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Digital Media

Transformations in Human Communication

Edited By Paul Messaris and Lee Humphreys

The age of digital media has given rise to a new social world. It is a world in which the transmission of information from the few to the many is steadily being supplanted by the multi-directional flow of facts, lies, and ideas. It is a world in which hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily depositing large amounts of personal details in publicly accessible databases. It is a world in which interpersonal relationships are increasingly being conducted in the virtual sphere. Above all, this is a world that seems to be veering off in unpredictable ways from the trends of the immediate past. This book is a probing examination of that world, and of the changes that it has ushered into our lives.

In more than thirty essays by a wide range of scholars, this must-have second edition examines the impact of digital media in six areas – information, persuasion, community, gender and sexuality, surveillance and privacy, and cross-cultural communication – and offers an invaluable guide for students and scholars alike. With one exception, all essays are completely new or revised for this volume.

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Chapter 14: The Death and Life of Great Online Subcultures: The Evolution of Body Modification Ezine (Jessa Lingel)

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CHAPTER 14

The Death and Life of Great Online Subcultures

The Evolution of Body Modification Ezine

Jessa Lingel

Ten years before Harvard students were sending the first Facebook friend requests, a social network predecessor had already sprung up among an international group of body modification enthusiasts. Founded by a former online casino designer, Body Modification E-Zine (BME) forecasted the mainstreaming of many Internet trends to come—personal blogging, online dating, podcasts, wikis. And all focused on different forms of body modification: tattoos and piercings, but also rarer and more extreme forms of altering the body—suspensions and flesh pulls, scarification, corseting, extreme genital modifications, ear pointing, tongue splitting, and the voluntary amputation of digits, limbs, and organs. The history of BME is useful as a window into the incredible range of bodily practices that have emerged as forms of personal, cultural, and political expression, where experimentation and curiosity have driven this community far beyond common forms of cosmetic alteration. But it’s also an entry point to thinking about technology, community, and alterity, which refers to being an outsider or socially marginalized in some significant way. From the start, BME positioned itself as an online haven for outsiders, a message it continues to promote in its current statement of purpose:

We are an uncommon subculture and community built by and for modified people. We are the historians, practitioners and appreciators of body modification. We are the collaborative and...

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