Virtual embodiment in physical realities: Brand buzzers and disciplined bodies in an Indonesian cyberscape

Tony Rudyansjah, Pradipa P. Rasidi


Discussions of embodiment in the virtual world mostly focus on online games and virtual reality technologies. By taking the case of Indonesian buzzers—persons employed to propagate opinions on certain issues or products—we argue that social media platforms also allow for virtual embodiment occurring within a Twitter cyberplace. This article theorizes virtual bodies by examining Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological approach. We also work with Boelstorff’s conception of chora and virtual bodies to argue that virtual bodies can be seen as a practical extension of physical bodies: a cyborg body. Intertwined within marketing relations, we then attempt to see how this amalgam of physical and virtual bodies is disciplined by panopticism, while briefly considering local Javanese particularities in shaping this discipline. Thus, through this examination of an Indonesian case, we bring up wider theoretical issues on social media, technologies of governance, and subjectivity.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/720302