Title

Cyber Communities

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

3-2018

Department

Religion

Language

English

Publication Title

Gender: Space

Abstract

Imagine a space entirely free from the limitations of materiality. Accessible at any time from any location, this imagined world is an inclusive space, where people are not defined by their age, gender, ability, race, or social position. The hegemonic structures that under gird social oppression and marginalization as we know it are unknown here because in this reality, humans are not bound to identities dictated by their physical bodies. Transcending both time and physicality, this space affords the possibility of trying on other identities and imagined selves as a form of play, self-expression, or subversion. It is a self-regulated space--borderless--with no single governing body and no centralized controlling authority. Its citizens experience all the benefits of community, without the burden of its restrictions.
Toward the end of the twentieth century, technology theorists, communications scholars, feminists, and gender activists began to see the Internet as the realization of a utopian vision that has been the subject of fantasy literature from ancient myths to modern works of science fiction. A virtual network connecting diverse individuals across time and space, the Internet held promise that the creation of a truly egalitarian public sphere might soon become a reality. While it is true that the Internet, in its capacity to collapse time and extend space, has lived up to some of these utopian dreams, as the technology matures into the twenty-first century a more tempered view of cyber reality has emerged. For some theorists, the virtual world of cyberspace represents a dystopic mirror of human society, where the prejudices and violence of embodied life are, in fact, magnified by the veil of anonymity that cyber life makes possible. Far from granting radical freedom and open access to information, cyberspace, as envisioned by dystopian critics, is a path to extensive regulation and surveillance that compromises intellectual and personal freedoms in unprecedented ways.

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