paper at sexual cultures conference, brunel, april 2012

My paper at the forthcoming Sexual Cultures Conference: 20-22 April 2012, Brunel University & Onscenity research network – in the Technology & Sex stream

Title Affective intensities, digital networks and the political potential of porn


Increasingly porn opens up to new audiences and spaces, like academic and artistic settings, and in this process remediates earlier forms of cinematic experience. This paper focuses on how re-conceptualisations of porn in conditions of digital networks relate to forms of political engagement. It suggests that the political potential of contemporary porn-related circulation is not to be found in its “shock value”, or representation, but largely in its invitation to certain ways of public viewing, sharing of emotions and making meaning collectively. The paper reflects on a focus-group screening of the science fiction/porn film I.K.U. (Cheang, 2001), and from this starting point, it attempts a broader theoretical discussion about the political potential of contemporary porn-related events and networked media forms. I draw on Brian Massumi’s (2000) concept of “intensity” to frame transient publics forming around such events as “affective intensities”, or as collective bodies and affective modes of political engagement that materialise in response to the address of dominant digital culture.

Keywords: Affective intensity, IKU, digital culture.

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