From telephony to high-speed data communications, fiber optic networks enable unprecedented interactions between self and other. Yet, most discussions of fiber optic networks focus exclusively on the self. From Donna Haraway’s cyborg to Mark Poster’s postmodern subject of the second media age, from Jean Baudrillard’s metastatic body to Paul Virilio’s hyperactive man, the individual remains the unquestioned conceptual ground for analysis of postmodern technology. From commercials to news articles, from Wired to the Supreme Court, concern for the consuming citizen similarly fixes public debate over Internet regulation and development. In contrast, my dissertation, Sexuality in the Age of Fiber Optics, shifts the emphasis from self to other, from call to response, in order to investigate how online contact makes impossible a clear distinction between the individual and the collective. I use sexuality to investigate this shattering of the individual’s boundaries for both theoretical and empirical reasons. From biology to psychoanalysis through philosophy, sex and sexuality have been privileged as “keys” to understanding the individual. From ubiquitous male-to-female connection plugs to online sex through debates about censorship and data-privacy, sex and sexuality have emerged as the master tropes for contact, identity, and communication in cyberspace. I call it the Age of Fiber Optics as opposed to the Information Age to shift analysis away from free-floating content and data, and instead towards understanding communications via high-speed telecommunications networks as the latest chapter in “photocentrism.” That is, through fiber optic networks—through light coursing through glass tubes—I engage the rich philosophical tradition of light as a figure for knowledge, clarification, surveillance and discipline. Through the double philosophical lenses of histories of light and sexuality, then, I make the case for a genealogy of sexuality and fiber optic networks that begins with notions of the enlightenment, then moves to panopticonism, and finally comes to paranoid contact.
Chapter One, "First Contact"
Chapter Two, "Pornocracy"
Chapter Three, "High-Tech Orientalism"
Chapter Four, "Stroking Keys"
Work Cited (pdf)