Disrupting girls in virtual communities of practice: Discursive performativity as agency

Year: 2006

Author: Walsh, Christopher

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In line with the work of feminists ‘post-linguists’ (Threadgold, 1997; Poynton, 1989; Lee, 1994) who seek to produce readings of texts which indicate the ways individuals are positioned to take up positions within discourses and thus come to constitute themselves as subjects of those discourses, this paper reports on how adolescent girls’ hypermedia design works to alter the conceptual repertoire of the individual and in doing so alters the individual’s subjectivity. By examining girls hypermedia design that challenges/resists male domination, I discuss their acts of uploading and hypermedia design in terms of Butler’s theorization of discursive performativity. I believe the adolescent girls employ a form of “linguistic agency” or “discursive agency” (Butler, 1997) that allows them to make use of a wide range of discursive practices that are nonlinguistic or not entirely linguistic. Because the girls were involved in a set of relationships over time, both inside and outside of school in both virtual and real time, within their communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991), they engage with particular areas of curricular knowledge—differently than boys—by showcasing their re-representations online. Consequently, this presents the possibility they may possess a joint enterprise and similar sense of identity. This paper puts forth the idea that within virtual communities of practice, new contexts emerge when disrupting girls/women can work in transgressive modes.