October 06, 2002
Henry Jenkins: Love Online

Henry Jenkins, director of the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, has written an essay in Technology Review about his son's experiences as an adolescent developing relationships with girls he has met online:

They may have met online but they communicated through every available channel. Their initial exchange of photographs produced enormous anxiety as they struggled to decide what frozen image or images should anchor their more fluid online identities. In choosing, my son attempted to negotiate between what he thought would be desirable to another 15 year old and what wouldn’t alienate her conservative parents.

The photographs were followed by other tangible objects, shipped between Nebraska and Massachusetts. These objects were cherished because they had achieved the physical intimacy still denied the geographically isolated teens. Henry sent her, for example, the imprint of his lips, stained in red wine on stationery. In some cases, they individually staged rituals they could not perform together. Henry preserved a red rose he purchased for himself the day she first agreed to go steady. Even in an age of instant communication, they still sent handwritten notes. These two teens longed for the concrete, for being together in the same space, for things materially passed from person to person.

Of course, as technology advances the distance that a relationship can progress online will similarly advance. Next stop will be live video feeds. Even that is possible already, albeit limited by a rather low frame rate and/or resolution. Remotely controlled prosthetic sex toys can't be very far behind. Anyone know whether primitive remote controlled prosthetics have reached the consumer market yet?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2002 October 06 06:31 PM  Comm Tech Society

someone said at October 11, 2002 7:54 PM:

Yes they have, see cyberdildonics.com

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