I am an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Elon University. I got my PhD in Anthropology from George Washington University, and I previously taught at both GW and Georgetown University. I am into media, science & technology, virtual space, self/group identification, animism, gaming, bodies, semiotics, pop culture, religion, cyborgs, and all manner of geekery.
My two main current projects are quite different, but revolve around a common interest in digitally mediated cultural practice. The first is part of a National Science Foundation grant looking at changes in funerary and ritual practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are a team of one PI, four Co-PIs (I am one), and several graduate researchers all focusing on specific aspects of contemporary digital funerary practice. My particular focus deals with social media memorials, and the ways our preconceived media ideologies about certain platforms influence the ways we memorialize the deceased in these spaces.
My second current project explores constructions of body-identity within the contemporary rise of white supremacy/ nationalist discourse in Internet spaces. I am particularly interested in the incursion of agentive digital entities (bots, algorithms) into presumably human spaces in the Internet, and the ways these entities, by prioritizing automation over discernment, both amplify and divert human identity and community construction. Approaching the Internet in this way—as a socially produced, animist space, where human lay-users, corporate interests, savvy hackers, and AI-driven non-human agents collaborate and conflict—I seek to investigate the construction of (and identification with) digital “white” bodies.
My book manuscript, Open Bodies: On Being Non-Human in Virtual Space (under review) also views Internet use as animist experience, drawing from ongoing research with the Otherkin community. The Otherkin, in the "misfit" relationship between their bodies and their identities, represent a growing number of people in the industrialized West who eschew Cartesian dualist concepts of the body for a much more "open" way to be a human in the world. These burgeoning identifications—from neurodiverse to genderfluid—find traction in virtual space, and in the techno-animist experience it affords. In my research I have found that the Otherkin illustrate the ways in which Internet technologies aid in the alignment and reconciliation of misfit bodies and identities, both human and non-human.
In the past, I have researched and written about video game modding culture and the use of cheats in gaming, and how these practices can create meaning and cultural capital in gaming cultures. I worked with makers of machinima to explore issues of ownership, fan-fiction, and performance. I have also worked with issues of avatar embodiment, gender, and harrassment.
Before the doctoral program at GW, I earned MA in American Studies (also GW) focusing on videogame studies. Before that, I was a high school teacher in the Bronx for seven years, having earned an MS from CUNY, City College in Education, with a focus on Special Education. And long before that, I received a BFA at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, with a double major in Sociology and Theatre.
In corporeal form, I reside in Greensboro, NC with my wife, two kids & a cat. In virtual form, I am in front of you right now.
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Devin Proctor - email@example.com
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