In this introductory article framing a special issue, we argue that embodiment matters for understanding social subjectivity that emerges through digital media in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. We offer the phrase digital selves as a way to consider subjectivities that are at once embodied and mediated. Because the social politics of the digital sphere are not disembodied, but rather, profoundly fleshy, they are shaped by the political dynamics of how human bodies are bound up in systems that pathologise, disable, gender and racialise some bodies and not others. We offer and define the concept of bodyminds as developed in disability studies as a useful lens to counter latent Cartesian dualism in theories of digital subjectivity.

In order to understand how postsocialist users come to act and create meanings online as embodied selves we theorise a departure from the notion of a ‘digital public sphere’ as a democratic arena in the spatial sense, opting instead for a more flexible notion of audiences interpellated through texts, drawing on Michael Warner’s notion of publics and counterpublics. We draw these concepts together to propose two novel concepts of complex embodied sociality that unfold at once on and offline in Eastern Europe and Eurasia: pixelization and mimetic activism. We proffer these terms to help conceptualise how digital selves are deeply informed by socialist legacies in the built environment and traditions of embodied protest, for instance, in the cases described in the articles in this special issue.

Image credit: Anna Parkina, The Case Is Open II, 2007, digital reproduction of multimedia collage on board.

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