Virtual spaces are created and re-created by physical bodies in virtual form, and virtual bodies are created through virtual space, which is socially produced. (Lefebvre) What is fascinating to me about virtual spaces is that the boundaries of communication in physical interactions do not exist: bodies often communicate what they think with less guard than in physical life. Of course the opposite can be argued that bodies create a specific tailored self-image online censoring the communication they share, and this is the case when it comes to self-branding as a micro-celebrity. However, in the physical world bodies rarely interact with other strange bodies, but online this social taboo is broken unlocking vast spaces of connection and “free” communication.
Virtual spaces serve as sanctuaries for like-minded bodies. They provide a connection to other similar bodies that would otherwise have no support through traditional physical space. I personally rely on a virtual community for support regarding my lifestyle choice, as there is no physical space in my geographic location that provides connection to other like-minded bodies and support in this realm. My embodiment of these virtual communities on YouTube and Instagram have become habitual routes of travel forming my unconscious perception through my perceived space. When I am in these virtual community spaces I feel connection, support, ease, happiness, and belonging, creating a sense of home that can be felt through my embodiment online and in the physical space I inhabit at the time: sensory inscribed body. (Farman) Whether the online bodies are authentic is subjective. Some online bodies are more authentic than their physical counter-parts. For example, many introverts become extroverts when expressing themselves and connecting with others in online space, whilst in the comfort of their own personal physical space in solitude. Western culture is built on the belief that authenticity exists, and is of great importance. People are obsessed with knowing the real truth. There is a heightened fear of “fake” people, or becoming fake yourself that drives this obsession, feeding consumerism as a solution for authenticity. Authenticity of online and physical bodies is an erroneous myth. Other bodies cannot decide the authenticity of someone’s embodiment due to intersubjectivity. (Farman)
The downfall to this lack of a social border that the physical world is tainted with is that it opens the doors to shaming, hatred, prejudice and violence through surveillance and sousveillance. In this refuge, where spaces are co-created by like-minded bodies, there also exist bodies with opposing cultural beliefs and perceptions. Because of the encouragement for “freer” communication with other virtual bodies, opposing bodies often say more exaggerated claims than they would ever consider doing in the physical world.
The regulations to keep online communities in-check is as un-just as the laws to enforce “peace” in physical space. They are corrupted by double standards, bias, whiteness, sexism, and heterosexual normality.
Virtual space has many of the same dimensions and characteristics of physical space and should be thought of with equal importance. Virtual bodies are authentic embodiments of physical bodies and online lives should not be dismissed as less important.
Is it possible to construct a fair system of conduct online without taking away bodies’ right to express themselves, or any forms of oppression?
Why is it that bodies are so concerned with the authenticity of other bodies and representations of themselves? When online bodies are created through virtual embodiment, even if their online body is completely different from their physical counter-part, isn’t there still authenticity to the online embodiment if they are creating it with?
Lefebrve, Henri. “The Production of Space.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (289-293). London: Routledge.
Farman, Jason. (2012). Mobile Interface Theory Ch. 1 “Embodiment and the Mobile Interface” (16-34) London: Routledge.
Greenwald, Richard. “Why Is ‘Authenticity’ So Central To Urban Culture?” City Lab. 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 March. 2015.
Read more about the obsession of authenticity.