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Network-assemblages of mediated sex: a post human study of the digital sexual practices of men who have sex with men

Thomas, Ian Richard ORCID: 2016. Network-assemblages of mediated sex: a post human study of the digital sexual practices of men who have sex with men. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis explores the translation of post human ontologies into a relational epistemological approach, taking the case study of men who have sex with men’s (MSM’s) digital sexual practices. It reports the findings from a connective ethnography, utilising a mixture of digital observation and insider-ethnographic accounts, to explore the inter-relationship between media as MSM engage in digital sexual practices. The main aim driving this study was to explore how social practices – in this case MSM’s digital sexual practices – could be researched differently, and what a different perspective brings to the study of such practices, and to the practices themselves. Though the literature exploring MSM’s use of digital media to engage in sexual activities is diverse, to date it has been dominated by anthropocentric methodologies and analyses e.g. through a focus on human meaning making and representation. Taking the example of MSM’s digital sexual practices therefore provided a body of literature that formed a counterpoint from which to explore the knowledge produced by different methodologies. The choice of post humanism as a way of enacting this difference – specifically the conceptual frameworks of assemblages (Deleuze and Guattari 2000, 2005) and networks (Latour 2005), or what I term “network-assemblages” – was therefore strategic. It countered the anthropocentricism dominating the field of MSM’s digital sexuality research, and also afforded the materiality of these practices greater agency in the research process. The contribution of this thesis is twofold. Firstly, it adds methodologically to the social sciences through the application of a post human ontology/epistemology to empirical research. By mapping linkages between venues as they form a network-assemblage, and by examining a single venue within this as a relational web of concepts, words, and things, it demonstrates different ways through which post human relational ontologies can be actualised in the study of phenomenon. Secondly this thesis contributes original insight into MSM’s digital sexual practices themselves. Specifically however, it explores the influence of capitalism on emergent forms of digital sexual enunciations, taking the case study of MSM’s commercial sex activities. Furthermore, it highlights the different ways in which sexuality is actualised within digital materiality; as aesthetic values, as sets of systems, as flows of words and images, and finally as lived territories.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 24 January 2017
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2022 10:08

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