The Body and Communities in Cyberspace: A Marcellian Analysis

Abstract

Many who speak glowingly about the possibilities for human relations in cyberspace, or virtual communities, laud them precisely because such communities are to a great extent free of the real spatial-temporal restrictions rooted in the limitations of our bodies. In this paper I investigate the importance of the body in establishing and maintaining human relations by considering the thought of the twentieth century French philosopher Gabriel Marcel. Because Marcel emphasized the central importance of the body in one's personal self-identity as well as in initiating and maintaining intersubjective bonds in human communities, he is able to offer some interesting reflections on the character of virtual communities. I suggest that a number of the features of cyberspace and its communities that make it attractive to many are precisely the characteristics that Marcel would consider detrimental to establishing intimate lasting human communities. I conclude by indicating why I think that Marcel would be concerned that certain trends in our high tech culture may well lead many to prefer ``living'' in virtual, rather than real communities.

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