Boler, Megan. “Hyes, Hopes and Actualities: New Digital Cartesianism and Bodies in Cyberspace.” New Media & Society 9.1 (2007): 139-68. Print.


In this piece, Boler is responding to the championing of the Cartesian mind/body split that computer mediated communication enables and argues that this celebration of disembodied experience ignores the ways in which online communications so often invoke bodily stereotypes “in order to confer authenticity and signification to textual utterances” (140). Boler contends that despite all of the textual freedom “disembodied” online communications might provide, there ultimately comes a point at which people want some indication of traditional bodily markers to associate with the text that’s being produced. Rather than offering a means of dealing productively with difference, Boler argues that new digital Cartesianism only highlights difference so that it can displace it–the emphasis is not on learning to negotiate difference, but rather on the idea that we can transcend difference.

Boler builds this argument by comparing the “hype” of new digital Cartesianism pushed by software developers (that is, the belief that we can transcend embodiment, difference, space and place with technology), the social and political “hopes” that surround the potential of this new digital Cartesianism (that technology is a way of transcending binaries, embracing fluid identities, and creating global conversations), and the “actualities” what takes place in online spaces where users often demand, desire, or freely offer identifications that bring the body back into the picture. In thinking about the pedagogical implications of the actualities of new digital Cartesianism, Boler brings feminist scholars interested in the body (namely, Bordo and Keller) into conversation with critical pedagogy (namely, Freire and Dewey) to argue that the hypes and hopes surrounding disembodied classroom participation do not serve feminist and critical pedagogical goals.

Additional Comments:

Since this piece does not address social media platforms like Facebook, what kinds of questions can we ask about the role of bodies and ideals of new digital Cartesianism as they impact the way people use social media?