Forget your ying – and go fuck your yang

March 18, 2013 § Leave a comment


First, I want to refocus the definition of digital dualism to the moments where people downplay the role of the digital when speaking of something they think is material (wrongly called “real”) as well as downplaying the role of the material when speaking of something they think is primarily digital (wrongly called “virtual”). Regardless of your position on “reality”, this is digital dualism that underestimates the enmeshment of information and materiality, leading to ideas like Facebook comprises “virtual” rather than “real” friendships, that there is some “second self” that you inhabit online, and so on. Over the dinner table, in blog comments, in op-eds, in research papers, people often simply forget the material when talking about the digital and the digital in the material. Yes, people may almost never say the Internet is some distant other universe, but people do often overstate how distant and unrelated the material and the digital are. Those holding this digital dualist, zero-sum, conception of the on and offline are the ones surprised by research showing that those who do more online tend to also do more offline, opposed to the idea that people are trading “real life” in favor of living on Facebook.

Thus, digital dualism is the tendency to see the digital and material as too distinct, rather than enmeshed, consistent with the definition of the term I worked with one website to create:

n. The belief that online and offline are largely distinct and independent realities.

Second, I want to refocus on the question of how digital dualism—this tendency to underestimate digital-material enmeshment—often clears a clean path towards the claim that one (usually, but not always, the material) is more real, deep, human, and true. Not ontology, these are cultural value statements based on the idea that the on and offline are distinct rather than enmeshed.

My most passionate expression of this concern is my IRL Fetish essay where I argue that calling the digital “virtual” lets one simultaneously claim that which is not digital is “real.” It allows one to say that there is a crisis of the real, that it is disappearing in precisely the same moment that we are obsessed over it.  read more


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