Transnational Blogospheres: Virtual Politics, Death, and Lurking in France and the U.S.
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What are the meanings of "here" and "there" in a digital age? This dissertation explores how blogs reveal new meanings of being "here" in a political space, how blogs reveal new meanings of being (or not being) "here" in a textually-mediated universe, and how blogs reveal new ways of being seen to be "here" when most internet users are just looking and log on and off without saying a word. Beginning with a reflection on the possibilities of democracy in a world where the interface is drawn to the forefront, I argue that the internet presents a new (and imperfect) way for citizens to operate the machinery of government. Next, I consider the consequences of this interface being available to people regardless of their geographic locations or national origins. I argue that citizenship in a digital moment is more closely bound to participation than it is to blood or territory and construct a notion of virtual transnational citizenship.
Such a notion of transnational citizenship does not signal the end of place and the irrelevance of presence and absence. Instead, it reveals that these concepts must be rethought and refigured. Bloggers flicker between absence and presence: in the blogosphere, every post may be a blogger's last, but there may just be another one waiting for us if we'll click reload. With this ambiguity in mind, I outline a digital ethics of reading that is attentive to both of these possibilities. Finally, I turn to the vast majority of blog users: the "lurkers" who read silently but do not write. I untangle reading, writing, and inscription in order to produce an understanding of how reading works in the blogosphere and argue that the lurker is not so much the reader who does not write as the reader who has not yet written.
By tracing the meanings of "here" and "there" through the blogosphere, this dissertation contributes to our understanding of what it means to be -politically and metaphysically -in the age of the internet.
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