This article returns to Sigmund Freud's and Jacques Lacan's theories of scopophilia to intervene in a pessimistic thread of new media criticism. By complicating doomsday scenarios, it unpacks the complexities of exhibitionism iterated as online self-display, including aspects not unilaterally complicit with hegemonic forces. In particular, it challenges the assumption that the virtualization of communication is synonymous with the loss of meaningful intersubjective connections, arguing that exhibitionism in fact constitutes a fundamentally relational engagement. The article focuses specifically on JenniCam and the LiveJournal community “exhibitionism_2,” as well as more broadly on the ways in which the Internet reconfigures psychic and archival structures. Such developments draw mediated scopophilia ever closer to the domain of archival knowledge, while at the same time unsettling the panoptic authority of power. In their integration of writing and images, self-display and participation, present-tense transience and persistent traces, cam sites and other organized forums for cyber-exhibitionism materialize today's archival conflicts between visual and textual control, between the rigidity of physical space and the ephemerality of real-time information processing. The contested boundary between public and private is necessarily reconfigured along with the mediated gaze relation, its articulation with language and textuality, and its possibilities for communication and horizontal connectivity. Overall, cyber-exhibitionism is a more complex engagement than typical condemnations of its perverseness suggest, and it in fact represents a meaningful axis of sociality not fully mastered by systems of control.
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Julie Levin Russo; Show Me Yours: Cyber-Exhibitionism from Perversion to Politics. Camera Obscura 1 May 2010; 25 (1 (73)): 131–159. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2009-017
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