200MAKING CONTACTOften, it is claimed that online gender should both be analyzed
politically motivated through the posthuman ﬁgure of the cyborg; a semi-futuristic hybrid between human and machine, which is also suppos-edly postgendered. However, it is suggested here that it is much morefruitful and true to online experience to examine the paradoxes aroundonline presence and gender than it is to discard them unanalyzed viathis metaphor.
Paradoxes of Presence
Before discussing gender speciﬁcally, it is useful to explore the funda-mental ambiguities affecting a person’s perception of their online pres-ence and the presence of others, as this seems fundamental to onlinerelationships. Online being is continually suspended between presenceand absence and within ambiguities of conﬁrmation. I have coined theterm
to denote these states of suspension of recognition, closure,and being (Marshall, 2007, chap. 5 and passim). Let us consider someinterrelated examples.Firstly, the closure of online communication is problematic. Emailexchange, for example, tends to end in silence, when participants haveno more to say or when email gets lost—which seems to happen quiteregularly.
In comparison, ofﬂine conversation usually terminates withall participants knowing that messages have been received or acknowl-edged, even if only with grunts, gestures, or farewells, and participantscan expect to have a fairly good idea of how things have gone—there isa more complete sense of closure. The sense of reception, or of beingrecognized, online is often incomplete, and only a few texts issued to amailing list are responded to at all, which furthers the feeling that pres-ence drifts away.Secondly, presence manifests only in those moments in which a per-son emits text or has that text acknowledged. In ofﬂine societies, it isgenerally possible to tell whether a person is present or not. Online,there is no marker of existence beyond the act of communication itself;a person may be neither entirely present nor entirely absent. Even witha text or graphic avatar, we cannot even be sure if the person is presentwhen we are attempting to communicate. People on a “multi-user do-main” (MUD) or “MUD object-oriented” (MOO)
or chat room can justleave their terminal to go elsewhere without informing the other per-son, and it also seems common to ﬁnd that they may be communicatingwith someone else, who is hidden to other participants, at the same