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21st century digital boy: Masculinities, performance, interactive games and the digital imaginary

, University of California, Davis, United States

University of California, Davis . Awarded


My project—to analyze the relationship between technology, performance, and gender, and the culture these three things work to produce—involves studying not only more traditional performances which use technology, but also technologies which are themselves performative. I focus on the role of masculinity in the development of current conceptions of absent (digital) and present (industrial) technologies. The areas of performance and video games serve as objects of study and as illustrations of greater cultural shifts in the ideological dialectic of technology as oppressive force or utopian catalyst.

Using the work of theorists such as Donna Haraway, Judith Butler, David Savran, Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois, in Chapter 1, I describe the state of “boyhood” as the subjectivity which is produced by and produces the digital imaginary. The central mode of production is play—in games and sports, on the net, and in the technological cultural imaginary.

Chapter II presents a selective survey of technologically focused performances from the 20th century and beyond. In this chapter, I analyze live performances which highlight the relationship between the body and technology. From the Futurists to Survival Research Laboratories, the performances represent the absence and presence of the body in the face of the absence and presence of technologies I have identified above.

Video games form the central object of study for Chapter III. By considering the games a type of performative medium, I am able to theorize the relationship between the player, the avatar, and the game. Also, by analyzing several games closely with the aid of performance theorists such as Peggy Phelan, a conception of the visual and thematic nature of games can be formulated.

Chapter IV focuses on what I have termed the “digital imaginary,” or the confluence of forces and practices both real and virtual which serve to produce and reproduce conceptions of “high-tech” culture. I use authors such as Baudrillard, Virilio, Deleuze and Guattari, and Lyotard to inform my critique of the digital imaginary through film, fiction, and social formations.


Burrill, D.A. 21st century digital boy: Masculinities, performance, interactive games and the digital imaginary. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Davis. Retrieved November 22, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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