pmorle on Tue, 3 Dec 96 08:32 MET

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

nettime: A Statement on Virtuality


My research attempts to articulate principles of being in cyberspace.
As this work progresses I become increasingly convinced that an initial
step back from the (apparently) technological dominants of a mythical
virtual reality is needed.  This work (and I believe the work of other
cyber-theorists) demands that it is contextualised in a general theory
of being.  This theory needs to be a theory of embodiment and a theory
of  in-betweeness  that attempts to place being in a theoretical locus
that resists binaries.  It is this theory that I am calling

The more I attempt to define being in a cyberspace the more I find
myself defining being in a general sense.  I am claiming that virtuality
is a liminal locus that is the _only_ state of being.   Me/you -
self/other - body/mind - virtual/real - all not very useful dualisms
that I want to erode.

David George has said:

        All binaries need now investigating not for their deceptively
        reassuring ability to be collapsed into stable - and static - units,
        but the very opposite: that all binaries are really  hidden - and
        dynamic - triads.  Because any two terms necesarily postulate the
        notion of  relationship  as the necessary - third - factor which
        simultaniously  separates and joins any two related forces or factors
        the crucial factor here is not  how many ways two different units can
        relate to each other, but reconition that this third element  is not    a
unit but an axis, not an entity but a state of being, less a
        _relationship_ than an _act of relating_.

This is the limen.  This is where life happens.  All being is a
relationship that is constantly in flux and under negotiation. It is
never in-stasis, always ex-stasis, dissappearing in the moment of

We attempt to define this liminal space of being usually through
binaries.  But these binaries are not  realities  they are _postulates_
acting as teleological attractors sustaining the event of being, keeping
it highly dynamic and shifting.

Cyberspace is a space where these issues are exigent.  Usually we talk
of being  disembodied , of leaving physical space to become spirits of
pure data.  We talk of leaving the  real world  to be in cyberspace.  We
talk of not being our  self  when we inhabit our aliases.  Binaries all
the way.

In reality we stay in-between. The limen is an important state of
being.  Let us lool at a specific question:  Sherry Turkle has said in

        Is on-line sex like having an affair? Is it my business because
I m
        married to you?  Or is it like your reading pornography and its         none
of my business? In the new questions about authenticity we see  the
beginnings of a cultural conversation  that s going to  take    fifty

Authenticity is the key word here.  As long as we continue with binares
we also continue with value judgements and heirarchies that place one
pole f a binary in opposition to another.  Such as the  real  being more
authentic to the  virtual .  However, the  real  (and all its
connotations) and the  virtual  are postulates that do not exist. If we
look at Turkles question in the context of virtuality - in the context
of all being existing within an ecstatic limen we can begin to answer
her question.

Alan Sondheim, at CYBERMIND  96, in a paper on net-sex made an important
statement by saying that he no longer has net-sex because when he logs
out of the space in which the event happenned  - when his state of
virtuality shifts - he feels a tremendous sense of loneliness.  This is
the sensation of his very real virtuality rapidly re-configuring itself.
When he had net-sex he was not in cyberspace  or in front of his
computer.  He was quite concretely in-between the two.  The events
within the imagined cyberspace were without question colliding with the
events of  Alan-in-his-apartment  .   If we retain the binaries we could
imagine that Alan had good net-sex with a fictional (and not important
or  authentic ) subject and could log back into  reality  and care not.
He cared and so would I.  What we usually call logging into cyberspace
is only a re-configuring of a real state of being called virtuality.

Now Turkle s question.  I believe that if I had net-sex that my wife
should care, deeply, about it.  I once gave a paper in which I talked of
hugging a woman in a MOO and wondering if we were falling in love.  My
wife was deeply hurt and she had every right to be.   Surely the desire
to experience (in virtuality which is a primary state of being) a
profound and shared erotic moment - to co-create a very charged state of
virtuality - is a betrayal in the same way as what we would usually call
 really  having sex.  The marriage itself exists as a virtuality.  It is
a state of being that is always in-between myself and my wife.  In
virtuality many worlds layer on top of each other - what would be the
consequences of layering net-sex on top of our marriage ?

Moving away from cyberspace towards performance.  This is my primary
field (although in this context we could suggest that it is just a part
of the virtuality that defines the shifting  me ).  Without virtuality
there could be no performance.  Where does a performance happen?  On the
stage?  In the  minds  of the spectator?  Or in-between the two?
Performance is not something performers do and spectators watch - it is
Gibson s "consensual hallucination" created in the virtuality of a
liminal space.

I am very keen to receive comments from the readers of this list on the
contents of this statement.
*  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
*  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
*  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
*  more info: and "info nettime" in the msg body
*  URL:  contact: