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Chapter Two, “Pornocracy,”lays out the consequences of and assumptions behind the narrative of the Internet as public sphere.  Through a reading of MCI’s corporate policy paper and “Only Minds” commercial, and the Supreme and District Court’s decisions declaring unconstitutional the Communications Decency Act, I argue that portrayals of the Internet as race-, gender-, class- and age-free naively correlate reading and writing with reasoning on the one hand, and agency with mouse-clicking on the other.  These portrayals of the Internet as liberal public sphere also make invisible institutional and societal responsibility for discrimination by depicting online communication as civil interactions between autonomous, unmarked individuals.  The Internet, then, can only be called the most democratic medium to date, in the terms of the Supreme Court decision, when everything that threatens the autonomy and agency of an individual—namely pornography and physical and social differences—are construed as accidental to this medium.  However, rather than dismissing the democratic possibilities of the Internet, I argue that the Internet may open up the possibility for a new democratic public sphere.  A public sphere without stable identities or abstract formality, but rather one that disrupts and that through invasion of private space enables a rigorous, perhaps hostile, perhaps civil but never safe, encounter with others.

Introduction (pdf)
Chapter One, "First Contact"
Chapter Three, "High-Tech Orientalism"
Chapter Four, "Stroking Keys"
Work Cited (pdf)
Appendices (pdf)