Together While Apart? Mediating Relationships and Intimacy. An Introduction.
This special issue of Networking Knowledge - Journal of the MeCCSA-PGN seeks to explore how interpersonal relationships are mediated in contemporary contexts. Digital technologies and the practices associated with them enable us to interact with our social network of support in seemingly easy ways: we just need to use the touch of a finger on a mobile phone screen to show that we care. It does, however, also take only the same effort and the same fingertips to enact hate. Acts of disaffection, often crystallized as revenge, originate, in nests and corners of intimacy (Bachelard 1958, p.XXXVII), and when disseminated widely can be fatal1. Recently, acts of disaffection, or rather hate, - especially against diffuse, imagined collectives such as “the refugees” - have also appeared in the more public realms of forums, comments sections of online news, or social media feeds. A perception of anonymity might result in ‘disinhibition effects’ (Suler 2004) and sometimes quite extreme forms of hate speech (Gelber & McNamara 2016), which poses new challenges for media education and online governance.
Interrogating the pragmatics of mediated affect and disaffection is a necessity. In mediated interpersonal relationships, the intimate and the emotional are often subjected to a set of infrastructures, called affordances by others (Wright and Parchoma, 2011), as well as to set of practices. The contributions that make up Together While Apart? highlight the emotive dimension of mediated communication. The common thread of all contributions to this issue is the focus on how relationships, intimacy, and (dis)affect are constituted and negotiated through media.