In preparing to write my lit review last week, I had the chance to re-read Mary Poovey’s article about the multiple public identities of Florence Nightingale. I was particularly taken with her argument that Nightingale’s agency over public perception of her identity quickly slipped from her grasp, as other people and groups appropriated and molded her image to their own benefit (198). With Poovey’s reading of Nightingale fresh in my mind, as I consider future scholarship in histories of gender and technology I’m drawn to the fertile ground that the Internet provides for discussions of agency over gender identity. As we learned through studying Gamergate and Reddit, online communities have proven their alarming ability to seize and manipulate control of an individual’s public perception, turning him/her from a hero to a villain (and maybe back again) within a few hours. I’m curious, though, how this issue is complicated by the fact that online personae are rarely an accurate perception of a person’s “true” identity to begin with. So in a sense, we surrender some control over our identities as soon as we “go online.” I’d love to see scholars (maybe one of DIG340’s very own!) grapple with these issues in the future.
Poovey, Mary. “A Housewifely Woman: The Social Construction of Florence Nightingale.” Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988. Web. 14 April 2016.