Mark hansen sheds a more productive light on a

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Mark Hansen sheds a more productive light on a person’s online profile. In Bodies in Code, he theorizes the ‘reducing’ of a person’s ‘true’ identity and turns it into an idea of ‘online self - invention’, adding the notion of ‘racial passing’. Online identity performance generalizes the phenomenon of passing, Hansen argues in the chapter “Digitizing the Racial Body” (145). Hans en talks specifically about passing within the African-American culture. In that context, racial passing, or passing as white, is to leave behind one’s black racial identity, and to claim to belong to a group to which one was not legally assigned. Passing as white is historically speaking very risky, and only done to escape a very restricted life, in order to live under more secure conditions of freedom (Hobbs 5). Hansen argues that through racial passing, but also through blackface, raced identity has always been constructed as ‘disembodied mimicry’ and that it is a performance of pure convention, in the absence of any bodily foundation. Historically, racial passing happened and was possible the moment one was labeled as black through ancestry (the “one - drop” of African blood rule), but whose appearance was white or ambiguous enough to pass as white. Hansen sees similarities between racial passing and online identity, because in both cases, identity is exclusively bound to the imitation of culturally sanctioned signifiers (145-146). By decoupling identity from any analogical relation to the visible body, online self-invention effectively places everyone in the position previously reserved for certain raced subjects: everyone must mime his or her identity
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25 (Hansen 145). 4 In online self-invention, identity is always an imitation of an imitation: a purely disembodied simulacrum (Hansen 146). Hansen points out that identity, either in the physical or virtual world, is always an imitation, something that Jaron Lanier leaves out in theorizing online identity. Looking at the project International People and Extraordinary People, Hansen’s argument about filling in specific stereotypes becomes more grounded. In contrast to Ordin ary People, there is an offshoot project called ‘International People’ and ‘Extraordinary People’, the latter portraying the lives of people with an unusual story: ‘a woman on the verge of having a liver transplant, a man on Death Row, someone just elected to Congress’ (LaM 249). While Ordinary People are seen as representatives of ‘their kind’, Extraordinary People are perceived as unique stories. Charlotte Swanson, one of the novel’s protagonists , is selected to participate in this project, since she had appearance-altering plastic surgery after a car crash. Charlotte used to be a model, living a luxurious life in Manhattan, but even though she is still beautiful after her facial surgeries, no one recognizes her anymore. Throughout the novel, Charlotte is struggling to come to terms with her new face and identity which culminates in a suicide attempt. She survives and hires a publicist who will turn her story in a success and help her
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