffe ultimately un-
derstand societies as radically open, "precarious and ultimately failed attempts to domesticate the field of
differences," which "never manages to be identical to itself, as every nodal point is constituted within an
intertextuality that overflows it."26 Thus, drawing on psychoanalytic and poststructuralist theory, Marx-
ism is rendered via a rejection of all stable identities and boundaries, including those between material
and discursive fields.

                                                                              ii. networking capitalism
         These theoretical innovations take Marx in new directions, but are already implied in his work,
where he also presciently recognized the incredible vitality of capitalism, which "cannot exist without
constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with
them the whole relations of society."27 As this situation wears on, "The productive forces at the disposal
of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the con-
trary, they have become too powerful for these conditions," necessitating either "enforced destruction...
[or] the conquest of new markets."28 Frederic Jameson credits Marx with a dialectical outlook on eco-
nomic transformation, writing that here he "powerfully urges us to... a type of thinking that would be ca-
pable of grasping the demonstrably baleful features of capitalism along with its extraordinary and liberat-
ing dynamism simultaneously."29 One of the products not only of dialectical thinking about capitalism,
but of the revolutionary dialectic of the capitalist system itself, is the heralding of what Jameson describes
as the "inauguration of a whole new type of society, most famously baptized 'postindustrial society'
(Daniel Bell) but often also designated consumer society, media society, information society, electronic
society... (...a third stage or moment in the evolution of capital)."30 This is the capitalist form native to
what Jameson anatomizes, more precisely than most, as "postmodernism." While this term is usually de-
ployed in either economic or aesthetic senses, Jameson reminds us elsewhere that "The becoming cultural
of the economic, and the becoming economic of the cultural, has often been identified as one of the fea-
tures that characterizes what is now widely known as postmodernity" -- what he calls "the libidinalization
of the market."31 At this stage, communication and information merge with technology in its materiality
(as means of production), while technology in turn merges with the immateriality of marketing (as com-
modity).32 Again echoing Marx, who writes that it is "by the rapid improvement of all instruments of
production, [AND] by the immensely facilitated means of communication" that the insatiable disposition
of the bourgeois capitalism "draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization."33



   25. Chantal Mouffe, "Hegemony and New Political Subjects: Toward a New Concept of Democracy," in
Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Urbana: University of Illinois
Press, 1988), 90.
   26. Laclau and Mouffe, 95/113.
   27. Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto (critical edition), (New York: W.W. Norton, 1988), 58.
   28. Ibid. 60-61.
   29. Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University
Press, 1991), 47.
   30. Ibid. 3.
   31. Fredric Jameson, "Notes on Globalization as a Philosophical Issue," in The Cultures of Globalization, ed.
Fredric Jameson and Masao Miyoshi (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 60/69.
   32. Ibid. 56.
   33. Communist Manifesto, 59.

                                                    jlr • 4/28
          In The Condition of Post-Modernity, one of the key texts delineating the transformation to cap-
italism's purported third stage, David Harvey dubs the new regime "flexible accumulation" (also, Toy-
otism or post-Fordism). These technologies are also central to contemporary conceptions of globaliza-
tion. Like Marx and Jameson, Harvey claims that "the progress of Fordism internationally... relied
heavily upon new-found capacities to gather, evaluate, and disseminate information."34 What is novel in
late capitalism is that information has transitioned from being a sort of important by-product of produc-
tion systems to a product in its own right, with its own markets and its own producers and consumers. As
Stigliz puts it, "Knowledge itself becomes a key commodity, to be produced and sold to the highest bid-
der, under conditions that are themselves increasingly organized on a competitive basis."35 The intensifi-
cation of concern and controversy about intellectual property controls at the national and international
levels is one example of the effects of this decisive shift. Information, in turn, is closely linked to another
of capitalism's fundamental elements (though not through any transparent or predictable correlation):
what I term "meaning" with deliberate vagueness (from brands' "mindshare" to mass mediated "public
opinion"). Information (as ideas that can be archived or transmitted) may express meanings, and is cru-
cial to their production. But the way a particular piece of information will be interpreted by an individual
is never given, so the conversion of information into meaning is an unpredictable and highly contested
process. In order to understand why meaning is the holy grail of capitalism, we must move from a discus-
sion of the development of regimes of production to their obvious and necessary counterpart: consump-
tion. In advanced capitalist (as opposed to subsistence) economies that offer a range of competing buying
choices, the meanings and desires associated with particular products are the determining factor in their
marketability. From the beginning, Marx recognized that capitalism must produce not only commodities,
but desire for these commodities in order for its expansionist logic to function. In Harvey's account,
Fordism marked a new stage in the escalation of capitalists' conscious intervention in the domain of
meaning, in terms of both production (ideological innovations that helped to discipline the labor force)
and consumption (promoting an ideal of domestic leisure which relied on the products the factories were
churning out). Late capitalism represents a subsequent transformation in this relation: "flexible produc-
tion systems have permitted, and to some degree depended upon, an acceleration in the pace of product
innovation together with the exploration of highly specialized and small-scale market niches... Flexible
accumulation has been accompanied on the consumption side, therefore, by a much greater attention to
quick-changing fashions and the mobilization of the artifices of need inducement and cultural transforma-
tion that this implies."36 That is, attempts to operate directly at the level of meaning, micromanaging the
formation of desires to match increasingly differentiated product lines, are becoming ever more central
activities of firms. Harvey also references the close relationship between information and meaning, as
"Control over information flow and over the vehicles for propagation of popular taste and culture have
likewise become vital weapons in the competitive struggle. The startling concentration of economic pow-
er in... the media and the press... has a lot to do with the power of other large corporations."37 Informa-
tion, and the corporate-controlled media and communications networks that allow it to be disseminated,
are crucial, not only as a commodities in and of themselves, but as the primary means by which firms en-
deavor to act on the "popular taste" and produce the "image" that are more and more the privileged ingre-
dients in their competitiveness.
        Hardt and Negri, in their turn, christen this new milieu "Empire," defining it as "a decentered and
decentralizing apparatus of rule that... manages hybrid identities, flexible hierarchies, and plural ex-
changes through modulating networks of command."38 They believe that the topography of the contem-
porary world is best understood as "a rhizomatic and universal communication network in which relations



   34. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1990), 137.
   35. Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002), 159.
   36. Harvey, 156.
   37. Ibid. 160.
   38. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), xii.

                                                   jlr • 5/28
are established to and from all its points or nodes."39 The network model is simultaneously metaphorical
and literal: relations of power in Empire behave like computerized communications systems, and they
also are in large part implanted in the deployment of network technologies. In this "information econo-
my" of "deterritorialized production" and "immaterial labor," the methods of production, the commodities
produced, and the subjectivities of the producers (and consumers) become increasingly indistinguishable.
Ultimately, since "the instrumental action of economic production has been united with the communica-
tive action of human relations," "The great industrial and financial powers thus produce not only com-
modities but also subjectivities... needs, social relations, bodies, and minds -- which is to say, they
produce producers."40 Castells, as well as Hardt and Negri, blends the figurative and literal aspects of net-
works when he pronounces "a new form of society": this "network society" is "characterized by... the net-
working form of organization. By the flexibility and instability of work, and the individualization of la-
bor. By a culture of real virtuality constructed by a pervasive, interconnected, and diversified media
system. And by the transformation of the material foundations of life, space and time."41 Castells' thesis
is that, in the network society, "The new power lies in the codes of information and in the images of rep-
resentation... The sites of this power are people's minds... This is why identities are so important, and ulti-
mately, so powerful."42 That is, as the network becomes the predominant form of organization at all lev-
els of society, the intangible registers of discourse, spectacle, meaning, and ultimately identity and
subjectivity come to occupy a position of unprecedented privilege in the landscape of power relations.
This evolution is intimately linked to the primacy of literal communications networks which, in the words
of Hardt and Negri, "integrate the imaginary and the symbolic within the biopolitical fabric, not merely
putting them at the service of power but actually integrating them into its very functioning."43 For them
as well as for Castells, the information age inaugurates an intensified interdependence between the do-
mains of subjectivity and power.

                                                                             iii. mediating the private
         Whether you're talking about music recordings or AIDS drugs, the terrain becomes murky when
data and ideas supplant material goods as privileged commodities. The crucial problem of information as
a commodity, I would argue, is not its production but its reproduction. Because it is not material, infor-
mation can be copied and transmitted virtually infinitely -- or at least, its reproduction is limited by access
to communications technologies more than by resources or capital. It seems warranted, then, to state pre-
liminarily that (as with land, labor and money) the commodification of information under global capital-
ism is both a vital area of penetration for a growing market economy, and at the same time at the root of
fundamental contradictions that threaten this market. It is crucial to note that, while information flows are
essential to the capitalist forms of organization that are structuring ever expanding domains of society, re-
sistance to this development also operates within this context. As such, advancements in technologies of
communication and access to information are equally critical to movements that oppose the intensification
of global capitalism in its current manifestation. As Marx, again, presciently puts it: "This union [of the
workers] is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry and
that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another."44 He is speaking of an incipient
labor movement, but the process whereby an oppositional group challenges the status quo of capitalism
through access to capitalism's own communications infrastructure can be observed across a range of so-
cial conflicts. Peter Evans, for example, argues that "hegemonic" "networks built around trade, finance,
and investment" and their corollary, "dramatic changes in long-distance transportation and communica-


   39. Ibid. 319-20.
   40. Ibid. 293/32.
   41. Manuel Castells, The Power of Identity (Vol. 2, The Information Age) (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 1.
   42. Ibid. 424-25.
   43. Empire, 33.
   44. Communist Manifesto, 63.

                                                   jlr • 6/28
tion," give rise to parallel "counter-hegemonic" "transnationally organized political, economic, and cultur-
al networks."45 There is an affinity, then, between the network structures of control and opposition in
their ability to engineer conduits between local nodes via global flows. Guidry, Kennedy, and Zald
emphasize that such "action originates somewhere, proceeds through specific channels, does something,
and has concrete effects in particular places. That action is, however, mediated by discursive relation-
ships that are forged in a transnational public sphere."46 Keck and Sikkink recognize these tactical possi-
bilities in their empirical work on transnational activist networks -- groups that understand that their work
must be directed, as Castells put it, at people's minds: their "'strategy relies less on mass mobilization and
more on the dual strategy of the presentation of image and the search for a more receptive political
venue,'" and they concentrate on "fram[ing] the issue in question in a way that will capture the attention
of decision makers,"47 relying largely on courting the media. This is a concrete example, in other words,
of how the transition to a communicational world generates new modes of collectively organizing subjec-
tivity with new powers of intervention in the field of subjectivity itself.
         If media networks are now (more than ever) the privileged substrate of both private property and
private personhood, there is a crucial difference between engaging with them tactically on the terrain of
what Appadurai calls "mediascapes" -- of "the imagination as a social practice... a form of work... and a
form of negotiation," where "the world of commodities and the world of news and politics are profoundly
mixed"48 -- and falling back on liberal models of informational transparency. The latter are much in evi-
dence in the bourgeois public sphere as Habermas described it, wherein the dissemination of knowledge
and information is the nucleus of its very conception. The role of the media in producing an informed
populace is critical to democracy's founding tenet of universal inclusivity, as embodied in a "public of all
private people... [who] as readers, listeners, and spectators could avail themselves via the market of the
objects that were subject to discussion. The issues discussed became 'general' not merely in their signifi-
cance, but also in their accessibility: everyone had to be able to participate."49 This baldly ideological val-
orization of the possibility of universal access is carried on within the Habermasian tradition. Nicholas
Garnham, for example, "take[s] it as axiomatic that... The rights and duties of a citizen are in large part
defined in terms of freedom of assembly and freedom to impart and receive information. Without such
freedoms it would be impossible for citizens to possess the knowledge of the views of others necessary to
reach agreements... [and] to possess knowledge of the actions of those to whom executive responsibilities
are delegated."50 Garnham believes that the "possession" of knowledge via media channels is central to
democracy despite certain serious (but nonetheless exceptional) reservations arising from the corporatiza-
tion of information itself. Jodi Dean, on the contrary, argues that preserving this "fantasy of social unity"
necessitates "render[ing] as a contingent gap what is really the fact of the fundamental split, antagonism,
and rupture of politics."51 Performing this ideological function is the "secret": that perpetually missing in-
formation that promises that a democratic public is within reach — as soon as everything is known,"52


   45. Peter B. Evans, "Fighting Marginalization With Transnational Networks: Counter-Hegemonic
Globalization." Contemporary Sociology 29 (2000): 230.
   46. John A. Guidry, Michael D. Kennedy, and Mayer N. Zald, "Globalizations and Social Movements," in
Globalizations and Social Movements: Culture, Power, and the Transnational Public Sphere (Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan, 2001), 3.
   47. Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, "Transnational Advocacy Networks in the Movement Society," in
The Social Movement Society, ed. David Meyer and Sidney Tarrow (New York: Rowan & Littlefield, 1998), 222-23.
   48. Arjun Appadurai, Modernity At Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1996), 31/35.
   49. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 37.
   50. Nicholas Garnham, "The Media and the Public Sphere," in Habermas and the Public Sphere, ed. Craig
Calhoun (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 364.
   51. Jodi Dean, Publicity's Secret: How Technoculture Capitalizes on Democracy (Cornell University Press,
2002), 9.
   52. Ibid. 10.

                                                   jlr • 7/28
sustaining the belief that this unified collective subject would be fully actualized if only it had access to
all the data. Thus, the inevitable incompleteness of knowledge in circulation provides an alibi to the per-
manent deferral of the ideal public.
          For Dean, one of the principal travesties of the pervasive and well-meaning political fixation on
the public's right to know is its collaboration in capitalist domination, most simply because we get knowl-
edge by consuming corporate media technologies. Moreover, one of the most troubling aspects of
grounding a politics in the right to know is the concomitant disregard for the obvious inadequacy of
knowledge as a progenitor of action and justice. Thomas Keenan explores an especially tragic instance of
the inefficacy of increasingly open and instantaneous communication in the humanitarian response to the
Bosnian genocide: visiting Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger commented that "there are no secrets. There are
journalists here, from here pictures are transmitted, there are satellite communications, all of this is
known... and nonetheless it all continues to happen."53 Such potentially catastrophic faith in the "link be-
tween knowledge and action" on the part of transnational movements parallels a domestic reluctance to
recognize, as Dean asserts, that "the gaps and failures pervading democracy are problems of neither
knowledge nor information."54 Dean explains the confounding inadequacy of knowledge with recourse to
the Zizekian spin on the operation of ideology. In her interpretation of Zizek's account, actions follow be-
lief in a "fetishistic disavowal" of what one knows, and the everlasting deferral of total knowledge corre-
sponds to the psychoanalytic conception of desire as inherently unfulfillable. The democratic public is, in
effect, produced within this perverse "circuit": "At the same time that it promises the realization of
democracy once nothing is hidden... The secret designates that which is desired to be known... In so do-
ing, it presupposes a subject that desires, discovers, and knows, a subject from whom nothing should be
withheld"55 -- that is, the public is transposed, in Dean, from a rational agent to a pathologized conspiracy
theorist. This perspective also helps to explain why we are caught in the ubiquitous paradox of mounting
simultaneous alarm over the "death of privacy" and over the corruption of democratic publicity, both of
which are attributed to the media's corrupting influence. This topography depends on a whole series of
aporias and disavowals which are immanent to publicity from its inception, not least of which is the idea
that its rationality can be insulated from the unconscious desires of private subjects.

                                                                               iv. queering the public
          Dean's emphasis on the psychoanalytic dimension of the theory of publicity returns us to the
erotics of political relations, a trope that appears incipiently in Habermas' link between the public sphere
and "a specific subjectivity... [that] had its home, literally, in the sphere of the patriarchal conjugal fami-
ly"56 (stressing, here, the conjugal dimension). Because any intelligible notion of a public depends on
constituting and regulating a private subject, sexuality, as the presumptive core of subjectivity in modern
Western culture, has been an influential site for the formulation of an alternative politics. Michel Fou-
cault placed it at the center of his groundbreaking prospectus on power in The History of Sexuality, Vol.
1: a critique of the disciplinary inflection of this very yoking of sex to essential selfhood. His intervention
is to map the inversion whereby power appears appears as a negative, proscriptive operation on the innate
vitality of sexuality, instead of in its positivity as the immanent fashioning of subjects via the construction
and regulation of sexuality. We might call this reversal ideological if Foucault didn't emphatically reject
the term; though his formulation of power as plural, decentralized, ubiquitous, strategic, mobile, unstable,
and most importantly material ("Power exists only as exercised by some on others, only when it is put
into action"57) seems akin to the mature theory of hegemony, Foucault evidently remains unconvinced by

   53. Thomas Keenan, "Publicity and Indifference: Media, Surveillance, 'Humanitarian Intervention,'" in CTRL
[Space]: Rhetorics of Surveillance From Bentham to Big Brother, ed. Levin, Thomas et al (Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press, 2002).
   54. Dean, 42.
   55. Ibid. 10-11.
   56. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 43.
   57. Michel Foucault, "The Subject and Power," in The Essential Foucault, ed. Rabinow and Rose (New York:
                                                   jlr • 8/28
attempts to resolve the contradictions of the base vs. superstructure depth model within the Marxist tradi-
tion. In parallel to the frameworks discussed above, though, his theory of "biopower" positions the sub-
ject of sexuality as the hinge articulating private and public concerns: "Spread out from one pole to the
other of this technology of sex was a whole series of different tactics that combined in varying propor-
tions the objective of disciplining the body and that of regulating populations."58 Despite Foucault's nod
to bodies and pleasures, however, the majority of the book is dedicated to describing "the great process of
transforming sex into discourse," to the point where the sex act itself appears as a fantasy which was
thereafter "constrained to lead a discursive existence."59 In Epistemology of the Closet, Eve Sedgwick
also charts sexuality's discursive dimension, and its centrality to the overall project of modernity. The
closet is this landscape's privileged topology, a function of the primordially fraught interdependence of bi-
nary terms, whose opposition is at the same time axiomatic and fatally contradictory. While the hetero-
sexual/homosexual dyad is of course the closet's primary arena, Sedgwick's thesis is that this binary is
historically interwoven with any number of other essential couplings -- among them knowledge/igno-
rance, public/private, inside/outside, and masculine/feminine. Because "the structuring of same sex bonds
[is] a site of intensive regulation that intersects virtually every issue of power and gender,"60 the borders
of heterosexuality and homosexuality are incessantly policed (for their own sake and for the sake of the
other fraught domains they intersect with), but they can never be definitively stabilized. The exasperating
and oppressive paradoxes of the closet, wherein that which is unknowable, unspeakable, and invisible is
at the same time relentlessly studied, discussed, and represented (and vice versa), are emblematic of "the
cumulative incoherence of modern ways of conceptualizing same-sex desire and, hence, gay identity; an
incoherence that answers, too, to the incoherence with which heterosexual desire and identity are concep-
tualized."61 Thus, for both Foucault and Sedgwick, sexuality (the core of the properly private domain, in
the bourgeois/liberal formulation) is the overdetermined nexus where society's constitutive contradictions
are (always incompletely) managed.
          In "Imitation and Gender Insubordination," Judith Butler is more optimistic than Sedgwick about
the progressive possibilities of the closet's irreducible instability. She is equally suspicious of a politics of
visibility and the discourse of "coming out," with its claim to a full and uncompromised public sexuality,
not least because the unconscious derails such transparency. But for her, "turn[ing] the homophobic con-
struction of the bad copy against the framework that privileged heterosexuality as origin" can be a vital
"political problem."62 Like Foucault, she foregrounds subjectivity but rejects an essentializing depth mod-
el; the intervention she proposes is "not the same as claiming that [the psyche] is an inner core that is
awaiting its full and liberatory expression. On the contrary, the psyche is the permanent failure of expres-
sion, a failure that has its values, for it impels repetition and so reinstates the possibility of disruption."63
This formulation goes one step beyond the boundary-defying slogan "the personal is political," because it
questions whether private personhood could ever have any coherent, centered, pregiven existence.
Although Foucault has been criticized for his subjective turn -- as Deleuze paraphrases it, there is a "dan-
ger" here of "reverting to an analogue of the 'constituting subject'"64 -- after Foucault so emphatically re-
jected psychological and ideological models of interiority, he takes up the theme of "struggles against the


New Press, 2003), 137.
  58. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction (New York: Vintage Books/Random
House, 1990), 146.
   59. Ibid. 22/33.
   60. Eve Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 2-3.
   61. Ibid. 82.
   62. Judith Butler, "Imitation and Gender Insubordination," in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories, ed.
Diana Fuss (New York: Routledge, 1991), 17.
   63. Ibid. 28.
   64. Gilles Deleuze, "Desire and Pleasure," in Foucault and His Interlocuters, ed. Davidson (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1997), 184-85.

                                                    jlr • 9/28
'government of individualization'"65 through the invention of new forms of self-government. But ulti-
mately, Foucault rejects the individual as the ground of action in favor of relationality: a project of
"ask[ing] oneself, 'What relations, through homosexuality, can be established, invented, multiplied, and
modulated?' The problem is not to discover in oneself the truth of one's sex, but, rather, to use one's sexu-
ality henceforth to arrive at a multiplicity of relationships."66 Butler also views selfhood as a decentered,
relational formation, writing that the "'Other' installed in the self thus establishes the permanent incapacity
of that 'self' to achieve self-identity... the disruption of the Other at the heart of the self is the very condi-
tion of that self's possibility."67 A "sexual pleasure" constructed along these lines could meet all the crite-
ria for postmodern politics: resistance from within the networks of power, through a new type of relation,
that restores power's flexibility and mobility; resistance intimately dependent on a new discursive orienta-
tion, a new way of thinking about ourselves -- but in the activity of the subject this strategic truth is trans-
lated into practices that involve the body in new pleasures and relationships.
          Keep in mind that, for both Foucault and Butler, embodied and discursive realities are not extrica-
ble from each other (again paralleling the imbrication of base and superstructure). This orientation is
echoed by Sandy Stone in her "Posttransexual Manifesto," a monograph about "the image and the real
mutually defining each other through the inscriptions and reading practices of late capitalism."68 Stone in-
vites us to think of the transsexual body as "a set of embodied texts" with "intertextual possibilities," re-
produced through "the clinic [as] a technology of inscription" and functioning as "screens on which we
see projected the momentary settlements that emerge from ongoing struggles over beliefs and practices
within the academic and medical communities."69 That is, sets of familiar ideological containments (like
natural vs. textual, and indeed, public vs. private) camouflage vast networks of interdependence between
the systems of subjectivity, discourse, and biopower. Berlant and Warner complete this theoretical circuit
by framing the queer political project via the Habermasian public. In their interpretation of Habermas, a
necessary part of the transition to modernity (in particular, to capitalism) was the fabrication of an idea of
personhood which depended upon the relations of the heterosexual couple within the domestic space.
This was supposedly a bounded realm where autonomous subjects could be created, only to go out from it
into a fully separate public economic world, and then return to it as a safe haven. Sex was privatized so
that it could, as supposedly the most intimate relation of all, provide a nucleus for this insulated zone.
But the shield of privacy with which sex seems so naturally to be protected is in fact an ideological mi-
rage: intimacy has always been publicly mediated, both because it can be defined only in opposition to the
economy and the state, and because it seems to require constant disciplinary interventions to maintain its
integrity. Berlant and Warner argue that the potential for change lies in freeing sex and intimacy from
their "obnoxiously cramped" position as the linchpin of economic and cultural dominations. Turning to
queer sexual subcultures that already exist as their model for how to generate other sexual possibilities,
they point out that "Making a queer world has required the development of kinds of intimacy that bear no
necessary relation to domestic space, to kinship, to the couple form, to property, or to the nation."70 By
"public" sex, Berlant and Warner mean not so much sex that is out in the open as sexual relationships that
don't pretend they have no connection to any social context, that can be a foundation for new communi-
ties that may then become dissenting political bodies. This imaginative model for resistance offers a
structural response to the interpenetration of an extensive network of different dominations, one that feeds
on the founding contradictions of the system by leveling the borders between public and private acts.


   65. "The Subject and Power," 129.
   66. Michel Foucault, "Friendship as a Way of Life," in Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, ed. Paul Rabinow (New
York: New Press, 1997), 135-36.
   67. Butler, 27.
   68. Allucquère Rosanne Stone, "The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto," in Body Guards: The
Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity, ed. Julia Epstein and Kristina Straub (New York: Routledge, 1991), 284.
   69. Ibid. 296-97/294.
   70. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, "Sex in Public," in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Simon During
(London: Routledge, 1993), 362.

                                                   jlr • 10/28
II. mediation: television
         This work on the discursivity and diffusion of the ostensibly private domain of sex and subjectivi-
ty suggests that individual and social bodies are necessarily mediated through representational forms (for
theorists like Stone and Butler, the body itself is a medium of expression and inscription). In "The Mass
Public and the Mass Subject," Warner explores publicity's mediation of and by embodied individuals, out-
lining the aporias whereby "The bourgeois public sphere claimed to have no relation to the body image at
all... Yet the bourgeois public sphere continued to rely on features of certain bodies."71 Warner points out
that a "negative relation" to private personhood is a cardinal axiom of the public, where "this principle is a
utopian universality that would allow people to transcend the given realities of their bodies and their sta-
tus" so that "What you will say will carry force not because of who you are but despite who you are."72
Under these conditions, the position of the "public subject" is one of "self-abstraction," "marking to our-
selves its nonidentity with ourselves"73 -- not dissimilar to the constitutive heteronomy of the subject in
Lacanian psychoanalysis. At the same time, this abstraction operates smoothly only for certain (white,
bourgeois, male) subjects whose individuality is already defined as unmarked. While it may appear that
the public sphere refers to an empirical population of citizens, this founding sleight of hand means that the
appeal to publicity is actually an "imaginary reference" to precisely that body that transcends "a statisti-
cally measurable series of others"74 to formulate publicity in its ideological abstraction. For this reason,
"we have no way of talking about a public without theorizing the contexts and strategies in which the
public could be represented,"75 and media technologies come to the fore. And "where printed public dis-
course formerly relied on a rhetoric of abstract disembodiment, visual media, including print, now display
bodies for a range of purposes," further weakening the rickety bargain that sustains the public as a fiction.
Conversely, "nearly all of our pleasures come to us coded in some degree by the publicity of mass me-
dia," suggesting that the body itself is equally infiltrated by public mediations, intelligible only through
the figure of a "collective consumer."76 Thus, we have no access to the private, much less to the public,
except via a representational apparatus that transverses the boundaries between economic, political, and
domestic realms.
        Thomas Keenan sums up the primordial rupture of the bourgeois public sphere's architecture in
terms of a similar externalization of subjectivity: "If it is anywhere, the public is 'in' me, but it is all that is
not me in me, not reducible to or containable within 'me'... publicity does not befall what is properly pri-
vate, contaminating or opening up an otherwise sealed interiority. Rather, what we call interiority is itself
the mark or the trace of this breach."77 He offers up the window as the trope "by which [democracy] orga-
nizes and secures its inaugural distinction between public and private," one which "implies a theory of the
human subject as a theory of politics": citizenship is the enterprise of moving between the zones behind
the window (privacy) and in front of it (publicity). But because this mobility requires "this possibility of
permeability,"78 the wall between the two is always already compromised. As both the defining domestic
appliance and the mass medium par excellence, television plays a privileged part in the navigation of this
perilous representational terrain. Keenan quotes Hutchinson's 1946 primer "Here Is Television, Your
Window to the World": "Television actually is a window looking out on the world... Television means the


   71. Michael Warner, "The Mass Public and the Mass Subject," in The Phantom Public Sphere. ed. Social Text
Collective and Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 382.
   72. Ibid. 382.
   73. Ibid. 377.
   74. Ibid. 379.
   75. Ibid. 390.
   76. Ibid. 385-86.
   77. Thomas Keenan, "Windows: of vulnerability," in The Phantom Public Sphere. ed. Social Text Collective
and Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 133-34.
   78. Ibid. 132.

                                                    jlr • 11/28
world in your home and in the homes of all the people in the world."79 He duly notes the ambivalence
manifested here about whether television is a "breach" that allows the gaze access to what is at a distance
or a machine that enacts a sort of spatial collapse of this distant place into the place of the viewer. In this
section, I will explore television's role in mediating privacy and its perforations, particularly as they inter-
sect with formulations of gender and sexuality.

                                                                         i. your window to the world
         Television came of age in the postwar years, when the reconstitution of a stable private zone took
on renewed importance (this ideological construct was often expressed as coextensive with the literal
walls of the middle-class suburban home). The return of a significant male population from military ser-
vice forced women out of the paid workforce, retrenching domesticity around the housewife's role as the
primary consumer of the goods that the thriving industrial sector (now reoriented toward commerce,
rather than defense) was churning out. Mary Beth Haralovich explains that "an ideal white and middle-
class home life was a primary means of reconstituting and resocializing the American family after World
War II," with televisual strategies at the heart of "this displacement of economic determinations onto
imaginary social relations that naturalize middle-class life."80 Lynn Spigel agrees that television (and in-
deed, the television set) was positioned as the nexus of this highly ambivalent formation, both embodying
and fantasmatically resolving its tensions: "Television was caught in a contradictory movement between
private and public worlds, and it often became a rhetorical figure for that contradiction."81 Like Keenan,
Spigel identifies the window as a telling metaphor in television's early promotional (and precautionary)
materials, which described it as an aperture that would bring the public into the home so that the family
could remain safely ensconced inside, as well as a threat to the integrity of the family due to the concur-
rent taint of "feminization." Such gendered anxieties infuse television's mediation of cultural tensions be-
cause their hegemonic framework was never coherent: Streeter and Wahl point out that, while "assump-
tions about domestic space, and its function within a capitalist economy, are built on the gendered roles of
married couples... in spite of all the efforts to the contrary, women became involved in the market because
of the simple necessity of purchasing goods to maintain a household."82 Not only does the housewife's
vital economic participation give the lie to the ideology of an insular private sphere, but even this pro-
visional privacy was often the ideal more than the reality, as "the number of married women workers sky-
rocketed during the 1950s."83 And Anna McCarthy's work reminds us that, while domestic space was and
is central to the representation and ideology of television, in practice the TV set has also played a central
role in the experience of various types of public, institutional, and communal environments.84 Thus, since
its inception, television has been fundamentally intertwined with an ongoing negotiation of the socioeco-
nomic and ideological boundaries of privacy.
        As such cultural conflicts developed over subsequent decades, television's mediating function
took on new intensities. With the persistent increase of women in the paid labor force continuing to

   79. Ibid. 130.
   80. Mary Beth Haralovich, "Sit-Coms and Suburbs: Positioning the 1950's Homemaker," in Private
Screenings: Television and the Female Consumer, ed. Lynn Spigel and Denise Mann (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1992), 112.
   81. Lynn Spigel, "The Suburban Home Companion: Television and the Neighborhood Ideal in Post-War
America," in Feminist Television Criticism, A Reader, ed. Brunsdon, D’Acci, Spigel (Oxford University Press,
1997), 213.
  82. Thomas Streeter and Wendy Wahl, "Audience Theory and Feminism: Property, Gender, and the Television
Audience," Camera Obscura 33-34 (1994): 249-250.
   83. Lynn Spigel, "Television in the Family Circle: The Popular Reception of a New Medium," in Logics of
Television, ed. Patricia Mellencamp (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990).
   84. Anna McCarthy, "The Rhythms of the Reception Area: Crisis, Capitalism, and the Waiting Room TV," in
Television After TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition, ed. Lynn Spigel and Jan Olsson (Duke University Press,
2004), 78.

                                                   jlr • 12/28
destabilize traditionally gendered constructions of the public/private border, the figure of the working
woman became an emblem of these conflicts and anxieties. Lauren Rabinovitz recognizes that "Network
programming executives initially became interested in 'feminist programming' in the early 1970s because
it was good business," given "an important national shift in audience"85 toward the young female profes-
sional as the new privileged consumer. Initial portrayals (such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show) were pre-
dictably ambivalent, manifesting, as Serafina Bathrick puts it, "the historical and ideological mandate for
keeping the familial intact" via "another, albeit more 'responsive,' commitment to family values"86 dis-
placed onto the "workplace family." Moreover, Kirsten Marthe Lentz argues that typical discourses
around these programs translated feminist struggles against these double binds into "television's struggle
for legitimation," a move that "relies simultaneously upon freeing television from its femininity and con-
ferring new value on that femininity."87 This strategic maneuvering demonstrates that the uncertainties
posed by the changing status of women are bound up with uneasiness around television itself that it must
navigate and contain. Today television, as the metaphorical window that makes the walls of the home
penetrable, continues to be thoroughly entangled with the gendered contradictions and transgressions that
crisscross public and private realms.

                                                                                             ii. queer eyes
          If "quality" television took up a version of the boundary-breaching feminist mantra "the personal
is political" in the interest of its own legitimation, as Lentz claims, other TV scholars have suggested that
criticism should make a similar move to recuperate traditionally female concerns and pastimes. Tania
Modleski, for example, recommends "deconstructing the hierarchical relation that exists in the opposi-
tions production/consumption and writerly/readerly in order to search out the radical potential of the sub-
ordinate terms, each of which, as we have seen, is typically associated with the feminine."88 Because tele-
vision viewing is devalued and disdained, within both popular and academic accounts, due to the
ideological taint of feminization, Modleski's strategy parallels a critical turn toward the study of audience
activity (that is, "readerly" "consumption"). Pioneering interventions -- like Janice Radway's reevaluation
of the role of the pulp novel for women in Reading the Romance89 and Stuart Hall's assertion that con-
sumers create unpredictable and sometimes resistant interpretations of mass media texts in "Encoding,
Decoding"90 -- set the tone for this field, which is linked to Marxist cultural studies (particularly the UK's
Birmingham Centre).91 But reception studies runs up against the overdetermination of classifications like
gender, while simultaneously bracketing the role of the unconscious. Ien Ang offers the typical reproach
of theories of spectatorship for what has been called a "hypodermic" model of engagement, pointing out
that "textually inscribed feminine subject positions are not uniformly and mechanistically adopted by so-
cially situated women viewers/readers," but she believes that the ethnographic approach has been equally
guilty of reifying its analytic categories, assuming that "people are always-already fully in possession of


   85. Lauren Rabinovitz, "Ms.-Representation: The Politics of Feminist Sitcoms," in Television, History, and
American Culture: Feminist Critical Essays, ed. Haralovich and Rabinovitz (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999),
145.
   86. Serafina Bathrick, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Women at Home and at Work," in MTM: "Quality
Television," ed. Jane Feuer et al (London: British Film Institute, 1984), 105/103.
   87. Kirsten Marthe Lentz, "Quality Versus Relevance: Feminism, Race, and the Politics of the Sign in 1970s
Television," Camera Obscura 43 (2000): 50-51.
   88. Tania Modleski, "Femininity as Mas(s)querade," in Feminism Without Women: Culture and Criticism in a
'Post-Feminist' Age (New York: Routledge, 1991), 27.
   89. Janice Radway, "Reading the Romance" (excerpt), in Media Studies: A Reader, ed. Paul Morris and Sue
Thornham (New York: New York University Press, 2000).
   90. Stuart Hall, "Encoding, Decoding," in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Simon During (London: Routledge,
1993).
   91. David Morley, "Changing Paradigms in Audience Studies," in Remote Control: Television, Audiences, and
Cultural Power, ed. Ellen Seiter et al (New York: Routledge, 1990).

                                                  jlr • 13/28
an obvious gender identity" and ignoring "that subjectivity is non-unitary, produced in and through the in-
tersection of a multitude of social discourses and practices which position the individual subject in hetero-
geneous, overlaying and competing ways."92 John Fiske's work doubles Ang's poststructuralist emphasis
on the contingent "articulation" of various registers of media experience on the side of the object of study
rather than the subject. He indicts traditional methodologies for their "easy categorization of the viewers
into 'the audience' and the screen into 'the text,'" declaring that "there is no such thing as the 'television au-
dience,' defined as an empirically accessible object... people watching television are best modeled accord-
ing to a multitude of differences. Similarly, the television text, or program, is no unified whole delivering
the same message in the same way to all its 'audience.'"93 So as television, serving as the "window" artic-
ulating domestic/private space and its socioeconomic/public context, has compromised this very distinc-
tion, television studies has analogously confronted its instability as a target of inquiry.
          Given that this instability, on both levels, has been bound up with anxieties about containing fem-
ininity, it's not surprising that the question of how "private" concerns are taken up within the media's
"public" discourse is intertwined with the negotiation of sexual deviance. According to Sasha Torres,
TV's first regular lesbian character was featured on Heartbeat, a medical drama that thematized women
health workers' "confusion about how to have professional and personal lives at the same time." Torres
remarks on "the televisual tendency to use feminism and lesbianism as stand-ins for each other"94 across
this and future attempts to capitalize on feminism's demographic appeal. She argues that this deployment
performed contradictory functions, vacillating between representing the lesbian character as the "privi-
leged signifier of feminism" and thus like other women, and as fundamentally different from other women
to "ease the ideological threat... by localizing the homosexuality which might otherwise pervade these
homosocial spaces."95 The tensions of this textual strategy are mirrored and exacerbated by the aforemen-
tioned unruliness of audience interpretations. When Alexander Doty explores the media's gay inflections
in Making Things Perfectly Queer, he maintains that "the queerness of most mass culture texts is less an
essential, waiting-to-be-discovered property than the result of acts of production or reception," and recep-
tion within a context where "'audience' is now always already acknowledged to be fragmented,
polymorphous, contradictory, and 'nomadic,' whether in the form of individual or group subjects."96
Much of Doty's analysis deals with what he calls the "closet of connotation," which "allows straight cul-
ture to use queerness for pleasure and profit in mass culture without admitting to it,"97 an alibi that relies
on these very polymorphous audiences to decode it (Heartbeat diverges from this tactic by trying to use
lesbian denotation to defuse connotation's dangers, but runs into some of the same aporias nonetheless).
Doty's account suffers from a parallel difficulty pinning down where this queerness can ultimately be lo-
cated, and his reference to the closet as he maps the impulse to simultaneously incorporate and displace
such boundary violations is telling. In her article "Epistemology of the Console," Lynne Joyrich asserts
that "U.S. television both impedes and constructs, exposes and buries, a particular knowledge of sexuali-
ty" as one of its structuring projects, to the point that "the closet becomes an implicit TV form."98 Like
Doty, Joyrich observes that the media have managed homosexual desire through deliberate ambiguity,
with contradictory consequences, but while Doty affiliates with a politics of visibility, Joyrich cautions
that "in formulating a politics of representation, we need not — indeed, should not — simply ask for
more... the explicit revelation of sexuality on commercial television need not explode the logic of the

   92. Ien Ang, "Gender and/in Media Consumption," in Living Room Wars: Rethinking Media Audiences for a
Postmodern World (New York: Routledge, 1996), 113/117/119.
   93. John Fiske, "Moments of Television: Neither the Text nor the Audience," in Remote Control: Television,
Audiences, and Cultural Power, ed. Ellen Seiter et al (New York: Routledge, 1990), 56.
   94. Sasha Torres, "Television/Feminism: Heartbeat and Prime Time Lesbianism," in The Lesbian and Gay
Studies Reader, ed. Abelove and Halperin (New York: Routledge, 1993), 177.
   95. Ibid. 179.
   96. Alexander Doty, Making Things Perfectly Queer (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), xi/1.
   97. Ibid. xi-xii.
   98. Lynne Joyrich, "Epistemology of the Console," Critical Inquiry Vol. 27, No. 3 (2001): 440/450.

                                                   jlr • 14/28
closet"99 (as Torres' reading of Heartbeat indeed suggests). Television's unique epistemological forma-
tion, balanced "on the precarious border of public and private... [where] it constructs knowledges identi-
fied as both secret (domestically received) and shared (defined as part of a collective national culture),"100
erupts in queer textuality and relies on audiences' queer readings.

                                                                               iii. the promiscuous text
          While reception studies has called attention to the diversity and disorderliness of audiences -- a
vitality that is a condition of television's consumer appeal, as well as a threat to its containment of the cul-
ture's constitutive boundaries of gender and sexuality -- post-structuralist theory has argued that texts
themselves are similarly volatile. In "Signature Event Context," Derrida interrogates the ideal of transpar-
ent communication, an expectation that has been linked to media technologies (beginning with writing,
and continuing with the iterability of "every code, making it into a network... a sort of machine which is
productive in turn"101). He emphasizes that the failures of the supposed self-presence of language are not
its exceptions but rather its conditions of possibility, which are precisely its ability to be "detached from
the chain in which it is inserted or given" such that "no context can entirely enclose it"102 (a context which
includes the already fragmentary "intention" of its creator) -- a property of which queer texts and queer
readings (the irrepressible play of intention and interpretation) are one example. Derrida thus defines
texts via their dissemination, supplementarity, and lack of purity, which has the implication of formation
by an outside rather than by a stable, bounded center: "language... excludes totalization. This field is in
effect that of play... there is something missing from it: a center which arrests and grounds the play of
substitutions."103 Barthes' S/Z is an extensive paean to such primal polysemy and intertextuality, in which
he writes that the "[writerly] text is a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning;
it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to
be the main one; the codes it mobilizes extend as far as the eye can reach, they are indeterminable... their
number is never closed, based as it is on the infinity of language."104 Thus, if queer theory postulates that
gender and sexuality can be modeled as similarly contingent, iterable, and performative, we might say
that textuality itself is metaphorically queer in its fundamental instability and continual intercourse with
other texts and contexts.
          Post-structuralism claims this architecture for all Western language and philosophy, but media
theorists have further explored the specific properties of writing technologies, positing television, for
example, as a quintessentially postmodern media form characterized by intertextuality, self-reflexivity, se-
riality, and the continual play of segmentation and flow. The last is a term coined by Raymond Williams
for the transition, with television broadcasting, from the conception of media as "a discrete event or of a
succession of discrete events" to "this sequence transformed by the inclusion of another kind of sequence,
so that these sequences together compose the real flow."105 Williams attributes this property unequivocal-
ly to the industry's commercial interests, as it is a "planned" organization that makes it, in effect, difficult
to stop watching. Other theorists have argued, even more concertedly, that the "postmodern" strategies of
television textuality are fully incorporated into capitalist domination. In her discussion of TV's self-con-
scious intertextuality, for example, Mimi White proposes that the narrative device of fabricating

   99. Ibid. 467.
   100. Ibid. 445.
   101. Jacques Derrida "Signature Event Context," in Limited, Inc. (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press,
1988), 8.
   102. Ibid. 9.
    103. Jacques Derrida, "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," in Writing and
Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 289.
   104. Roland Barthes, S/Z, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1974), 5-6.
   105. Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form (New York: Schocken Books, 1974),
88/90.

                                                    jlr • 15/28
crossovers between different programs is (virtually exclusively) "an obvious commercial-promotional
strategy," which "works to construct an all-encompassing 'world' containing everything -- fact and fiction,
information and entertainment, the real world and a simulacrum -- the inclusivity of which is simultane-
ously nothing but an image of television itself."106 The passing reference to Baudrillard's theory of simu-
lation is no coincidence: in this account, television appears increasingly like a simulacrum in the
Baudrillardian sense, particularly in terms of the apparently inexorable circuit of capitalism. For
Baudrillard, when even capital itself "wants to fight this catastrophic spiral by secreting one last glimmer
of reality, on which to found one last glimmer of power, it only multiplies the signs and accelerates the
play of simulation."107 In "Watching Ourselves Watch Television," Jim Collins offers a counter-assess-
ment, writing that television's "endemic" self-reflexivity is not as effortlessly absorbed by the regime of
simulacra as TV critics like White sometimes suggest. Collins himself is perhaps naively sanguine about
viewers' interpretive agency, about the transparent translation of television's "hyper-awareness of its own
simulated, commodified nature"108 into a position of equal skepticism, "sophistication," and "distantiation"
on the part of its audience. What Collins does contribute, however, is an exploration of the implications
of this distinctly postmodern mode for the subjectivity of spectatorship. He posits a viewer with the "abil-
ity to step inside and outside the television address at will," and "a notion of the television subject that is
likewise both decentered and recentered, neither completely absorbed by all programming, nor entirely
detached from it."109 A subject, that is, who can occupy contradictory positions simultaneously (for exam-
ple, the position of critical distance and that of capitalist dupe, of "irony" and "involvement"). Who navi-
gates the murky borderlands between (not definitively inside or outside) dichotomous terms, and who is
thus the most convincing theoretical counterpart to the so-called postmodern text.

                                                                                                 iv. fan labor
         Despite the mobilization of these polysemic and self-reflexive structures for undeniably commer-
cial purposes, however partial their ultimate effects, in another sense television's postmodern textual
forms may be resistant to capitalist appropriation. The media industry depends on a move to reify the
borders of its franchise (an intellectual property) in order to package it as "private property" that can be
marketed as a product. But, following the poststructuralist theory of signification, texts are necessarily
open (television especially so, for the reasons detailed above), and any attempt to center them in this way
is fantasmatic, and will only perpetuate the endless play of signification. As immaterial goods, the hall-
mark of late capitalism, mass media texts in fact depend on the interpretive and libidinal labor of their au-
diences to invest them with value. Reception studies has tended to valorize "resistant" forms of subcul-
tural meaning-making, but this audience activity does not necessarily run counter to the system: if the
pleasure of reading media texts against the grain stimulates our continued consumption of them, it's per-
fectly consonant with the perpetuation of capitalist hegemony. I'd prefer to position fan production not as
resistance to capitalism, but as a limit case of capitalism, because what it (as a marginal practice) high-
lights by carrying productive consumption to its extreme is the inherent contradictions and instabilities of
this economic system. A paradox: the only way for the entertainment industry to make money off the
texts that they supposedly own is to turn them over to their audience to make what they will of them, thus
challenging this very conception of ownership.
          Henry Jenkins was one of the early scholars of fan production: derivative fiction, music, and
videos based on mass entertainment and situated within communities. For late capitalism, consumption is
the new production, and in "Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten" Jenkins notes presciently that these ac-
tivities "suggest the need to redefine the politics of reading, to view textual property not as the exclusive

   106. Mimi White, "Crossing Wavelengths: The Diegetic and Referential Imaginary of American Commercial
Television," Cinema Journal 25, No. 2 (1986): 52/57.
    107. Jean Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulations," in Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster
(Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988), 180.
   108. Jim Collins, "Watching Ourselves Watch Television," Cultural Studies Vol. 3, No. 3 (1989): 270.
   109. Ibid. 272/265.

                                                    jlr • 16/28
domain of textual producers but as open to repossession by textual consumers," in a milieu where "con-
sumption sparks production, reading generates writing, until the terms seem logically inseparable."110 But
Jenkins will take this boundary confusion only so far: he frames fan labor as an intervention at the site of
reception, opposing this unproblematically to the media industry and the properties that appear onscreen.
In his seminal book Textual Poachers, he falls into similar contradictions. While "fans actively assert
their mastery over the mass-produced texts which provide the raw materials for their own cultural produc-
tions and the basis for their social interactions. In the process... they become active participants in the
construction and circulation of textual meanings," he nonetheless positions derivative works as subor-
dinate to their parent text: he writes that "Because popular narratives often fail to satisfy, fans must strug-
gle with them, to try to articulate to themselves and others unrealized possibilities within the original
works. Because the texts continue to fascinate, fans cannot dismiss them from their attention but rather
must try to find ways to salvage them for their interests."111 If readers (which here includes fan writers)
can produce meaning, but it is still only constituents of the culture industry who have power as producers,
it's not clear whether he ultimately wants to adhere to economic definitions of consumption and produc-
tion that privilege the commercial, or whether he is proposing that fan activities could radically redefine
these terms. Without a poststructuralist perspective on textuality, his analysis pulls up short.
         If I've called such open architectures "queer" for their challenge to boundaries and hierarchies,
these fan labors are often literally about "queering" narratives and characters (in the proud tradition that
Doty documents). Jenkins applies his equivocal combination of subversive valorization and vestigial hi-
erarchization to slash (fan stories featuring same-sex pairings) as well. With the popularization of the in-
ternet, fan activities became increasingly widespread and mainstream, and continuing scholarship has ex-
plored the relationship of slash subcultures to new technological and textual forms. Sara Gwenllian Jones
reevaluates the status of gay "subtext" in her article "Starring Lucy Lawless," pointing to television's seri-
ality as a formal characteristic that particularly invites fan practice (its constant availability as a world we
can turn on and off at will makes it seem as if its characters exist in a spacetime that runs parallel to our
own). Because of television's presentness and polysemy, its worlds are "invariably incompletely fur-
nished" (a quality Jones associates with "cult TV," but which I'd claim is typical of all TV to some de-
gree), and television "exploits" this "deficit between what is (or can be) shown and what the avid audience
wants to see, explore, develop and know... to enthrall viewers."112 This is to say that "heteroglossic cul-
tural references which are easily read one way by queer viewers and quite differently by heterosexuals un-
familiar with the queer lexicon" are a deliberate component of the TV industry's marketing strategy, but at
the same time, "This ambiguity is itself a source of pleasure for many fans, who enjoy spotting 'subtextu-
al' moments and filling in the gaps for themselves."113 This account again complicates a politics of visibil-
ity, because openly gay characters (if such a formation could even exist intelligibly on television, any
more than an unequivocally straight character) might be no worse a consumer ploy and no better an op-
portunity for queer readings than characters who remain in the subtextual "closet." Elsewhere Jones cri-
tiques Jenkins' compensatory account of slash, wherein it is "interpreted as 'resistant' or 'subversive' be-
cause it seems deliberately to ignore or overrule clear textual messages indicating characters'
heterosexuality" -- Jones asserts, rather, that slash is "an actualization of latent textual elements."114 If, as
Joyrich suggests, the closet is a productive theoretical figure for this sort of oscillation between desire and
knowledge, Amelie Hastie dovetails with this theme when she calls attention to the "inherent overlap be-
tween consumerist and epistemological economies present both in television itself and in television criti-
cism."115 Fans of cult shows like Buffy are "trained in epistemological viewing practices," indoctrinated

   110. Henry Jenkins, "Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching," in Television: The
Critical View (5th ed.), ed. Horace Newcomb (NY: Oxford University Press, 1994), 469/451.
   111. Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers (New York: Routledge, 1992), 23-24.
    112. Sara Gwenllian Jones, "Starring Lucy Lawless?" Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, Vol.
14, No. 1 (2000): 13.
   113. Ibid. 19.
   114. Sara Gwenllian Jones, "The Sex Lives of Cult Television Characters," Screen 43:1 (2002): 81-82.
   115. Amelie Hastie, "The Epistemological Stakes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Television Criticism and
                                                   jlr • 17/28
into "a desire for and production of knowledge" and a "historical consciousness" that works against "the
ephemeral nature of television itself" (again, its presentness and seriality). Show tie-ins (whether in the
form of commercial merchandise or fan creations), then, capitalize on viewership's coupling of desire and
pleasure with the project of investigation to promote a realm of supplementary texts that drive and are dri-
ven by TV as a consumerist medium. Thus, fan activities (whether literally or only metaphorically queer)
are thoroughly implicated in television's capitalist economy, even as their economies of desire spawn al-
ternative models of value (the "gift" economy), knowledge, and community. These alternatives challenge
the hegemonic formulation of "private" property through their intertextual imbrication with supposedly
bounded (copyrighted and/or trademarked) texts, and the hegemonic formulation of "private" sexuality by
making reading (queerly) for romance the foundation of a subcultural community (one that's public, if
necessarily not in the conventional sense).


III. mediation: digital
         Capitalism is a remarkably dynamic system, as I discussed above, and while fan production may
appear to strain some of its foundational principles, it is also continually reincorporated into a rapidly
adapting structure. Popular practices that were once reserved for subcultural back-roads are flooding onto
the mainstream superhighway (so dramatically that Time Magazine named "You" the 2006 Person of the
Year), and as with all economic transitions, developing media technologies are at the forefront of this
trend. These changing representational systems sweep the interdependent formations of politics and sub-
jectivity along with them, repurposing the ideologies of privacy and publicity for new configurations. A
variety of thinkers have attempted to define the specificity of "new" media's "newness," often emphasiz-
ing its mutually constitutive relationship with the larger cultural context in both its material and ideologi-
cal dimensions. In 1988, Bill Nichols linked the transition to late capitalism with the advent of the "cy-
bernetic imagination" (an obsession with self-regulating information processing systems, exemplified by
but not limited to the computer), which "represent[s] a set of transformations in our conception of and re-
lation to self and reality of a magnitude commensurate with... [those] wrought by mechanical reproduc-
tion and symbolized by the camera."116 He is centrally concerned with the ways that "conceptual
metaphors [such as cybernetics] take on tangible embodiment through discursive practices and institution-
al apparatuses."117 The interdependence of technology and a technological imaginary is also the theme of
Janet Murray's introductory essay "Inventing the Medium," which traces the reticulated history whereby
"the engineers draw upon cultural metaphors and analogies to express the magnitude of the change, the
shape of the as yet unseen medium [while] the storytellers and theorists build imaginary landscapes of in-
formation, writing stories and essays that later become blueprints for actual systems."118 Rather than
framing this history within a generalized narrative of cybernetics, however, she insists that we are dealing
with "a single new medium of representation, the digital medium"119 (also exemplified by the computer).
          Fifteen years after Nichols' intervention, Murray is more prepared to taxonomize the novelty of
the digital, asserting that the "representational power of the computer derives from its four defining quali-
ties: its procedural, participatory, encyclopedic, and spatial properties... [the former two] are the ones that
provide the basis for what we think of as the defining experience of the digital medium, it's 'interactivi-
ty'... the pleasure of agency, the sense of participating in a world that responds coherently to our participa-


Marketing Demands," in Red Noise: Television Studies and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ed. Lisa Parks (Duke
University Press, 2005), [cited from manuscript].
  116. Bill Nichols, "The Work of Culture in the Age of Cybernetic Systems," in The New Media Reader, ed.
Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort (MIT Press, 2003), 627.
   117. Ibid. 636.
  118. Janet H. Murray, "Inventing the Medium," in The New Media Reader, ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick
Montfort (MIT Press, 2003), 5.
   119. Ibid. 3.

                                                   jlr • 18/28
tion."120 Martin Lister et al also give particular attention to interactivity in their overview of new media,
identifying it as one of five defining concepts (along with digitality, hypertextuality, dispersal, and virtual-
ity)121 and carefully distinguishing the term's ideological from its functional register. These authors take a
similar approach to the term "new media" itself, mapping four elements of its overdetermined nexus of
meanings (what I'd call the institutional, social, ideological, and discursive dimensions). Unlike Murray,
they prefer "new media" to "digital media" as a designation, because the latter "presupposes an absolute
break (between analogue and digital) where we will see that none in fact exists."122 In his landmark new
media textbook, Lev Manovich is similarly skeptical of digital zealotry, arguing that cinema already
makes use of sampling with its 24 frames per second. His five characteristics -- "numerical representa-
tion, modularity, automation, variability, and cultural transcoding"123 -- again offer a slightly different de-
finitional framework, but place equal emphasis on the interlacing of technological and social form. By
"transcoding," he means that "new media in general can be thought of as consisting of two distinct layers
-- the 'cultural layer' and the 'computer layer'... The result of this composite is a new computer culture -- a
blend of human and computer meanings."124 In addition, he associates new media with the typical peri-
odization of capitalism, stating that "The principle of variability exemplifies how, historically, changes in
media technologies are correlated with social change... the logic of new media fits the logic of the postin-
dustrial society, which values individuality over conformity."125 As such, Manovich's book stands as an
astute synthesis of preceding and contemporary work that defines a novel media formation (without, how-
ever, taking the same interest in processes of media transformation or conversely, in their continuity
across popular institutions like television).
          Much in these approaches is prefigured in the visionary work of Marshall McLuhan, who con-
strued all media as prosthetic amplifications of the human body. McLuhan is concerned, in particular,
with the contemporary "electric age" as a radical break from the previous "mechanical age," wherein "all
such extension of our bodies, including cities, will be translated into information systems."126 What, for
other theorists of commodification (back to and including Marx), is often figured as a process of manufac-
turing desire along with the products that ostensibly satisfy it, is for McLuhan the process of perception
itself: "This power of technology to create its own world of demand is not independent of technology be-
ing first an extension of our own bodies and senses... the need to use the senses that are available is as in-
sistent as breathing."127 Sadie Plant aligns with McLuhan when she asserts that "What were once discreet
[sic] media and separable senses have become promiscuous and intertwined. New modes of communica-
tion, even little bits of other senses, have already emerged from the multimedia, multisensory interactions
digitization has provoked"128 -- as the reproductive coupling of divergent media "interact and spawn new
progeny,"129 hybrid intercourse among media themselves is reshaping our subjective and social land-
scapes. A strain of theoretical work emerging today echoes McLuhan's interest in processes of media
change and hybridization, while taking a more sober tone than can be a useful corrective to evangelical
accounts of new media. As N. Katherine Hayles points out (in what amounts to a direct response to Mur-
ray), "many commentators... have claimed that there is now only one medium, the digital computer... This
claim has the effect of flattening into a single causal line -- the convergence of all media into one -- social

   120. Ibid. 6.
   121. Martin Lister et al, New Media: A Critical Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2002), 13.
   122. Ibid. 12.
   123. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 20.
   124. Ibid. 46.
   125. Ibid. 41.
   126. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (30th Anniversary ed.) (MIT Press,
1994), 57.
   127. Ibid. 67-68.
   128. Sadie Plant, Zeros + Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture (Doubleday, 1997), 255.
   129. McLuhan, 49.

                                                   jlr • 19/28
and cultural processes that are in fact much more complex."130 In Remediation, Jay Bolter and Richard
Grusin develop the eponymous term to describe "the formal logic by which new media technologies re-
fashion prior media forms,"131 which entails the ways that new media "refashion older media" and older
media "refashion themselves to answer to the challenges of new media"132 -- a dynamic interplay that is
characteristic of all of media history. Hayles complicates these circuits even further when she argues that
"'Remediation' has the disadvantage of locating the starting point for the cycles in a particular locality and
medium, whereas [her term] 'intermediation' is more faithful to the spirit of multiple causality in empha-
sizing interactions among media... I want to expand its denotations to include interactions between sys-
tems of representations... interactions between modes of representation... [and] mediating interfaces
connecting humans with intelligent machines."133 Such attention to the overdetermined lattices imbricat-
ing media technologies, imaginaries, and cultural practices within and across historical periods offers a
fruitful ground for work on the present-day mediasphere which goes beyond a unitary (even teleological)
rhetoric of "convergence" -- a ground on which I hope to situate myself.
         I take television as the starting point for a trajectory of hybridization (though it is, of course, no
purer a form itself than those that come after). In addition to flow and polysemy, which I identified above
as quintessentially postmodern characteristics of television which accommodate it to the late capitalist mi-
lieu (and vice versa), Jane Feuer establishes "liveness" as a decisive trope, defining it as "an equivalence
between time of event, time of television creation and transmission-viewing time," a formal principle
which is always already bound up with "an ideology of the live, the immediate, the direct, the sponta-
neous, the real."134 This impression of full presence and transparency, already foreshadowed in Hutchin-
son's paean to "the world in your home," functions as the window articulating public and private worlds
and managing the tensions of this operation. Liveness is a crucial fantasy precisely because the inter-
course between the world and the home is crucial to our socioeconomic system, and Hirsch links this in-
terdependence to the intercourse between media and consumers: "the interest in creating domains of do-
mestic self-sufficiency made manifest the need for connections of various kinds... each facilitated by new
technologies."135 In "New Technologies and Domestic Consumption," he outlines the history leading up
to the most recent phase of media convergence, "a new range of technologies and politico-moral ideas,"
dating from the 1970s, "which would re-shape not only the contours of home media, communication and
information, but also the former relationship between 'society' and the individual/family."136 What is use-
ful about this account, beyond Hirsch's emphasis on the revitalization of the private and the interdepen-
dence of domestic technologies and their broader social context, is his attention to hybridization as a
process of continuous transformation rather than absolute breaks. Megan Mullen makes a similar claim in
her theory of "video bites": self-contained, modular segments of TV programming that are at most several
minutes long. While the generalization of the video bite format is a response to particular innovations
that enhance channel switching and commercial-avoidance behaviors, Mullen points out that "household
flow" was always a factor in structuring television viewing. The "privatization" of consumption that
Hirsch describes, including the rise of narrowcasting and niche markets, is part of this environment, and
together with its bite-sized products paves the way for television to be incorporated into new digital media
formations. Tara McPherson analyzes aspects of this intensifying convergence in her article "Reload:
Liveness, Mobility and the Web." Taking MSNBC as her example, she describes the ways that websites

   130. N. Katherine Hayles, My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (University of
Chicago Press, 2005), 31.
   131. Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (MIT Press, 2000), 273.
   132. Ibid. 15.
   133. Hayles, 33.
   134. Jane Feuer, "The Concept of Live Television: Ontology as Ideology," in Regarding Television, ed. E. Ann
Kaplan (Westport: Greenwood Publishing, 1983), 14.
   135. Eric Hirsch, "New Technologies and Domestic Consumption," in The Television Studies Book (London:
Arnold, 1998), 159.
   136. Ibid. 165.

                                                   jlr • 20/28
"capitalize on television's historic ties to liveness," while reworking it into "liveness with a difference...
[that] foregrounds volition and mobility, creating a liveness on demand... often structuring a feeling that
our own desire drives the movement."137 This is a powerful experiential fiction that "actually masks the
degree to which the site already stages a linear, largely unidirectional model of the internet, a model pred-
icated on television's broadcast modes of information delivery."138 McPherson's case study is a paradig-
matic model of how there's neither total continuity nor a total break between media formations, but rather
a process of hybridization which is ideological as much as technological, repurposing constitutive fan-
tasies like privacy for a changing socioeconomic system (a field which is open to intervention by both
corporations and consumer/fans).


                                                                                                 i. control
         The heady sense of freedom and agency that McPherson identifies in her "phenomenology of web
surfing" contributes to a larger discourse linking digital technologies and virtual spaces to populist or de-
mocratic potential. Several other theorists have also pointed out the ideological inflection of such val-
orizations of the internet's distributed architecture: Wendy Chun's book Control and Freedom makes the
case that the internet is a defining instance of the present-day formation "control-freedom," "a reaction to
the increasing privatization of networks, public services and space, and to the corresponding encroach-
ment of publicity and paranoia into everyday life."139 Software offers this enterprise its constitutive fic-
tions, providing an alibi for technological otherness and vulnerability in a manner analogous to ideology.
"If you believe that your communications are private," Chun writes, "it is because software corporations,
as they relentlessly code and circulate you, tell you that you are behind, and not in front of, the win-
dow."140 That is, the contradictory schemas of privacy (in its several senses) are ported to new media con-
texts, supplying the terrain for its anxieties and contestations, in ways that intersect with sexuality and
race as the most intimate domains of subjectivity. Lisa Nakamura offers a complimentary critique of "the
disturbingly utopian strain" of internet discourse, which implies that "technology's greatest promise to us
is to eradicate Otherness" and promote "an ideology of liberation from marginalized and devalued bod-
ies," one which ultimately "reproduces the assumptions of the old one" by functioning to "stabilize a
sense of a white self and identity."141 Central to these accounts is the recognition that the increasing fluid-
ity of identity and power under late capitalism is not equal to the disintegration of hegemony, which is
evolving its own uniquely postmodern control systems. This is the theme of Alex Galloway's Protocol,
his term for this procedure, which he defines as "conventional rules that govern the set of possible behav-
ior patterns within a heterogeneous system... a technique for achieving voluntary regulation within a con-
tingent environment," that "facilitates peer-to-peer relationships between autonomous entities... engenders
localized decision making, not centralized... [and] is robust, flexible, and universal."142 Galloway situates
the importance of these characteristics in the late 20th century's sweeping historical shift (from the mod-
ern to the postmodern, Foucauldian discipline to control as per Deleuze's "Postscript on Control Soci-
eties," decentralized to distributed networks). Protocol is radically effective in the late capitalist context
not because it fully supplants vertical models of discipline with horizontal and flexible management, but
because it marries them in a composite system in which their dialectical tension is precisely what is most


   137. Ibid. 462.
   138. Ibid. 466.
   139. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT
Press, 2006), [cited from controlandfreedom.net].
   140. Ibid.
   141. Lisa Nakamura, "Cybertyping and the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction," in New Media,
Old Media: A History and Theory Reader, ed. Wendy Chun and Thomas Keenan (New York: Routledge, 2005),
319.
   142. Alexander Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
2004), 7/82.

                                                  jlr • 21/28
productive. As such, either celebrating or condemning the internet for its reconfigurations of the private/
public interface refers more to ideological phantasms than material technologies.
         Like mature ideology critique and queer theory, Galloway insists that control can exist only as it
is materialized: "because protocol is agent-specific, it must always be connected to the particular milieu
inhabited by those agents -- their spaces and their own material bodies."143 The material status of protocol
in Galloway's text remains ambivalent, however. He seems far more interested, for example, in protocol's
cross-platform facility in operating across heterogeneous components than in the vagaries of its hardware,
whether technological or organic, veering perilously toward information theory's symptomatic indiffer-
ence to the contingencies of medium in favor of aspects that can be modeled as universal. This is a trope
that N. Katherine Hayles dissects thoroughly in How We Became Posthuman. As I've been doing
throughout this essay, Hayles emphasizes the intimate interface between reproduction of the individual
and of the conditions of economic reproduction. In her view, if industrial capitalism is predicated on the
fabrication of the "liberal humanist subject" which "is thought to predate market relations and owe noth-
ing to them," the system is inherently paradoxical, because in fact, "the liberal self is produced by market
relations."144 There's an ideological circuit, then, coupling the subjective and economic domains: the mar-
ket engineers the subject of "possessive individualism" (its ideal laborer and consumer), and is simultane-
ously dependent on it for its own perpetuation. Of course, since "in late capitalism, durable goods yield
pride of place to information," there's a shift from subjectivity as self-possession to "the articulation of in-
dividual subjectivity with data."145 The hallmark of this formation is a new plasticity in the adjustment of
the organism to economic reproduction: "When bodies are constituted as information, they can be not
only sold but fundamentally reconstituted in response to market pressures."146 This, along with Gal-
loway's observation that protocological control is materialized in bodies, problematizes the impulse to
laud the body as a "natural" site of resistance (the counterpart to the faction that celebrates technological
disembodiment). The other side of the coin, then, of information as "a kind of bodiless fluid"147 is the
bodily fluids that must be governed, mobilized, and channeled via historically specific power formations
into the (re)production of the autonomous, sovereign individual (or body politic) -- or, in the posthuman
context, into the (re)production of the body-as-technology and its prostheses.
         Hayles still allows for optimism within this topology, however. In a discussion of Turing's fa-
mous "imitation game," Hayles argues that "What the Turing test 'proves' is that the overlay between the
enacted and represented bodies is no longer a natural inevitability but a contingent production, mediated
by a technology that has become so entwined with the production of identity that it can no longer
meaningfully be separated from the human subject."148 This dearticulation always leaves a gap where the
intended and anticipated operation of the system can and does run amok. Sadie Plant's reading of cyber-
netics makes a similar claim that this science of self-regulating systems ironically "exposed the weakness-
es of all attempts to predict and control"149 in the course of its mission of understanding and promoting or-
der within an entropic universe. The very feedback loops that enable an organism to regulate and
coordinate itself ensure that it is in constant circulation, its boundaries never fixed. Donna Haraway pio-
neeringly takes the cyborg as the metaphorical nexus for this historical moment: "No longer structured by
the polarity of public and private... hierarchical domination[s] are at issue in the cyborg world... [cyborgs]
are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism... But illegitimate offspring are often



   143. Ibid. 82.
    144. N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and
Informatics (University of Chicago Press, 1999), 3.
   145. Ibid. 39.
   146. Ibid. 42.
   147. Ibid. xi.
   148. Ibid. xiii.
   149. Sadie Plant, Zeros + Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture (Doubleday, 1997), 159.

                                                   jlr • 22/28
exceedingly unfaithful to their origins."150 Thus, while the theorists I've discussed in this section question
the fantasmatic optimism of the more utopian digital discourses, there is still room for certain fantasies in
this account -- those that embrace what Chun calls vulnerability in the service of freedom (which includes
a loosening of the ideological rigidity of some of the experiences that are known as privacy).

                                                                                             ii. surveillance
          The same totalizing rhetoric that enables the glorification of the internet as a zone of choice,
agency, and democracy provides the logic for a pessimistic perspective that often takes the death of priva-
cy as its signature hysteria (see, for example, 2006's typical ad for a web portal/ISP, heralding security
features that defend against identity theft and online predators). This trope has a heritage in previous gen-
erations of media technology: Linda Williams, for example, bases her investigation of pornographic film
on the Foucauldian premise that in "modern Western cultures," "proliferating... discourses of sexuality
have functioned as transfer points of knowledge, power, and pleasure."151 She argues that the develop-
ment of "technologies of the visible" is intimately linked to this cathected "scientia sexualis": "science
and spectacle impel each other according to the principle of maximum visibility."152 Reality TV and web-
cams (roughly contemporaneous phenomena) have been indicted as the legacy of this mediated
scopophilic impulse by a set of comparable accounts that claim, in summary, that developing technologies
and discourses of surveillance have led to the implantation of exhibitionism as the general principle of
subjectivity, and moreover that this generalized perversion serves to naturalize the ever-growing domina-
tion of military-state-economic power, with a number of near-apocalyptic consequences. In "The Visual
Crash," for example, Virilio (the prototypical new media pessimist) posits "the proliferation of LIVE
CAMERAS on the INTERNET" as the centerpiece of a "global TELE-SURVEILLANCE network."153
Whereas surveillance was heretofore "limited to the control of local surroundings" and "military espio-
nage," today "the banalization or popularization of global surveillance, or to put it another way the
DEMOCRATIZATION OF VOYEURISM on a planetary scale, has overexposed even our most private
activities."154 The fact that "direct LIVE COVERAGE does away with interpreter and commentator to
bring the interlocutors together face-to-face" is fully compliant with global capitalism, wherein
"OVEREXPOSURE became indispensable to the market's operation."155 Ursula Frohne makes a similar
case in a sweeping analysis that launches from Warhol's Screen Tests and subsequently flits effortlessly
from postmodern artworks to reality TV to the internet. With "the increasing internalization of the cam-
era perspective by its recipients," she writes, "privacy has become the new privilege in post-capitalist so-
ciety... Intimacy has become a commodity."156 It's clear that Frohne looks upon the result, the "decline of
the distinction between private and public,"157 as the direst threat to "civilization" itself, to any hope of
"unfiltered" or "authentic" selfhood and relationships, leaving the individual with no possibility of gen-
uine, materialized intersubjectivity.



   150. Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto," in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Simon During (London:
Routledge, 1993), 273.
   151. Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the 'Frenzy of the Visible' (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1989), 34/35.
   152. Ibid. 53.
   153. Paul Virilio, "The Visual Crash," in CTRL [Space]: Rhetorics of Surveillance From Bentham to Big
Brother, ed. Thomas Levin et al (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 108.
   154. Ibid. 109.
   155. Ibid. 110-111.
   156. Ursula Frohne, "'Screen Tests': Media Narcissism, Theatricality, and the Internalized Observer," in CTRL
[Space]: Rhetorics of Surveillance From Bentham to Big Brother, ed. Thomas Levin et al (Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press, 2002), 260/272.
   157. Ibid. 256.

                                                    jlr • 23/28
         Peter Weibel contends, in parallel, that the "development of new forms of desire and gaze serves
for conforming to future social relations... To avoid civil revolt against the future surveillance state, the
population is acquainted with, and adapted to, progressively increasing doses through the entertainment
media... [and] surveillance becomes pleasure."158 That is, the allocation of the Other's gaze to media tech-
nologies enables the repurposing of scopophilia to render state and capitalist control enticing. While such
perspectives pose compelling and fruitful questions, they also rely on certain totalizing assumptions. For
example, they grossly over-inflate technological capabilities and the uniformity of their adoption, rather
than engaging with existing technologies and their particular uses and discourses. They posit technology
as the fulcrum articulating perversion with politics, while displaying some confusion about whether a per-
version like "voyeurism" is a universal condition of subjectivity that is available to be mobilized by tech-
nologies of domination, or whether structures of perversion are actually generated by historical changes in
the technological architecture. This move relies theoretically on a perhaps uneasy marriage of psychoa-
nalysis and Foucault: the "panoptic optic" is posed as simultaneously the dispositif of the social order as
mapped in Discipline and Punish and the Lacanian principle of subjectivity. There's also some confusion
about whether the primacy of the visual paradigm survives this shift, or whether, rather, the computer's
"optic" merely simulates scopophilic relations through data transmission. Finally, the dystopian contem-
porary scenario is contrasted with an unfounded nostalgia for a era which is retrospectively posited as a
preserve of unmediated intimacy, impermeable privacy, and uncontaminated sexuality.
         In Foucauldian terms, disciplinary society is only partly determined by the optical architecture of
the Panopticon; technologies of inscription and knowledge are equally decisive. Foucault writes that
"[police] power had to be given the instrument of permanent, exhaustive, omnipresent surveillance, capa-
ble of making all visible, as long as it could itself remain invisible... [AND] this unceasing observation
had to be accumulated in a series of reports and registers... an immense police text [that] increasingly
covered society by means of a complex documentary organization."159 The problem raised here, at the
core of the disciplinary apparatus, is how to integrate optical perception with the archival exigencies of
documentation and storage -- and this is precisely where media technologies enter the scene. In his article
"Surveillance and Capture," Philip Agre proposes that we are on the cusp of a transition between these
two alternative diagrams of "privacy." While he emphasizes that these are cultural metaphor-systems and
not descriptions of reality, and that "these two models are not mutually exclusive,"160 it's clear that capture
(which aligns well with what Deleuze calls "control") is intimately tied to computerization and digitiza-
tion, and intended as a more penetrating and productive assessment of present-day conditions. The first
step is to recognize that visual metaphors derived from optical media (cameras) are waning in importance
with the emergence of linguistic metaphors derived from computer code. Wolfgang Ernst makes a similar
observation: "parallel to the collapse of the sociological distinction between private and public, supervi-
sion as a technique of control is being replaced by interception, as information is distributed by the Inter-
net."161 Again, then, the reconfiguration of the private/public boundary is associated with changing tech-
nologies of control, intersecting on both counts with the structure of the web. And again, this shift is
allied with a declining reliance on the purely visual: "algorithms, that is, already replace the panoptic
regime... Surveillance which has been frequently linked to the audiovisual regime, turns into dataveil-
lance, that is, the reconnaissance of data patterns which can only metaphorically be called 'visual' any
more."162 But if the observation/documentation couple of disciplinary society is skewing increasingly to-


   158. Peter Wiebel, "Pleasure and the Panoptic Principle," in CTRL [Space]: Rhetorics of Surveillance From
Bentham to Big Brother, ed. Thomas Levin et al (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 218-219.
   159. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1979), 214.
  160. Philip E. Agre, "Surveillance and Capture: Two Models of Privacy," in The New Media Reader, ed. Noah
Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort (MIT Press, 2003), 740.
   161. Wolfgang Ernst, "Beyond the Rhetoric of Panopticism: Surveillance as Cybernetics," in CTRL [Space]:
Rhetorics of Surveillance From Bentham to Big Brother, ed. Thomas Levin et al (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
2002), 461.
   162. Ibid. 462-463.

                                                   jlr • 24/28
ward the recorded digital text rather than the optical image, Ernst proposes that the archive itself is
moving in the opposite direction, a destabilizing (and thus productive) reorientation.

                                                                                           iii. community
          Even Ernst associates the reality show Big Brother's celebration of exhibitionism with a contem-
porary breakdown in the "public/private dichotomy" that he attributes to the internet and its interactivity.
Scopophobic doomsaying is founded on the belief that privacy is a state that we once had and are now
losing (and losing, not coincidentally, to the archive -- much contemporary alarmism focuses on "personal
information": what traces are we leaving as we use technology? who is recording, tracking, capturing
them? how can we see without being seen, or more properly, read without being read or retrieve without
being stored?). To posit that voluntarily relinquishing something called privacy entails the concurrent
loss of intersubjective connections, one must define privacy as the preserve where subjectivity (and hence
intersubjectivity) is cultivated. Whereas it would be more precise to conceive of privacy as the strategic
fabrication that furnishes the (bourgeois capitalist) disciplines with their ideological lynchpin; I would
like to suggest that when privacy is invoked nostalgically, as an endangered realm of uncontaminated and
unmediated intimacy, the ideological move wherein it naturalizes disciplinary power is repeated. In this
vein, one thing these particular theories overlook is the ways that intersubjectivity is mediated (and in in-
creasingly digital forms) by community formations. Now, even the original champion of virtual commu-
nity, Howard Rheingold, is wary of unqualified new media utopianism: "We temporarily have access to a
tool that could bring conviviality and understanding to our lives and might help revitalize the public
sphere. The same tool, improperly controlled and wielded, could become... the Panopticon... With so
much of our intimate data and more and more of our private behavior moving into cyberspace, the poten-
tial for totalitarian abuse of that information web is significant."163 Since he published his landmark trib-
ute to the internet's early incarnations, the critical task has been to chart this middle ground between unre-
fined optimism and pessimism.
         This charge is taken up in Marc A. Smith and Peter Kollock's volume Communities in Cyber-
space, the structuring premise of which is that "the kinds of interactions and institutions that are emerging
in cyberspace are more complicated than can be captured in one-sided utopian or dystopian terms... The
new opportunities and constraints online interaction creates are double-edged, leading to results that can
amplify both beneficial and noxious social processes."164 They emphasize that "one can find online
groups that meet any reasonable definition of community, but this is not to say that online and face-to-
face communities are identical... [and] it is especially important that we turn from opinions and percep-
tions to the serious analysis and description of online groups."165 Answering this call to question "opin-
ions and perceptions" with his focus on the "virtual" side of so-called "virtual community," Shawn P. Wil-
bur parses the overdetermined etymological and historical heritage of our notions of virtuality. He
concludes that "the contradictions and confusions which inform notions of community and the virtual"166
(their own discursive virtuality) are an important force in shaping our experience of new media forma-
tions. He is skeptical of the "assumptions" that litter Rheingold's account -- pointing out that "Rheingold
is most prepared to see 'community' in those groups that move from CMC to to face-to-face interaction, as
well as in those who share specific, or useful details of 'real life' (RL)"167 -- and urges us to take online
communication on its own terms, and to invent new terms to conceptualize it.



   163. Howard Rheingold, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, 2nd edition (MIT
Press, 2000), xxx-xxxi.
   164. Marc A. Smith and Peter Kollock, Communities in Cyberspace (Routledge, 1999), 4.
   165. Ibid. 23-24.
   166. Shawn P. Wilbur, "An Archaeology of Cyberspaces: Virtuality, Community, Identity," in The
Cybercultures Reader, ed. David Bell (New York: Routledge, 2000), 51.
   167. Ibid. 46.

                                                  jlr • 25/28
         Barry Wellman is also critical of the typical rhetoric surrounding virtual community, asserting
that "Too often the debate has been (i) Manichean... (ii) Unidimensional... (iii) Parochial: The Internet
should be considered as an entity in itself, rather than as fitting into the full range of work, community,
and daily life. (iv) Presentist: The Internet is such a transforming force that long-term social trends, such
as the pre-Internet move to networked communities, are irrelevant."168 The latter two claims are of partic-
ular substance in his work, which, in contrast to Wilbur's article, situates "virtual" community within a
more prolonged context of histories of and social science approaches to community. He identifies a cul-
tural shift "from hierarchically arranged, densely knit, bounded groups to social networks... [wherein]
work and community networks are diffuse and sparsely knit, with vague overlapping social and spatial
boundaries" -- under these conditions, "often computer networks and social networks work conjointly,
with computer networks linking people in social networks and with people bringing their offline situa-
tions to bear when they use computer networks to interact."169 This perspective makes catastrophic vi-
sions of technologies that singlehandedly destroy social life seem all the more untenable. Sherry Turkle
likewise maintains a positive view of the possibilities of online communication as articulated with "RL,"
suggesting that "in our lives on the screen, people are developing ideas about identity as multiplicity
through new social practices of identity as multiplicity... Online experiences with 'parallel lives' are are
part of the significant cultural context that supports new theorizing about nonpathological, indeed healthy,
multiple selves."170 Turkle is mindful of the ramifications of new technological forms for new identity
formations: "As a user, you are attentive to just one of the windows on your screen at any given moment,
but in a certain sense, you are a presence in all of them at all times... your identity on the computer is the
sum of your distributed presence... in practice, windows have become a potent metaphor for thinking of
the self as a multiple, distributed, 'time-sharing' system."171 While these critics recognize that computer-
mediated-communication may be a breeding ground for new as well as familiar dominations, their scruti-
ny of specific instances of meaningful intersubjective relations across computer networks tempers more
apocalyptic and/or pathological perspectives.
         I propose that virtual community formations may begin to answer criticisms of identity politics
for grounding political action in essential qualities of subjects. They are communities based on a com-
mon practice (in the case of sexual subcultures), or on a common mode of representation or relationship
to the gaze. The social blogging site LiveJournal, for example, combines personal blogs, profiles and
"friends" lists with "communities": group blogs that are similar in function to forums or threaded bulletin
boards. These integrate visual images with text and interactivity to produce a multimedia, communicative
reorganization of self-display. This is not to deny, however, the persistent tensions stirred up by contra-
dictory, shifting models of the frontier of privacy and publicity. In her ethnography of Friendster, Danah
Boyd points out that "publicly articulated social networks and identities are not identical to the private ar-
ticulation gathered by sociologists... users are aware that, in everyday activity they present different infor-
mation depending on the audience. Given the task of creating a Profile, users elect to present themselves
based on how they balance the public/private dimension."172 This approach recognizes that privacy, as
much as publicity, is more multiple than unitary, varying contextually in ways that make its articulation
across differently mediated registers uneasy -- so much so that we might wish to speak of privacies rather
than privacy ("privates," the semantic parallel to "publics," not being an appropriate term because of its
sexual connotations, which is telling in itself). The negotiation of the "public/private dimension" that par-
ticipants in virtual communities must conduct often has sexual undertones, given that dating is one of the
founding imperatives behind sites like Friendster. Recounting the tale of a "virtual rape" in Lamb-
daMOO, Julian Dibbell notes that "while the facts attached to any event born of a MUD's strange, ethere-


   168. Barry Wellman, "Computer Networks as Social Networks," Science Vol. 293 (2001): 2032.
   169. Ibid. 2031.
   170. Sherry Turkle, "Cyberspace and Identity," Contemporary Sociology Vol. 28, No. 6 (1999): 646-647.
   171. Ibid. 644.
  172. Danah Boyd, "Friendster and Publicly Articulated Social Networks," Conference on Human Factors and
Computing Systems (CHI 2004) (Vienna: ACM, April 24-29, 2004), 2.

                                                  jlr • 26/28
al universe may march in straight, tandem lines separated neatly into the virtual and the real, its meaning
lies always in that gap. You learn this axiom early in your life as a player, and it's of no small relevance
to the Bungle case that you often learn it between the sheets, so to speak."173 At the same time, it was this
most intimate of violations that pushed LambdaMoo participants to inaugurate their public by formally
defining the civic structure of what then officially became a community. With such interweavings of their
sexual privacies and their virtual publics, participants in an array of virtual communities emphatically
contravene the decree that the rigidity of this boundary is the ground of normal subjectivity, meaningful
relationships, and a healthy social body.

                                                                                               iv. archives
         Virtual communities rely on archives as the fulcrum between the materiality of the physical and
technological body and the immateriality of information and power. As such, the archive becomes a cen-
tral privacy concern in the digital age (in both practical and fantasmatic senses). Cornelia Vismann his-
toricizes this conflict, mapping the shifting boundaries of private vs. public knowledge that are the foun-
dation of state bureaucracy and citizenship, with their corresponding negotiations of material vs. symbolic
information. Within the trajectory from "the practice of understanding files as state property [that] began
in the Roman Empire" to the Enlightenment "idea that files belong to public," "the de-privatization or
rather expropriation of files only opens another battle over the private/public distinction,"174 one which the
advent of digital files complicates further. In opposition to the archival evangelism of digital media expo-
nent Vannevar Bush, who proposed a utopian personal appliance called the Memex that could transpar-
ently mimic the "intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain,"175 Ernst writes that as "the
archival regime is being extended from text to audiovisual data... this extension changes and dissolves
[its] very nature."176 Ernst sees in these developments certain liberatory possibilities, suggesting that if we
can extricate ourselves from the nostalgic "metaphor of archival spatial order" that internet discourse
clings to, we have the opportunity of "dealing with the virtual an-archive of multi-media in a way beyond
the conservative desire of reducing it to classificatory order again":177 the virtualization of archival space
does away with barriers to access, which depend on the literal sequestering of knowledge, and the fluidity
of information thwarts methods of capturing it in static hierarchies.
          I am less willing to see an overall loosening of the hold of power in the metamorphosis of the
archive, however. For Deleuze, Galloway and Agre, among many others, the waning of the disciplinary
regime simply supplants one diagram of domination with another -- control/protocol/capture is an innova-
tion, but not a liberation any more than we were liberated by the transition from sovereign to disciplinary
societies. Moreover, and inextricably, I am less willing to see the internet as the death (rather than simply
the reconfiguration) of the archive. Witness the fact that, three years after JenniCam went offline, inert
copies and fragments are stored at http://archive.org, and a google image search for JenniCam turns up
"about 766" items, most legitimate captures from the cam. This is to say that cam sites, and other orga-
nized forums like LiveJournal communities, materialize these archival conflicts between visual and textu-
al control, between the rigidity of physical space and the ephemerality of realtime information processing.
In their integration of writing and images, self-display and participation, present-tense transience and per-
sistent traces, they demonstrate that, while technology, desire, and hegemony are in transformation, we

  173. Julian Dibbell, My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World (New York: Henry Hold and
Company, 1998), 16.
    174. Cornelia Vismann, "Out of File, Out of Mind," in New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader,
ed. Wendy Chun and Thomas Keenan (New York: Routledge, 2005), 102.
  175. Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think," in The New Media Reader, ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick
Montfort (MIT Press, 2003).
   176. Wolfgang Ernst, "Dis/continuities: Does the Archive Become Metaphorical in Multi-Media Space?" in New
Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader, ed. Wendy Chun and Thomas Keenan (New York: Routledge,
2005), 110.
   177. Ibid. 109/120.

                                                  jlr • 27/28
are in the midst of a murky confusion of boundaries more than a radical break with their modern forms.
The archive is immanent to the functioning of power, and if it is becoming more modular, immaterial, and
horizontal, this is as much an accommodation to changing architectures of power as a flight from them --
it remains, in Foucault's words, "first the law of what can be said."178 As such, it is as intimate with the
prototypically private domain of subjectivity as with institutional and technological publics.
         This is the theme of Derrida's book Archive Fever, wherein he follows the archive as it appears in
psychoanalysis, in "the representational models of the psychic apparatus as an apparatus for perception,
for printing, for recording, for topic distribution of places of inscription, of ciphering."179 Just as, for La-
can, subjectivity is a radical exteriority, produced in a heteronomous relation with what is irreducibly out-
side the subject and yet most intimate to him, "[the archive] is entrusted to the outside, to an external sub-
strate" -- fundamentally, "there is no archive without consignation in an external place which assures the
possibility of memorization, of repetition, of reproduction, or of reimpression."180 Derrida binds the two
together, asserting that the psychoanalytic "model [of memory as the 'mystic pad'] also integrates the ne-
cessity, inside the psyche itself, of a certain outside... in sum, of a prosthesis of the inside... The theory of
psychoanalysis, then, becomes a theory of the archive."181 In other words, and based on the very compo-
sition of the psyche and the archive (which are one and the same), technology and perversion are mutually
constitutive: scopophilia, for example, could not exist in its modern form without the camera as a prosthe-
sis of the eye, splitting one's image from the self-present space and time of perception; but by the same to-
ken the camera could not exist without scopophilia, the drive to perpetually iterate, disseminate, and mas-
ter the gaze through escalating technological developments. And this circuit continues into the era of
digitization and networks.
          The archive is the joint figure that can serve as a hinge between psychic and political spheres,
through the question of what can be written rather than what can be seen. Derrida defines the archive,
that is, precisely as the pivot or overlap between inside and outside, public and private. Here, it is the
archival function of inscription, authorization, and mediation in both the psychic and the social apparatus,
rather than the gaze of the big Other, that forms the intersection of subjective (inside, private, domestic)
and political (outside, public, patriarchal) regimes. But, in keeping with both the psychoanalytic and Fou-
cauldian theories of resistance, the archive as pivot, as boundary or "passage," unhinges these oppositions
even as it constitutes them. The archive, as precisely the possibility of repeating, recalling, recording
knowledge, works against stable presence and origins. This is why I am skeptical of Ernst's view of the
multimedia (an)archive as dissolving a formerly stable hierarchization, since it seems to me that the mod-
ern archive was never as secure nor is the internet archive, by contrast, as fluid as they appear in his ac-
count. Both, rather, are constitutively fissured in ways that open up possibilities for resistance. Networks
and digitization, the technologies that embody and enable new models of subjectivity and community, un-
deniably throw the archive into flux, in both its psychic and political dimensions. The contested boundary
between public and private is necessarily reconfigured along with the mediated gaze-relation, its articula-
tion with language and textuality, and its possibilities for communication and horizontal connectivity.




   178. Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (New York: Pantheon, 1982), 129.
   179. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1995), 15.
   180. Ibid. 8/11.
   181. Ibid. 19.

                                                   jlr • 28/28

				
DOCUMENT INFO
hkksew3563rd hkksew3563rd http://
About