Category Archives: Internet Studies
This essay was originally posted as part of my work for the Virtual Worlds Research Group at Roskilde University. This essay reflects my interest in how pop culture represents new media technologies, such as virtual worlds, as part of the process whereby a society / culture comes to determine what will be the acceptable and thus normal use of such technologies. My reflection on this phenomenon in 2011 suggests the tensions that can occur during such a normalization process; in this case, the seeming fear of virtual worlds that exists in the world. This interest led to the creation of my course “New Media in Pop Culture” launched in January 2014, which I will write about further in this blog.
Ghost Whisperer’s Ghost in the Machine: An example of pop cultural representation of virtual worlds
Since the fall of 2005, on Friday nights in the United States on CBS you can find the series Ghost Whisperer (NOTE: the series ended in 2010). The series is about a woman, Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who can communicate with, and thus help, ghosts. In the third episode of the fourth season, “Ghost in the Machine” (originally aired October 17, 2008), the ghost emerges from a virtual world to draw her into a case about one of the oft-discussed threats of going digital: online predation.
In this episode, virtual worlds are both defined through conversation amongst characters and visual representation for those unfamiliar with these new-ish cyberterrains. However, the use of the virtual world, created for the show, is less to explore what these cyberterrains are and more to use them for a traditional morality tale on the dangers of talking to strangers.
Defining Fractured Fandom
According to the discipline of fan studies, at this point in history, being a fan is considered a positive for any individual. Being a fan helps people discover their identities, and to determine what they like and do not like. Being a fan helps people find friends, establish communities, and develop a sense of belonging. Being a fan allows people to express themselves creatively, whether through theories, writing, art works, or costumes. Being a fan represents a means for everyday people to establish themselves as active and powerful creators and participants in a capitalistic system that otherwise sees them as nothing more than passive consumers. In other words, being a fan, especially since the advent of the Internet, is considered a positive aspect of life.
There are times, however, when being a fan presents a problem: a problem for the fan; for others the fan engages with either inside or outside of any fan community; or for entire fan communities that clash with one another, whether from the same fandom, from different fandoms, or outside the context of any fandom. Sometimes, what one fan considers good another might consider bad. These differences hold the potential to cause problems in how individuals treat one another, and can impact people’s behaviors in such a way that what once seemed brilliant and fun becomes unwelcoming or even threatening. When an individual’s sense of self depends too much on identifying as a fan, or when a fan questions the legitimacy of another group of fans, then fandom becomes problematic. Such instances can lead to what I call fractured fandom.
Day 3: Monday, June 23rd
The reason I came to Collegium is for a specific purpose, one that could potentially help my university. So it is interesting that what I have gotten out of it so far has been more relevant to a research project that has been in the back of my mind for years.
At my university, I have been helping to develop a sense of how to approach online and blended learning for our students, as well as to help faculty develop their online and blended courses. One of the issues that we have discussed in this process has been the extent to which we are able to translate the research-centered teaching we have been honing on campus from the face-to-face learning environment to the online environment. Part of this is to be able to maintain a quality of our institution’s educational experience that makes us distinct in the area. Another part of this is to be able to maintain a commitment to a Dominican and Catholic approach to higher education. As part of this process, I was awarded a fellowship to further investigate how to translate the Catholic ethos of higher education to an online learning community.
The blending of the physical and the virtual is increasing due to mobile computing technologies. Is our cybernetic future at hand?
Christopher Olson uses digital tattoos to discuss the blending of realities, and the construction of reality in his latest article: Mobile Media Technologies at the Intersection of the Virtual and the Real.
So here we have another wonderful breakdown of a breakdown in the progress of bringing women across gendered lines. This summer — and maybe even this year thus far — has been one in which we really start to address the realities of what has been happening when women cross those gendered lines into areas traditionally dominated by men — in areas that perhaps our society or culture do not take seriously, but are very serious to those of us whose lives revolve around and depend upon them.
Areas like fandom, video games, the tech biz, comic books — over and over again have we heard stories, had discussions, had counter-discussions, about fake geek girls, gender swapping, women as gamers, women as designers, women as objects, misogyny, intolerance, death threats. All instances of men reacting to women being in a space deemed “theirs”, and all because women were complaining about how men were representing and treating women in a space they deemed “theirs”.
There should be no space that is wholly masculine, just as there should be no space that wholly feminine. We should all share these spaces when they are spaces built upon and focusing on what we love to think, feel and do in our lives. These are all human spaces — wonderfully constructed through human endeavors to make our lives better. There should be no “man caves”, no “woman caves” — just caves that we can share to play games, build technology, tell stories, live our lives.