Michele White

Michele White is Professor of Internet and New Media Studies at Tulane University. She is the author of numerous books, including The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship.

  • Touch Screen Theory

    Digital Devices and Feelings

    Michele White

    Technology companies claim to connect people through touchscreens, but by conflating physical contact with emotional sentiments, they displace the constructed aspects of devices and women and other oppressed individuals' critiques of how such technologies function.

    Technology companies and device designers correlate touchscreens and online sites with physical contact and emotional sentiments, promising unmediated experiences in which the screen falls away in favor of visceral materiality and connections. While touchscreens are key elements of most people's everyday lives, critical frameworks for understanding the embodied experiences of using them are wanting. In Touch Screen Theory, Michele White focuses on the relation between physically touching and emotionally feeling to recenter the bodies and identities that are empowered, produced, and displaced by these digital technologies and settings. Drawing on detailed cases and humanities methods, White shows how and why gender, race, and sexuality should be further analyzed in relation to touchscreen use and design.

    White delves into such details as how women are informed that their bodies and fingernails are not a fit for iPhones, how cellphone surfaces are correlated with skin and understood as erotic, the ways social networks use heart buttons and icons to seem to physically and emotionally connect with individuals, how online references to feminine and queer feelings are resisted by many men, and how women producers of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos use tactile strategies and touch screens to emotionally bond with viewers. Proposing critical methods for studying touchscreens and digital engagement, Touch Screen Theory expands a variety of research areas, including digital and internet cultures, hardware, interfaces, media and screens, and popular culture.

    • Paperback $35.00
  • The Body and the Screen

    The Body and the Screen

    Theories of Internet Spectatorship

    Michele White

    Rethinking the interface: how the Internet/computer spectator is engaged, rendered, and regulated; theoretical models and case studies that range from text-based and graphical communication settings and women's webcams to male programmer's physical and psychic pain.

    Internet and computer users are often represented onscreen as active and empowered—as in AOL's striding yellow figure and the interface hand that appears to manipulate software and hypertext links. In The Body and the Screen Michele White suggests that users can more properly be understood as spectators rendered and regulated by technologies and representations, for whom looking and the mediation of the screen are significant aspects of engagement. Drawing on apparatus and feminist psychoanalytic film theories, art history, gender studies, queer theory, critical race and postcolonial studies, and other theories of cultural production, White conceptualizes Internet and computer spectatorship and provides theoretical models that can be employed in other analyses. She offers case studies and close visual and textual analysis of the construction of spectatorship in different settings. White shows that despite the onscreen promise of empowerment and coherence (through depictions of materiality that structure the experience), fragmentation and confusion are constant aspects of Internet spectatorship. She analyzes spectatorship in multi-user object-oriented settings (MOOs) by examining the textual process of looking and gazing, contrasts the experiences of the women's webcam spectator and operator, describes intentional technological failures in net art, and considers ways in which traditional conceptions of artistry, authorship, and production techniques persist in Internet and computer settings (as seen in the creation of virtual environment avatars and in digital imaging art). Finally, she analyzes the physical and psychic pain described by male programmers in Internet forums as another counternarrative to the common tale of the empowered user. Spectatorship, White argues, not only affects the way specific interfaces are understood but also helps shape larger conceptions of self and society.

    • Hardcover $40.00