Flaws in the highlight real: fitstagram diptychs and the enactment of cyborg embodiment

Feminist Theory 22 (3):307-337 (2021)
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Abstract

This article inverts Donna Haraway’s proposition that ‘the ideologically charged question of what counts as daily activity, as experience, can be approached by exploiting the cyborg image’ by instead exploiting everyday experience to approach the contemporary cyborg. It utilises digital tools to compile a corpus of Instagram posts that foreground corporeal hybridity, and examines this social media data through the lenses of feminist STS, affect theory and digital studies. This strategy offers a new vantage on the cyborg by connecting it to concrete and ongoing user practices. To make these interventions, this project focuses specifically on a genre of post popularised by Instagram fitness influencers – diptych photographic montages that oppose imperfectly ‘real’ material bodies to unrealistically ‘perfect’ media bodies. Although they formally rely on binary logics, the posts simultaneously deconstruct them in a number of ways. These repeated boundary transgressions reflect users’ lived experiences of hybrid online/offline corporeality and help forward a theory of cyborg embodiment that relies on quotidian practices as opposed to fixed products or identities. Moreover, close engagement with a final dataset of eighty-nine posts illuminates three particular modes of enacting the cyborg corpus on Instagram: occupation of multiple bodies, awareness of the analogue body and anxious boundary-work. This research extends the cyborg as a critical figure by situating it within a social media context, attending to its imbrication in everyday practices, and affirming female Instagram users as theorists of their cyborg selves.

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Amanda Greene
University College London

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