Kaitlin here. Apologies for the belatedness of this post, but the end of the semester teaching, course work, and Master’s program requirements kept me busy.
For this first blog post of actual content, I wanted to discuss one of the terms that is highly misunderstood in digital studies, but also my own (inter)disciplinary understanding: space. In our respective fields, Tom and I have both developed an interest in space, whether it is how space functions as a location for potential action to unfold, space as a rhetorical creation, or the ways in which space interacts with music for a particular effect.
The digital is understood fundamentally as a type of space, hence the term “cyberspace.” Yet the spatial is often obscured because it is not clear how bodies, identities, users are able to inhabit this space. There is not a *there* to discuss as we would discuss the rhetorical dimensions of urban spaces. My research has been focused on the role of bodies and identities as they are created, maintained, and contested in digital spaces. This type of study requires a more nuanced understanding of digital space than currently exists. Binaries are pervasive when encountering the digital: real/unreal, physical/virtual, meaningful/meaningless. When the digital is understood as a space, it is typically divided into discursive metaphorical or the more easily accessible and tangible spaces of MOOs, websites, physical tech. I would argue that we’re limited in addressing digital space because of how materialism has been problematic linked to meaning (how matter matters a la Karen Barad), but that’s a chapter from my thesis that I won’t get into here. Given the multiplicities of spaces in the digital, how do we define digital as a space? What digital spaces are productive sites for academic inquiry?
I’m interested in discussing the digital as a space because it’s an epistemological/ontological switch. The digital is typically constructed as a thing, noun or adjective, object. As an object, the digital acts as a sort of tool that allows the user some sort of agency; the digital can be used for a particular purpose (as in, this iPad is a digital tool that has pedagogical applications). Understanding the digital as a space then allows the digital to become a site for potential, for extensions beyond. The digital as a space functions more as a Deleuzian plateau from which flights of fantasy, appendages, and rhizomes begin.
Tom- your thoughts?
Edit: Currently reading Scot Barnett’s “Psychogeographies of Writing: Ma(r)king Space at the Limits of Representation” in the most recent issue of Kairos. He’s dealing with critical spatial theory, phenomenology, and representation/experience that may be useful to grounding at least part of this conversation. I’ll probably write a post on my thoughts after reading through the entire web-article.