The Web, Digital Prostheses, and
PJ Rey and Whitney Erin Boesel
Routledge Handbook of Science, Technology and Society
Eds. Daniel Lee Kleinman and Kelly Moore
Publication Date: 2014
We begin with a quick overview of the sociological understanding of subjectivity and two of its key elements: embodiment and the social conditions of subjectification. We argue that contemporary subjects are embodied simultaneously by organic flesh and by digital prostheses, while, at the same time, contemporary society maintains a conceptual boundary between "the online" and "the offline" that artificially separates and devalues digitally mediated experiences. Because we collectively cling to the online/offline binary, the online aspects both of ourselves and of our being in the world are consequently diminished and discounted. The culturally dominant tendency to see "online" and "offline" as categories that are separate, opposed, and even zero-sum is what Nathan Jurgenson (2011, 2012a) terms dualism, and it leads us to erroneously identify digital technologies themselves as the primary causal agents behind what are, in complex social problems. In our final section, we use so-called "cyberbullying" as an example of how digital dualist frames fail to capture the ways that subjects experience being in our present socio-technological milieu.