2011 Student Research Conference:
24th Annual Student Research Conference

Virtual Bodies: An Application of Embodiment Theory to Cyberspace
Matthew W. Ziegler
Dr. Natalie Alexander, Faculty Mentor

The phenomenon of online social networking becomes more relevant to modern living every year. When dealing with cyberspace, critical theory often lapses into a dualism separating the physical user and their representation or instantiation in cyberspace. This dualism follows similar theoretical lines as mind-body dualism in which subjective and objective identity are distinctly separated. Elizabeth Grosz refutes conventional mind-body dualism in her book Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism by developing a theory of embodied subjectivity. I use Grosz's theory of embodiment and apply it to the cyborg-avatar model for discussing human interaction and identity in cyberspace. For this study, I primarily analyze Facebook and Secondlife, often in juxtaposition, for expressing a continuum of embodiment spanning from a mere profile to a detailed humanoid avatar. I also take social inscription and construction into account to demonstrate the role and prevalence of power structures on the construction of online identity.

Keywords: Embodiment Theory, Facebook, Online Identity, Cyberspace, Cyborg-Avatar construction, Secondlife, Human Interaction, Social Constructionism

Topic(s):Philosophy & Religion
Women's and Gender Studies

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 44-3
Location: MG 2090
Time: 3:15

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