Masthead CMC Magazine / March 1, 1996
 The Gendered Mystique, by Leslie Regan Shade

Stone: Reading Boundary Stories

Stone's strategy on how to study cyberspace and virtual systems is through a series of provocations stylized via an idealized stance as a novelist. The study of cyberspace is interesting for Stone because case studies of cyberspace as a social environment and the interactions between machines and bodies and the subsequent formations of technocultural identities are in a protean state. This semblance of the "everyday world as cyborg habitat" (p.37) suffuses her narratives of the computer as a prosthetic device, where apprehensions of what constitutes place, space, time, and locale are riddled with inconsistencies and astonishments.

Boundary stories from the net that Stone anatomizes include the history of early virtual communities such as CommuniTrees and Habitat, the Atari lab, and online cross-gendered behavior. The confluence of work, play, and pleasure as arenas for social expression are a constantly recurring theme in the cultural and technological foundations of the virtual systems that Stone describes and analyzes. For instance, the palpable tension and cultural clash between the Atari game designers (many recruited from MIT) and the middle management project managers "who drank coffee out of personalized Cruise Missile mugs" (p.129), and the resultant discord over what 'interactivity' comprised, created an atmosphere of stifled creativity and missed opportunities. The tree-structured conferencing program of CommuniTree (itself a product of Northern California during the heady days of early Apple, nouveau-Silicon and a diluted and deluded sense of what havoc Proposition 13 would wreak on that state) assumed a level of honesty and integrity which could simply not weather the assaults of scatalogically inclined pubescent boys who flooded the system with crashable control figures and childish epithets.

In her theory of virtual systems, Stone is concerned with the concept of warrantability ("did a body/subject unit do it," p. 87), and the relationship of bodies and selves to communication technologies as an apparatus for the production of community and of the body; and the interposition of the body and selves with the interface. As well, virtual systems presuppose an intuition concerning both agency and proximity, and it is in ferreting out the nuances of these instrumentalities and propinquities that Stone excels in.

In her book, --Sherry Turkle succeeds in ferreting out some nuances of a different sort.

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