This was a project of Spring 2011 MITH Winnemore Digital Dissertation Fellow Maria Velazquez. Her dissertation, “Electronic Skin: Community Building and Virtual Embodiment” investigated the creative processes through which citizens are made, with particular attention to the role that technologies like blogging, virtual reality, and electronic activism foster the use of “imaginative embodiment” in creating stories of citizenship, selfhood, and action. “Imaginative embodiment” suggests the ways in which performing citizenship involves a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual investment in incarnating particular political and social ideals. Velazquez’s examineds three areas, the Go Mamasita! Dance Studio, a site envisioned as a place where women of color, particularly African- American women, can reconnect with dance ancestry, a nexus to North African dance traditions, filtered through the lens of digital diaspora; Red Light Center (RLC), an adults-only virtual world, similar in design to World of Warcraft or SecondLife, to discuss the role pre-structuring technology takes in creating erotic virtual cityscapes; and the blogosphere, particularly blogs that grapple with anti-racist discourse, fandom, and popular culture. Through an investigation of these spaces, Velazquez described the ways individuals engage in virtual and “real-world” activism. Actions and behaviors that highlight the ways in which the language of friendship, holism, and community is mobilized in conversations about citizenship, the body, and desire. While a dance studio, a pornographic virtual world, and segments of the blogosphere may seem like a disparate collection of sites for investigation, all three share an abiding interest in the body and its potential as site of pleasure.
- Maria Velazquez