"Freedom for Just One Night": The Promise and Threat of Information and Communication Technologies

Document type: Journal Articles
Article type: Original article
Peer reviewed: Yes
Author(s): Maria Bäcke
Title: "Freedom for Just One Night": The Promise and Threat of Information and Communication Technologies
Translated title: "Freedom for Just One Night": Informationsteknologins fördelar och nackdelar
Journal: WomenWriters.net
Year: 2007
Volume: Spring
Issue: Special Guest Issue
ISSN: 1535-8402535-8402
Publisher: WomenWriters.net
Organization: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Department: School of Technoculture, Humanities and Planning (Sektionen för teknokultur, humaniora och samhällsbyggnad)
School of Technoculture, Humanities and Planning S-371 79 Karlskrona
+46 455 38 50 00
Authors e-mail: mwb@bth.se
Language: English
Abstract: ’Freedom for Just One Night’
The Promise and Threat of Information and Communication Technologies

Not many novels have been written about technology from a female perspective, but Jeanette Winterson’s The PowerBook and Pat Cadigan’s children’s book Avatar are two examples where information and communication technologies (ICT) play a major role. That women often see the benefits of a less regulated space provided by the technology is explored in these two novels. In this essay I will study them through the lens of Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of smooth and striated space. The focus has been on three different issues: information and communication technology’s impact on identity; privacy and security on the Internet; and also – since both of the authors are women, who consider gender-related strategies – female views of ICT.
The novels contradict the idea that there is a virtual reality entirely separated from the real world; both imply that although ICT creates a virtual environment, the meetings and communications that take place in it are real, especially from an emotional perspective. The novels suggest that the characters’ sense of identity and security often is tested when opposites – smooth/striated, online/offline, virtual/real, emotional/technical, private/public – collide, when this collision triggers an emotional response. In Avatar emotions are in fact a method to authenticate the validity of what happens in a virtual environment. Furthermore, the collision and its impact on the emotions create an indeterminacy, a smooth space, and seems to be a narrative strategy for both Winterson and Cadigan, which they both use to examine a number of issues, including patriarchy, which shows what these female authors think is possible to do with the help of ICT.
Both texts study how the Internet – and the thoughts mediated through the Internet – influence individuals and societies. As a new medium, Internet can be considered new territory, a new frontier. Whose thoughts are going to be trendsetting on the Net? Who colonizes Cyberspace? Both authors point towards the benefits of a more balanced viewpoint, where more angles than one are taken into account, and what can happen when a hegemonic world-view has been shaken. These novels convincingly show that it is in the dynamic tension between smooth and striated that new viewpoints can be found.
Summary in Swedish: Med utgångspunkt i Jeanette Wintersons "The PowerBook" och Pat Cadigans "The Avatar", och med hjälp av Deleuze och Guattaris koncept "smooth" och "striated space" utforskas ett litterärt kvinnoperspektiv på informationsteknologi. I fokus ligger frågor som identitet, "privacy", säkerhet samt virtuellt och verkligt.
Subject: Technoscience Studies\General
The Humanities\Comparative Literature
The Humanities\English
Note: Open Access Journal http://womenwriters.net/digitaleves/index.html