The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship

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Overview

Internet and computer users are often represented onscreen as active and empowered—as in AOL's striding yellow figure and the interface hand that appears to manipulate software and hypertext links. In The Body and the Screen Michele White suggests that users can more properly be understood as spectators rendered and regulated by technologies and representations, for whom looking and the mediation of the screen are significant aspects of engagement. Drawing on apparatus and feminist psychoanalytic film theories, art history, gender studies, queer theory, critical race and postcolonial studies, and other theories of cultural production, White conceptualizes Internet and computer spectatorship and provides theoretical models that can be employed in other analyses. She offers case studies and close visual and textual analysis of the construction of spectatorship in different settings.White shows that despite the onscreen promise of empowerment and coherence (through depictions of materiality that structure the experience), fragmentation and confusion are constant aspects of Internet spectatorship. She analyzes spectatorship in multi-user object-oriented settings (MOOs) by examining the textual process of looking and gazing, contrasts the experiences of the women's webcam spectator and operator, describes intentional technological failures in net art, and considers ways in which traditional conceptions of artistry, authorship, and production techniques persist in Internet and computer settings (as seen in the creation of virtual environment avatars and in digital imaging art). Finally, she analyzes the physical and psychic pain described by male programmers in Internet forums as another counternarrative to the common tale of the empowered user. Spectatorship,White argues, not only affects the way specific interfaces are understood but also helps shape larger conceptions of self and society.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"The literature on new media is abundant, but few humanities scholars have directly interrogated the specific kinds of practices and aesthetics that the internet makes possible. *The Body and the Screen* does precisely this. White's sustained focus on technological mediation, informed by feminist and queer-theory approaches, makes a significant and needed contribution to the literature."—Ken Hillis, Associate Professor of Media Studies, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

" The Body and the Screen is a highly nuanced critical examination of the junction of the virtual and the real. By engaging cyberspace and the body together (and by not participating in the game of their free disassociation, as many media theorists do), White offers important arguments for the materiality of the experience of new media. This much-needed book marks an important step forward in critical studies of new media and the Internet." Steve Jones , Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago

"*The Body and the Screen* is a highly nuanced critical examination of the junction of the virtual and the real. By engaging cyberspace and the body together (and by not participating in the game of their free disassociation, as many media theorists do), White offers important arguments for the materiality of the experience of new media. This much-needed book marks an important step forward in critical studies of new media and the Internet."—Steve Jones, Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262232494
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 6/16/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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Table of Contents

The body, the screen, and representations : an introduction to theories of Internet spectatorship 1
1 Making Internet and computer spectators 17
2 Visual pleasure through textual passages : gazing in multi-user object-oriented settings (MOOs) 35
3 Too close to see, too intimate a screen : men, women, and Webcams 57
4 The aesthetic of failure : confusing spectators with Net art gone wrong 85
5 Can you read me? : setting-specific meaning in virtual places (VP) 115
6 This is not photography, this is not a cohesive view : computer-facilitated imaging and fragmented spectatorship 147
Afterword : the flat and the fold : a consideration of embodied spectatorship 177
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