Dear all, Amin is unable to post his blog, so I’m uploading it here! Please read below.
Carmen Hermasillo who goes by her screen name, Humdog, wrote an essay in 1994 titled “Pandora’s Vox: On Community in Cyberspace,” commenting on the nature of cyberspace, and how it isn’t really what we believe it to be. She says, “cyberspace is the purest manifestation of the mass.” She quotes Jean Beaudrilliard, a French theorist who is also a critic of contemporary society, saying that society is like a black hole. “It absorbs energy and personality, and then represents it as a spectacle.” People tend to think that in cyberspace, the mass holds power, and it is the mass that can create social change through their uniting, “the rhetoric in cyberspace is liberation speak.” However, humdog shows us that this isn’t the case. She portrays the mass like a doll in a shop that is silent and has no expression. This was an interesting way for me to think of our presence online. Cyberspace is rather “an increasingly efficient tool of surveillance.” When I am on the web, I am subconsciously browsing, it has become a routine to me. Although I know the Internet is surveyed, the thought never strikes me; the thought that what I put out there could potentially be seen by an organization such as the FBI is not something I keep in mind.
“Hummie” argues that as a result of cyberspace, there has not been a reduction of hierarchy, but rather a commodification of personality, which is then passed onto companies. I had never thought of it this way. What Hummie was posting online was being sold to other companies as entertainment. Like what she was posting online about herself onto the board, which eventually was made immortal…
I liked how she called language in cyberspace a frozen landscape. She says when the user id speaks, “it does so while dwelling within an illusion that no one is present.” There is a certain silence on the cyberspace, or on the board that the user-id posts to. This reminded me of the idea of stalking online, more specifically the millennial concept of social media stalking. For example on Instagram or Facebook, when you are scrolling through your feed, you feel as if nobody is watching. Probably most of the time, there are several other people simultaneously looking at the same thing, yet the silence remains. This relates back to her point at the beginning of her essay, about how nobody knew she was a woman, and everybody referred to her as a “he.” Nobody online can see each other’s face; there is no way of knowing who is behind a screen. It is interesting to compare cyberspace in 1994, to 23 years later in 2017, and notice that some of the aspects she mentions have stayed the same. However I think some things have changed too. For example online there is much more of an interaction between people in 2017. On Twitter or Facebook, you can like a comment, reply to a comment, give thumbs up, or even reply with an expression, like crying of laughter, or frowning, amongst a multitude of other options across several platforms. Social media has strived to connect the world even more, and as a result it has blurred the line between real life and being on social media. So, in some ways I believe it is similar to how it used to be, and in others I believe social media is converging towards making the user experience even more realistic.
Another point of hers that I was in line with, was when she talked about saying swear words or looking at sexually explicit pictures. These things are censored on some pages, such as the WELL, however Humdog argues that this is the least of our problems regarding freedom of expression. Just as a side question, is there a reason she capitalizes “The Least Of Our Problems”? Again, cyberspace is not really a world of liberation if we cannot express ourselves online.
When I am online, I too sometimes have “felt it necessary to say that I am human… A lot of the time I need to see handwriting on paper or a photo to confirm the humanity of the voice.” Do you sometimes feel this way? Do you ever forget that you are interacting with actual humans when you’re online? Do you ever forget that everything we see on cyberspace is human produced?