Globalizing Intimacy: The Role of Information and Communication Technologies in Maintaining and Creating Relationships Author(s): Gill Valentine

Source: Women's Studies Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 1/2, The Global & the Intimate (Spring Summer, 2006), pp. 365-393 Published by: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York Stable URL: . Accessed: 11/11/2013 01:12
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Intimacy is a specific sort of knowing, loving, and caring for a person (Jamieson1989, 1). Growing up implicitly involves intimacy in terms of close association with one or more adults. Beyond our parents, significant others include all those who have a particular role in, and commitment to, shaping of the self (Berger and Luckmann 1966). Despite the importance of intimate relationshipsin people's lives- and as the building blocks of families, communities, and stable society - it is only relatively recently that intimacy and emotions have become topics of social science research (Jamieson1989). Most disciplines have paid more attention to the study of public economic and political organization than they have to informal, private social relations (Roseneil and Budgeon 2004). Indeed some commentators suggest that the growing interest in emotions, psychoanalysis, and personal growth/development of the self, as well as in childhood and intergenerational relations, marks the beginning of a "privateturn"within the social sciences (Bailey 2000). Both Giddens (1991) and Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (1995) claim that profound changes are occurring in the sphere of intimacy in the context of contemporary processes of individualization, detraditionalization, and increased self-reflexivity. In the transformationfrom industrial society to new modernity, traditional ideas and expectations about social relations are being reworked. The preordained path of school, paid work, courtship, marriage, and parenthood is now less clearly marked. Rather there has been a weakening of class ties, a decline in reliance on authorities such as the church, and a decoupling of some of the social behaviors and attitudes that used to be attached to marriage and family life (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995). Such that Beck-

Studies 34: 1 & 2 (Spring/Summer [WSQ: Women's Quarterly 2006)] © 2006by Gill Valentine. All rights reserved.

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Gernsheim(2002, 22) claims that "individualself fulfilment and achievement is the most powerful current in modern society." In this context Giddens (1992) argues that traditional forms of close personal relationships encumbered by kin and community obligations are being replaced by the pursuit of "purerelationships."These are relationships that are entered into for their own sake in the pursuit of happiness, and are sustainedonly as long as they are fulfilling. As such they are based on voluntary commitment, mutual trust, equality, and reflexivity. Individuals now have to work more self-consciously on who they are and what kind of relationship they want. Giddenslinks the emergence of pure relationships to the development of "plastic sexuality"- in which sex has been decoupled from reproduction. Relationships (sexual and family) are now less about rules and rituals and more about choice and risk, with the consequence that love and intimacy are both more important than ever but harder to achieve and maintain (Holland et al. 2003). For example, the greater importance placed on having a "good" marriage and the pursuit of individual pleasure, has produced higher divorce rates as individuals feel less obliged (e.g., by the church, marriage vows, community tradition, etc.) to stay in unsatisfactoryrelationships. Relationships between parents and children are also argued to be changing. In particular, the traditional social distance between parents and their offspring is alleged to be breaking down as adults sacrifice their traditional authority for closer, more intimate relationships with their children (Jamiesonand Toynbee 1990;Valentine 1997b). In an individualized culture, the balance of obligations has shifted so that the responsibilityis no longer on the child to be a dutiful son or daughter but on the parent(s) to optimize their child's opportunity to fulfill their potential mainly by providing appropriate material and social opportunities (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995). Increasingly, it is argued that it is not just family and sexual relationships alone but an increasing range of personal relationships (e.g., noncoresidential partnerships, friendships, communities, etc.) that provide intimacy, care, and companionship in an individualizing world (Budgeon and Roseneil 2004). Here too, contemporary friendship is argued to be product of choice - based on pleasure and trust- rather than the product of the coincidence of location which characterized traditional neighborhood community. In particular, Bell and Binnie (2000) argue that globalization is argued to be weakening the nation-state and

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people who hide from real life and spend their whole life goofing off in cyberspace.VALENTINE 367 opening up new spaces for groups to enact new types of politics and communities that might be considered a form of intimacy. usually as a response to work (Heath 1999. Early public discourses about the Internet assumedthat because it is a disembodied form of communication. 10) for example predicted that "on-line culture creates mouse potatoes. Holloway and Valentine 2003). and with creating a new global space for exploring and developing different intimacies. Yet distancedoes not necessarilybring intimacy to an end.g. The Internetin particular has been credited with facilitating the possibility of maintainingintimate relationshipsover distance. commuter couples where a partner (usually the man.very few studies ever talk about the connections of this process to intimate life" (Plummer 2001). creating socially isolated loners disconnected from their surroundings. in a heterosexual relationship) works away from home during the week. there were fears that use of the Internet would be addictive. Levin 2004). Intimacy is usually assumedto require physical proximity. returningto the family home at weekends.. often staying in temporary or institutional accommodation (see Chandler 1991. well as goods. so reducing trust and accountability in online social relations (e. ideologies. As a result. for example. technologies. some research suggests that online exchanges are characterized by higher levels of self-disclosure or hyperpersonal communication. At the same time. services.. growing numbersof people "live apart together" (Holmes 2004). and diasporic families. Indeed. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . "although globalization is well recognized and much discussed. The asynchronous nature of online communication allows users to have time to reflect on exactly what they want to say This content downloaded from 203. Yet globalization is a complex process of movement and flows of people.g. and so on (Appadurai 1996). globalization might superficially be presumed to undermineor threaten intimacy as more and more partnersand familiesno longer live their daily lives in the same place.McKee and Mauthner 2000). and literal closeness is often assumedto be essential for familiarityand commitment. numerous studies have demonstrated that these fears have been overstated (e.188.75. in a study by Henderson and Gilding 2004). whose membersmay be scattered across the globe. McCellan (1994. maintainingindividual residencesin separatelocations." However.86 on Mon. it would be impersonal and facilitate deceit. The word closeis a synonym for intimate. dual-careercouples who live apart. Surprisingly. These include.

involved forty-one in-depth interviews with young people recruited through youth and support groups (online and offline) in the United Kingdom. and relationships. Here. negotiation rather than commitment. Families in contemporary Western societies. I begin by considering how the Internet is used within familial relationshipsand the dynamicsof intimacy (knowing. I therefore explore intimacy and globalization in the context of the Internet. Hardey (2002." In doing so I draw on empirical material collected in two different studies in the United Kingdom. 574) argues that "the consequent vision of a highly discursive. with "vulnerable" young people. All the interview material was taped and transcribedusing conventional social science techniques. lesbians and gay men were asked about their use of the Internet in terms of developing their sexual identities. It involved indepth interviews with forty parents and their children (interviewed separately) about their use of computers and the Internet and interviews with six teachers about the relationship between school use of ICT and children's home-based use of the technology. both funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. disembodied late modern intimacy based on talk rather than passion. I then go on to consider the Internet as a space in which new practices of intimacy are emerging. APART THOUGH TOGETHER: CONSTITUTING AND FAMILIAL MAINTAINING RELATIONSHIPS ONLINE There is growing acknowledgment that traditional patterns for delivering love and care may be changing. Here I focus on the way that lesbian and gay men are using the Internetto create sexual relationshipsand communities.though living together. The first was a two-year study of ICT.188. communities. loving. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Henderson and Gilding (2004) claim that online relationships involve active trust based on performance and active negotiation rather than reputation or established routines and so are closer to Gidden's (1991) notion of a "purerelationship"than offline relationships. The rise in dual careers and the growth in the number of people This content downloaded from 203. and the advancement of the self rather than the development of the couple suggests that the internet is uniquely placed to facilitate such relationships.75. in the conclusion I consider some of the similarities.86 on Mon." In this essay. caring).are spending more time apart (Gillis 1996). between the use of information communication technologies (ICT) for "doingfamily"and "doingsexual intimacy.and potential tensions. Likewise. The second study. Finally.368 GLOBALIZING INTIMACY before sending an e-mail.

Levin (2004)has used the phrase"living apart together" to describe U.and to aspire to these forms of relationships (Silva and Smart 1999). in particular. clock time is regarded as a resource to be budgeted.Aitken. This content downloaded from 203.VALENTINE 369 working in the service industries necessitating weekend or shift work means that family time in many households is being squeezed. children will witness the breakupof their birth family during their childhood (Jensen1994).S. However. For both families living together apart and those living apart together. sport. and controlled (Adam 1995). here I extend the use of this term to embrace the ultimate example of . Rather. afterschool clubs. allocated. Valentine 2004).are spending more time in day care. Among the many nontraditional forms of living arrangementsthat are emerging include part-time relationshipsand relationships that are maintained between different homes. Nearly one in two U.86 on Mon. As such. families separatedby work in this way. In these situations the majority of childrenremainliving with their which middleclass children in particular.transnational familiesseparatedby work commitments families. In this context many contemporary families in the United Kingdom are living together but spending their time apart engaged in different asynchronous "productive"activities. sometimes over large geographicaldistances.75. For middle-class adults.K.Katz 1994. children's leisure time is increasingly understood as something that should be spent productively in various institutional activities rather than "wasted" on free play in public settings.K. what is changing is the way that people are "doing" family (Morgan 1999). Alongside this contemporary trend of families not spending time together is a concern about the decline in the traditionalnuclear family in contemporaryWestern societies (Popenoe 1988). This is exacerbated by the growing institutionalization of childhood (Adler and Adler 1994. Most adultscontinue to live in partnerships. 2001. the Internet provides a new space for maintaining intimacy. or out-of-school educational pursuits (such as football training and music lessons). whose lives are strongly governed by the dominant time economy. However. This is at least in part a product of an individualized culture in which parents are expected to make considerable material and personal sacrifices to provide their children with the education. and social activities necessary to make the best start in life (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995).188. children and one in three U. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . this does not necessarilysignal the death of the family.

yet represents a flow of care or emotion between family members when they are apart. and I do er. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . whereas there is an expectation that if you telephone someone you must have a reason for making the call. it's not as hard. school. and Mum uses it a lot as well. rearticulating practices of everyday life and lived spaces (Franklin2001). As Sebastianexplains below. In contemporary times the television set This content downloaded from 203.. . Likewise. e-mail the childrenat school sometimes. so on and I e-mail back "get on with your work" or. you know. to check up on one another. the Internet enables partners in sexual relationships to stay in touch when they are know . For example. to exchange news or information about their activities. Instead of just saying how things are going. And it's more. "why are you e-mailing.when I get a message from Simon saying "oh I'm bored doing geography lesson" and er. Gillis (1996) suggests that shared activities such as family meals and Sunday drives first became important for instantiating the family during the nineteenth century.86 on Mon. . it does not necessarily interrupt the other person in the way that a telephone call might and does not always require a response. and so on. and sometimes to seek advice or emotional support when they are apart during the working/school day. and even to share fantasies or initiate a sexual encounter. Bishop: Oh. to make plans or organize their lives. For example. In this sense online exchanges and daily Internet use are adding a new dimension. ICT can also bring families together both online and don't really need a reason to do it. and school from here. e-mail is a more casual way of keeping in touch. Mrs.188. . Through such activities.75. whereas if you 'phone up you have to have a conversation really." Sebastian: I've e-mailed Mum from school.370 GLOBALIZING INTIMACY LIVING TOGETHER APART The Internet expands the opportunities for daily meaningful contact between family members locked in different time-space routines at work. When the family are under the same roof. both parents and children use e-mail to have informal contact.. households not only came together as family but also began to imagine themselves as a family. . so it's made it quite a bit easier to get in contact with each other. traveling.

11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Indeed. . Tim: We're planning to take the computer down there to the coast in the boot [the trunk of the car]. ICT is such a part of this family's life that they even take the technology on holiday with them.g. if subtly different. rather than on an adultist assumption that as the father he is automatically more knowledgeable and in control (Holloway and Valentine 2001): Mr.VALENTINE 371 (Spiegel 1992) and now ICT have become the glue that binds some families together. because his son might refuse to give him the technical support upon which he depends. In the example below. for work).188... Akram: You're maintaining a good relationship between yourselves. she'll be in here watching me dad go on the Internet. Tim describes below how he surfs the Internet together with his father while his mother watches. but it This content downloaded from 203. In this way being together in the same room sharing the experience of using the Internet is just as constitutive of the family for Tim's mother as actually surfing the Web with her husband and son.. . In many homes parents actively locate the computer in a shared space such as the living room or kitchen to promote family computing activities and a sense of togetherness if one member of the household is using the Internet alone (e.86 on Mon. She doesn't know what's going off like but she'll watch. Open communication is important in developing and maintaining intimacy. . relationship with his son. And you know me dad will try and bring things up for her. Akram explains how when he sacrificed his parental authority by asking his son for technical assistance. Instead. she'll watch us but she won't go on it [the Internet] . Akram to develop a may not be a father-and-son relationship. negotiating help using ICT has provided an opportunity for Mr.75. . one that is predicated on mutual respect and reciprocity. Mr. it produced a change in the nature of their father/son relationship. Using ICT together in the ways described above can foster intergenerational communication and consequently change the way parents and their children relate to each other. She'll [his mother] watch us . . It just about fits in the caravan. He can no longer adopt an authoritarian role with his son in the same way that he sees other fathers issue commands to their children.

Lucy Thomas: I help Dad with like his quotes. some childrenhave helped to develop their parents' skills to the degree that their parentshave now become able to offer help in return(Holloway and Valentine2001). Women. allowing for the possibility of knowledge-sharing that has echoes of Papert's (1997) recommendationsfor a positive family learningculture. ICT does not always emerge as a positive factor in family relationship. . you know.. I've been doing this longer than you! So he's picked up a lot of stuff and he's quite good now..188.] But he's got better now so I don't have to show him so much. "I want this down a bit" and that's what I help him with mainly. But I don't mind being taught by somebody younger thanme becauseI mean. concern. Partners struggling with conflict in their relationshipsmay seek the comfort or understandingthat they believe is missing from their offline relationship through online intimacy. As these examples demonstrate. .'cos he is still a bit like funny with how do you get this in the center or this.86 on Mon. different kinds of graphs.372 GLOBALIZING INTIMACY may be a friend-to-friend relationship. it's quite bad when he . you know. to get that work done. "how do I get [this in the center]". and that feels like. At the same time the technology can also facilitate changes in the dynamics of families' intimate relationships when they are under the same roof by literally bringing the family together around the screen. ICT plays a positive role in many families. He'll say like. I show him how to turn a table into a graph. allowing members to communicate their love. Gould: I mean David was teaching me how to cut and paste stuff off the Internet. . thoughmany childrendo have greater technicalcompetence than their parents in some families. This content downloaded from 203. Nevertheless. Equally. has to show me stuff. you know. or care for each other when they are apart. [She continues later.75. However. parents' and children's competencies are in different fields. and sometimes it like. in order for. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in particular. and by altering the intergenerational dynamics in terms of who has the ability to provide support or take responsibilityfor another. I respecthim all the more for it. Mr.

2000.VALENTINE 373 apparentlyregard the Internet as liberating. This is often exacerbated if the birth parents have a discordant relationship following the breakup of their marriage or when families are reconstituted and social parents enter into the equation (Valentine 1997a). 'cos my dad's sometimes on it [the computer] for like all day or something and she'll get mardy [annoyed] because he doesn't talk to her. LIVING APART TOGETHER The dissolution of marriage disrupts social networks and those of any children. Women traditionallyhave made time for family and in "doing"family. Not surprisingly. relationship-counselingservice) suggests that the Internet is increasingly emerging as a cause of domestic tension not only because of the way it absorbsindividuals'time but also because it is a tool that can facilitate infidelity by one partner (usually the man).Cooper 1998). Excessive amountsof time spent online by an individualfamily member can also be a cause of tension (Cooper et al. The previous academic literature has identified a significant atrophy rate of relationships between children and noncustodial fathers following divorce (Fustenberg and Cherlin 1991). allowing them more opportunities in relative safety to experiment and take sexual risks beyond their expected gender role (Cooper et al. Anecdotal evidence from Relate (a U. and ratherthan spendingtime on producingand sustainingthe family they tend to spend time with family members (Leccardi 1996).75. particularlywhen an individualgives precedence to spendingtime online over spendingtime with other family members (Steward 2000). When families split up. Leiblum1998.K. and Shaw 1997.86 on Mon.188. Often the initial patterns of modest contact between fathers and their children are followed by a sharp decline in involvement over time as their lives become both socially and physically distanced. but I'm not bothered. Louise: My mum's always complaining about it. while also enabling children to potentially access unsuitablematerial or to communicatewith strangersonline (Holloway and Valentine2003). children also commonly lose touch with This content downloaded from 203. it is mothers who most often regardICT as an interruptionto family life (Holloway and Valentine2003). 2000). Women also tend to make up the greatest percentage of non-ICT users across all age groups. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .therefore. men's time is more often their own. In contrast.

The rapid growth in the number of young people going to university and taking "gap years" between school and university.. Despite physical separation.g. In this gap ICT provides a space for online intimacy that at least partially compensates for the limits of intimacy offline and provides a way of binding together dislocated family members. In this way specific family members (e.374 GLOBALIZING INTIMACY their grandparents on the noncustodial side. most people retain a profound emotional commitment to their families. he thinks it's really funny.. Beyond this. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . to travel. instant messaging. or between leaving university and starting work has further stretched many families across the United Kingdom and around the globe.86 on Mon. he normally lives in Warwickshire so I haven't got his new phone number yet. While other means of communication such as the telephone and postal service offer similar opportunities. Louise: I e-mail my dad a lot 'cos he's in Kettering at the moment but he's just moved house.75. a nephew and an aunt. Interviewer: But you do know his .188. e-mail has the advantageof being cheaper to use than the telephone and is a quicker and more informal means of communication than writing a letter.g.. a son and father) can stay in touch or get to know each other through oneto-one or one-to-many communication (e. This content downloaded from 203.however. even in families that stay together many grandparents have little face-to-face contact their grandchildrenbecause of contemporary patterns of mobility. More generally. an e-mail list) without this needing to be mediated by another family member. ICT allow family members to transmit information between them so that people know where they are and what they have been doing. But he really likes getting e-mails at work. Interviewer: So that's at work? Louise: Yeah. Louise: His e-mail address. online means of communication such as e-mail. such as a parent.. It also potentially allows a more "private"means of contact between individual family members than telephoning from a sharedroom in the family home or receiving a letter that other family members may intercept or ask to read.albeit on a relatively temporary basis. and chat rooms also enable people to extend themselves in space and time by engaging directly with others who are located at varying distances away.

if you're talking about shrinking the globe and really.188. that's absolutely brilliant. their children when they are away traveling. TRANSNATIONAL FAMILIES Transnational families can be defined as families who are physically divided between different nation-states but maintain close contact. Pratt (1997) has argued that Canadiansvalue Filipina nannies because of their dedication to their own families. you know. Hochschild (2000) has coined the term carechainto describe the situation in which (usually) female migrant workers move from poorer countries to provide domestic services. and I think that's. older brothers and sisters at university or uncles and aunts in different parts of the world .K. However.VALENTINE 375 Head Teacher: I see a lot of them [the pupils] using e-mail to correspond with er. . You know. without recognizing the irony of the way these families are fragmented by the women's employment.75. However.often child care. families who live together but spend most of their time apart. while parents who have migrated for work may no longer be in the same space as their children. the ultimate example of maintaining familial ties in the face of geographical distance is provided by transnational families. For example. within the Caribbean there is a history of what was called child shifting. ICT offers alternative contexts for care. aunt in Canada. leaving their own children behind. or top up the accounts of. transnational families' everyday practices and social This content downloaded from 203. 'cos. some families use supermarketWeb sites to shop for elderly relatives living in other parts of the country. which I know happens with one child. Likewise. For example. These circumstances are commonly the result of family members' migrating internationally in search of work. the fact that somebody can have regular e-mail contact with their um. or to send birthday or Christmas gifts. Many people also use ICT to find creative ways of indirectly maintaining their obligations to each other and performing daily caring functions. in which grandmotherswould take over the care of their grandchildren to allow their daughters to work overseas (Levitt 2001). .for individuals and families in richer countries. online banking enables parents to manage the financial affairs for.86 on Mon. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Indeed. Like U. I think that'sjust absolutely superb.

the Internet facilitates movement in both directions. The Internet also enables family members to care for or maintain obligations toward each other at a distance.188." Adams and Ghose (2003. Although there are limits to the extent to which ICT can act as a substitute for the everyday physical intimacy of kisses and hugs. and to which it can overcome the emotional pain and emptiness of missing someone who is physically absent.376 GLOBALIZING INTIMACY relations can also be negotiated by e-mail. they cite the example of matrimonial services that are used by Indian families to find overseas partners for their offspring. Kyriakopolous(2002).who may grow up between two cultures and feel that they lack cultural fluency in both. as well as supporting visits through information sites about express or cultivate their ethnicity.albeit in a more fundamental way. For those migrants who settle permanently overseas with their children or who subsequently establish their own families. In Canada young people download This content downloaded from 203. Both parent and child can also build up a mutual knowledge about each other's everyday life such that the child might still be expected to use online communication to negotiate his or her autonomy/independence by asking permission from his or her parent to do particular things. As Adams and Ghose's (2003) "bridgespace"metaphor implies. food. for example. music. e-mail allows absent parents to provide emotional care for children from whom they are separated." They suggest that ICT allows "offshore"families to keep in touch with Indiannews and culture by seeking information about or purchasing online commodities such as traditional clothing. passport services.86 on Mon. the Internet can be an important means for teaching second and third generations about the family's history and the wider kinship network and culture of which they are a part. and travel agents. 416) describe the numerous interlinked Web sites used by the Indian diaspora as a "variegated space of international and multicultural communication we call bridgespace. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the "home country. In particular. argues that whereas first-generation immigrants do not have to establish that they are Greek. they just are. In this sense ICT sustains "family"narratives and a sense of affinity with. facilitating international money transfers or gift delivery. while the parent can use technology to discipline the child. second-generation Greeks have to prove their Greeknessby demonstrating and promoting this identity.75. books. by for example. and belonging to. and DVDs.and third-generation migrants. ICT has also become a new way for second.

there are limits to this intimacy too. In this section. present. rather. and allowing emotion. At the same time. and future.not to facilitate the "doing of family" but rather as a time and space away from the family to pursue work. The first generation regard online communication as a good opportunity to bridge the gap between themselves and their children by showcasing their Iraniancultural heritage. While they often write about the past and their longing to return home. enabling obligations to care for or support each other to be fulfilled over long distances.particularly men. it can bring families together offline and enable individual members to (re)negotiate their relationships with each other (in positive and negative ways). Knowledge about wider kinship networks and familial history acquired on the Internet can also be used to bolster individuals' standing in their local community. They observe that online exchanges between Iraniansoften take place in English because the written Persian of second-generation Iranians is often not fluent enough for them to engage in an open dialogue with the first generation. Graham and Khosravi (2002) suggest that the Internet provides a space where two generations of Iranian emigrants can meet." it can never be a substitute for physical touch and the love and reassurance a hug or cuddle can provide. the second generation tend to write about their lives and identities in the past. and familial knowledge acquired online can also be used to advance individuals' status in their offline communities.86 on Mon. ICT is not just a way of doing family online. While ICT enables families who live apart to "keepin touch. This content downloaded from 203.75. trust. the Internet provides a space where what it means to be Iranian can be reworked between the generations of the same family.VALENTINE 377 Greek pop songs and play them to friends. as I have outlined above. Moreover. Web sites about Greek folk dancing and about a Greek version of backgammon are also popular vehicles for Greeks all over the world to develop and maintain stronger ties with the "homeland" (Panagakos 2003). interests. ICT is sometimes used by individual family members. The Internet does this by facilitating information and knowledge to be exchanged between family members online.188. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . However. or sexual liaisons. I have demonstrated the potential value of the Internet as a new form of family practice that maintains and supports the development of intimacy between family members living or spending large amounts of time apart. and respect to ' flow among the family regardless of individuals geographical locations. In this way.

four hours a day.378 GLOBALIZING INTIMACY Cultures of intimacy and care are almost entirely considered in the academic literature as taking place under auspices of family (understood as a monogamous heteronormative unit) and are discussed in terms of generational narratives (Berlant and Warner 2000. This content downloaded from 203. very sexually explicit sites can be intimidatingfor young people who arejust beginning to explore their sexuality. the Internet provides a space for those traditionally excluded from public space. to the couple form. argue that "[mjaking a queer world has required the development of kinds of intimacy that bear no necessary relation to domestic space. providing millions In this respect it has three advantages of Web sites and communication channels that are available twenty. to kinship. for example. their sexuality because it enables them a space to search for informationabout lesbian and gay communities/lifestyles and to make contact with individualsor community groups for support. Weeks et al. or struggling with. and three of them are gay.86 on Mon. as Hilary explains below.75. In the following section I consider the role of the Internet in creating and facilitating other forms of intimacy. the evidence of lesbian and gay scholars is that there is often a blurring of boundaries between friendships and sexual relationships. 2001). are all sexual. Although. The Internet is important for many people who are unsure of. Lesbian and gay people have been at the forefront of using ICT to forge sexual relationships and communities (Gauntlett 1999). NEW CREATING INTIMACIES The Internet is not just a tool for maintaining and sustaining existing familial relationships. Roseneil and Budgeon 2004). but intimacy and care increasingly take place beyond the can also facilitate the creation of new intimacies. subscriber service. for instance. America Online (AOL). to property. and it provides opportunities to communicate with others anonymously(Cooper et al. or to the is accessible. . 558). and people have multiple sexual partners of varying degrees of commitment (Bech 1992)." In particular. lovers become friends. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner (1998. networks of friends and lovers dubbed by some commentators "families of choice" (Weston 1991.friends become lovers.S.188. The ten most popular chat rooms on the largest U. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 2000). it is relatively affordable. In particular. through.

. the Internet provider . In the past this process of self recognition . is not just a place where lesbians and gay men "gather" online. the sort of chat room I talked about which was good because it was.and it's always quite scary so I don't use those really. In other words the Internet offers a space for emotional expression and for experimenting with sexual identity.75. .VALENTINE 379 Jerry: I think the Internet is invaluable actually . while providing a refuge from the confines... Sandra: I've just signed up with a lesbian support group [name removed]. I don't use Internet chat rooms because really whatever they say is the subject it's always sex so. .. monitored by people employed by . . and in some cases hostile climate. seem to have a large presence on the Web. you know what it is about being gay.. It's friendship.there are others out there like me. and bisexual) people who may be socially or geographically isolated from offline lesbian and gay communities (Woodland 1995. .188. it is also a space that can be transformativeof identities. it doesn't matter how you treat it day to day. I get things like the Advocate update lists sent to me e-mail that kind of thing so I know what's going onthat's about it. The emergence of the Internet is therefore particularly important for LGB (lesbian. . As such the Internet.86 on Mon. most things like that seem to. They also gave me some information about coming out and like a fact sheet as well. .would have relied on individuals seeking out lesbian and gay venues. and making friends and intimate relationships. you can get home and just sit down and talk to someone who might be eighty miles away but they understand . fostering a sense of self-identity that may not be available elsewhere. . in your work and your school. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . gay. 'Cos I say you can. They've just put me in contact with a lass as a pen pal. of offline everyday heterosexuality.Haag and Chang 1997). or young people who are age barred or fearful of going to an offline venue. or cyberspace. . you could go on there and say "oh I'm feeling a bit confused" and someone would like take you aside and talk to you about it. For Correll (1995) the Internet creates online lesbian communities This content downloaded from 203. for like pen-pal-type things... Hilary: E-mail lists . It's just so I know you know sort of there's someone else out there. .

But . while some young lesbian and gay people are comfortable being out in the public space of an online chat room or Web site. many people use it to find local support.380 INTIMACY GLOBALIZING that she characterizes as being defined not by locale but by a high degree of personal intimacy. In particular.because the Internet. as a medium without physical borders. it has to be accessed from technology that may be located in offline spaces such as family homes and workplaces where users have little privacy or may be subject to surveillance. though it has attracted censorship from the Iranian government.188.while the Internetis often hailed as the locus of global lesbian and gay community.homanla. For example.75. there were a This content downloaded from and is designed for individuals struggling with their sexuality or who want to explore their sexuality within the boundariesof Iraniansociety (Grahamand Khosravi 2002). researchshows that this assumptionis too simplistic (Binnie 2004). there was like this sort of gay chat room. Adams and Ghose (2003) suggest that because ICT appear to collapse space and time they make communities feel more close knit. which has also closed down Internet cafes frequented by lesbians and gay men. and social interaction. while the Internet offers access to global sociosexual relations. these are fused with local/national traditions and practices to create a hybrid sexual culture/politics. Such forms of online community are particularly important in societies where homosexuality is forbidden.While some critics have suggested that the Internet (and other processesof globalization) has accelerated the Americanization and homogenization of lesbian and gay movements/cultures around the world (Altman 1996). . Indeed. moral cohesion. It wasn't dirty or anything. as well as hate mail from individuals and organizations (Graham and Khosravi 2002). . offers more freedom (Graham and Khosravi 2002). Writing aboutTaiwan. It includes sexually explicit information in Persian about HIV/ AIDS as well as links to more than thirty other sites for Iranianlesbians and gay men. as the quotes below imply. Tan(2001)demonstratesthat while selected elements of Anglo-American gay culture and politics have been adopted by the Taiwanese Tongzhi.86 on Mon. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .However. offline family relations can sometimes constrain their ability to realize these "virtual"relationships in offline space. Jerry: When I was like coming out I. Homan is a transnational support group formed by Iranian lesbian and gay men that exists only in cyberspace (see www. Indeed.

11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . SEARCHING MATES? FOR SOUL Internet dating sites are credited as being a better place to meet possible partnersthan offline alternatives because the former usually allow more lengthy advertisements with supplementaryinformation than is possible in newspaper dating advertisements. Though I did intend to actually. But yeah that.VALENTINE 381 lot of people like talking about sort of gay issues and things. That was really good thinking about it. the Internet has facilitated the development and expansion of new ways for people to establish intimate relationships. electronic-mail discussion lists (these involve subscribersrather than being a completely open public forum). They went marching for Pride with their own banner and stuff. It was like a [name of company deleted] Internet thing. Ways of meeting online include through newsgroups (public message boards). and live chat. I can see how that certainly was bringing a lot of people who were otherwise were locked in their bedrooms like with no one to talk to but. Yeah. As such rather than merely listing an inventory of personal This content downloaded from 203. and they like discussed scenes in different towns." "All right.188.86 on Mon. whereas newsgroups and e-mail communication is usually asynchronous)(Wakeford 2000). They had sort of social meets and everything. chat rooms (these are live real-time interactions. "Oh yeah. I can see her point of view from that one I guess. Perhaps more significant. It was run by them. my mum stopped me when she found out. sort of quite proactively.75.bulletin board systems (BBS) that can offer newsgroup functions. e-mail.. And I never actually sort of physically met any of them. sorry.. I'm just going to Birmingham to meet a load of gay people I've never met. Mum. which are limited by space constraints." "No you're not. Adrian: I've got a Yahoo Messenger which keeps a list of my friends 'cos a lot of my friends around here have got the Internet so sometimes I chat to them which makes it a lot easier for me to instead of using the phone so I mean there's a guy who's a mutual friend of ours in [name of place removed] and he's got the Internet and we sometimes chat and arrange to go out on a Fridaynight or a Saturdaynight." .

rapport. I used the Internet for that section . explains how he developed an online relationship with a gay man he met on the Internetbefore telling him abouthis hearingimpairment. the Internet provides a space for a huge range of specialist sites dedicated. and anonymity and intimacy. online dating profiles are less formulaic. a space in which individualsseek to close the gap between the embodied and disembodiedself.382 INTIMACY GLOBALIZING attributes. before the friendship/relationship is taken offline (Hardey 2002. creating a reflexively organized story about the advertiser. minority ethnic groups. 579) argues: "How the body is written and read creates a space for negotiation and disjunctures between the lived body andhow it is seen by others. Hardey (2002. The process of Internet dating involves reading descriptions.which reflects not only a selfdefinition of how they see themselves in the present but also their life choices and who they have the potential to become (Burke 2000).86 on Mon. a young Deaf gay self-disclosure. for example. rather the body having to be defined and managed through the text. This provides more information with which participants can evaluate each other and try to establish their trustworthiness without the possible embarrassment attached to meeting face-to-face. or vegetarians. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Yeah I told him on the Internet and I mean I chatted to him for several weeks without telling him that I was D/deaf and then it This content downloaded from 203. In particular. which means that individuals have more opportunity to meet the "type" of person they are looking for online than they would through more generic newspaper dating columns or chance meetings in everyday life (Hardey 2002. 2000). to particular sexual practices. therefore. ICT creates a space in which people can constructnarrativesof the self unencumberedby their bodies. Adrian: It was like I was sick of not being able to find a boyfriend or not being able to have any gay friends or.188. 2004). I think I didn't like some of the sites because they were very graphic and again people who use chat are very bitchy. and erotic connections stemming from emotional intimacy are more importantthan physicalattractionand lust (Cooper et al." Adrian.writing responses..and exchanging messages. The domainof the internet dating is.Thus. 2004). Indeed.75.. the public and the private individual.

Hardey 2002)..75. The advertisements are also usually more oriented around a longing for intimacy and love than around sex. 2000). There is also some evidence that individualsfeel more confident in taking risks and disclosing intimate information online than they do offline because there are not necessarilyany consequencesof this openness for their everyday offline relationships/friendships. most specified that the advertiser was looking for a partner.g... as Peter and Andy explain below. what's that got to do with it? It is a process through which textual displays of emotional humor.While the asynchronousnature of email communication allows participants more time to think about how they present themselves. Participantshave to learn to judge textual rather than visual clues in order not to come on too strongly or appeardisinterested. Peter: I often chat on the Internet mainly because you can talk about things with people. intellect. or for a companion for a specific purpose (e.188.VALENTINE 383 got to the point to tell him and he replied so what. at the same time the speed and ease of e-mail exchanges also means it has the advantage of allowing online advertisers to correspond with multiple respondents simultaneously (Jagger 1998. and empathy are importantin establishingmutual chemistry (Cooper et al. The advertisements frequently used romantic euphemisms such as looking for "someone to walk on This content downloaded from 203. for friends and maybe more. someone to go skiing with).and to recognize when a nonresponse is a signal that the correspondent is not interested in pursuinga relationship. In her study Burke (2000) found that only 8 percent of two hundred advertisements were seeking casual sex. Andy: You feel you're able to say more than you should because you're not talking to that person face-to-face you're just talking to a computer isn't it? You just feel comfortable I think so . 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .86 on Mon. Research by Burke (2000) suggests that online lesbian advertisements are more likely to focus on personality and less likely to focus on physical description or appearance than advertisements placed by heterosexuals or gay men. rather. and then not have to look them in the face again the following day.

I've met three people on the Internet [few words unclear] one of them I had a short relationship with but the other two I'm This content downloaded from 203. Likewise.. with all the informants agreeing to meet someone face-to-face whom they had met online at least once. in press).which.86 on Mon. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Moderators also commonly monitor discussion lists to try to prevent the harassmentof individuals or "flaming"and to try to ensure that participantsare lesbian or gay (Wincpaw 2000).75." or "undermoonlight. the inflections. and three-quartersclaiming that they had had physical affairswith men they had met on line. anxieties.384 GLOBALIZING INTIMACY the beach with. Nonetheless.188. Shaw (1997) reportssimilar results. and so on). there can still be a gap between online impressionsand the reality of meeting. as well as online communication before a face-to-face meeting. some commentators have been more critical of the role of Internet dating. arguing that the Internet puts people in touch with each other but at same time they are distanced from the real concerns. according to Giddens (1992). has closure in past relationships. of conversations online than in face-to-face encounters and becauseof a lack of physical attraction. While getting to know someone by e-mail exchange contributesto building mutual trust.and thus reducing the risk and embarrassment of a face-to-face meeting. In particular. for example. This process of translatinga virtual self/relationship into a flesh-and-blood encounter usually involves postal and telephone. However. Park's(1996)study found that two-thirds of online respondentshad formed a personal relationship with someone they had met on line. communication problems can arise because it is hard to read the tonal qualities. and that the Internet is often used for pleasure without any moral responsibility to others (Bauman 1993). Other studies have suggested that people tend to seek out those similar to themselves online and to establish their similarity through online talk (Levine 2000)." or "to share candlelight dinners" or "to read morning newspapers with" (Burke 2000). in cyber affairs that promote a moral indifference to people's offline private relationships(Heim 1992). the evidence is that relationshipsbegun online rarely stay there. The advertisers also stressed the importance of sincerity and emotional availability (no game players. An online relationshipis defined as a romantic or sexual relationship that is initiated via online contact and maintained mainly through electronic conversations(Young et al. is a hallmark of intimacy. and vulnerabilities of those with whom they correspond.

I used to chat for hours and hours to one person and then eventually we'd meet up. There are also often areas within gay venues where sexual encounters take place. and related services (including online material for entertainment and masturbation. live sex shows. I think he wanted more off me and he. and moving between these locations can be used to signal interest or disinterest (Henriksson and Mansson 1995). handkerchief colors and positions can be used to signal sexual preferences/roles.and it is possible to spend a long time in an This content downloaded from 203. Where they differ is that in traditional gay men's cruising areas it is possible to use visual codes to communicate without necessarily requiring any other form of interaction. Some commentators argue that it has revolutionized the gay men's scene with electronic cruising replacing bar cruising (Tsang 1996. the Internet also offers new erotic possibilities in the form of cybersex. arguing that gay venues are often not very pleasant places.75. Brown 2000). and other spaces where men cruise and observe. This is how I met this person in Manchester you see very dangerous!I got off the train at Manchester and he met me off the train. while embedded in public environments.. For example. are largely visible only to the initiated.. Chat rooms and gay cruising areas share a number of similarities.VALENTINE 385 good friends with .they are frequently marginal parts of the city in run-down buildings and can be expensive (Weightman 1980. I'm not being funny but I just want to be friends. In a study by Tikkanen and Ross (2000). Both are spaces of intimacy that.86 on Mon. interviewees recounted how they find sex partners online and describe their sexual preferences. it was like oh dear right and I didn't know that the gay village was right next to the train station and I thought we were going to have to get a car or a taxi or a bus but it was only a few minutes walk. had a few pints and we just chatted away like we'd been friends for years.188. Many preferred this to offline bars. we sat in the pub. escort services. he wanted more off me and I was like [few words unclear] I wasn't interested I said I just want to be friends. In this sense sexuality is not necessarily in the sphere of domestic/home (Correll 1995). 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . CYBERSEX However. 1). pornography. Online cruising has to be done through text. and online sex therapists) (Griffiths 2000). bearing in mind I was seventeen and he was thirty-one.

One irony is that desire can be frustratedby distance.188. The Internet also offers the opportunity to encounter a much wider range of people beyond the local gay scene. cybersex also offers less risk of being Probyn (1995) argues. one of the paradoxical geometries of the Internet is that while it is often popularly assumed to facilitate thinking globally. gay cybersex might be considered in Giddens's terms offering the ultimate "purerelationship"in that it is self-focused. In this sense. in the age of AIDS it is a safer space for sexual play and imagination than are venues for offline sex. At the same time it is possible for online users to disguise their own identities.all from the comfort and familiarispecific sexual interests or fantasies ty of your own home. online exchanges of information for cybersex are usually based on a limited description. For those in societies in which homosexuality or public sex is criminalized. pointing out that the Internet can contribute to the exoticiza- This content downloaded from 203. so it is possible to conceal characteristics that it's not possible to conceal in the flesh.although there is growing state regulation in many places of sex sites that are leading to the criminalization of ICT users. for this reason many men use the Internet to connect with people in their locality (or those who are in places where they are visiting for work or on vacation) so that they might also arrange to meet offline for sex (sometimes literally just to have anonymous sex without speaking) (Wakeford 2000). and without commitment. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 2000). individualsstill often prefer to act locally! Clarke (2000) also identifies a link between online sex sites and sex tourism. spatial separation accentuates longing. or indeed to create a "fantasyself. For example. At the same time. In this sense. the Internet has sensory limitations in that it requires autosimulation. However.75. essentially democratic. In particular the Internet is a good source of information for MSMs who are not part of gay culture and so may not pick up safe-sex messages. Sex in cyberspace offers commitment-free interaction in much the same way as offline public sex environments (Blair 1998).386 GLOBALIZING INTIMACY offline venue before you make contact with someone. outed or subjected to homophobic violence .86 on Mon." The anonymity of sex online is particularly attractive to men who have sex with men (MSMs) but who are not exclusively gay and may therefore be less comfortable being seen in gay-identified venues and more likely to be isolated or have time constraints(Ross et al.particularly to meet those who share very .

Familial and sexual relationships are commonly associated with the space of the home. providing connections to support familial intimacy in terms of knowing (e. Rather. at least in part.188. and caring (e. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . actual practices of intimacy. and the linguistic hegemony of English online.K.relations are undergoing drastic change. the Internet offers a way to be separate and together. such that ICT are not producing fundamentallydifferent types of family behavior but rather a reordering of habits. Bell and Binnie (2000) observe that discussions of diasporic sexual communities unproblematically slip into the assumption that the gay subject is white. loving.. I demonstrated that despite the fact that families are increasingly living together apart.knowing. however. Literal closeness is usually considered to be important for close. loving (by enabling flows of feeling and emotionally binding together dislocated family members). families living together but apart and transnational families to show how intergenerational This content downloaded from 203. activities. Moreover. and Western.VALENTINE 387 tion of "other"people and "other" places in the West. and relations.86 on Mon. Internet shopping for a grandparent or telephone banking for a child) for each other online.75. GEOMETRIES OFINTIMACY The Internet offers the possibility of rethinking the scaling of intimate relationships (Binnie 2000). I have used the example of both U.g. the Internet offers the possibility to stretch intimacy beyond the boundariesof the domestic. loving. and so on). which is usually understood to provide a refuge from global capital and the implications of globalization (Binnie 2000). affluent. movements. compensate for the limits of intimacy elsewhere. While the individualization thesis and popular concern about rising rates of marital breakup have led some commentators to theorize that intimate. However. And of course the potential Utopianpossibilities of the Internet to create global sexual communities and facilitate "pure"relationships need to be tempered by a recognition of the uneven geographies of access to this technology. or apart together.g. or both) does not necessarily bring intimacy to an end. and caring relations. Here. rather than genuine engagement. exchanging information about thoughts. In the first section of this essay. distance (in terms of physical or temporal separation. and caring for others may not be changing as much as anticipated because the Internet offers a way of rearticulating offline practices of everyday familial life that particular familial. routines.

At the same time. rather life around the screen and life on the screen are mutually constituted. some lesbians and gay men use ICT to connect with people like themselves offline in their local areas for friendship. at home.. Binnie (2004) argues that the local and the global are often configured such that local is seen as site of sexuality. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . while also reconfiguring divisions between what is considered "public" and "private. The Internet allows people to stay in touch or get in touch but the absence of actual touch can serve only to accentuate the emotional pain of missing or longing for another body. Of course there are limitations to both "doing family" and "doing sexual intimacy" online. On the other hand. However.g. support. Whereas other lesbians and gay men are closeted in terms of their local offline social relations (e. In the second section of the essay I focused on the role of the Internet in facilitating nonnormative cultures of intimacy by considering the example of the way lesbians and gay men use the Internet to develop and access "community"and sexual relationships. in this section I have highlighted the more complex ways in which the Internet coconstitutes the local/global as sites of lesbian and gay sexuality. This content downloaded from 203.188. or sex. Namely. on the one hand. other lesbians and gay men use the Internet to escape oppressive offline domestic or homophobic local/national relations to enable them to connect with other lesbians and gay men and express their sexuality online at a global scale. As both sections of this essay have demonstrated." creating complex geometries of intimacy. In doing so. at work. in the community) but publicly "out"in the global arena of cyberspace. while ICT can facilitate disembodied forms of knowing. authenticity. loving. and resistance to the global.388 GLOBALIZING INTIMACY relationships can be (re)negotiated across different geographical scales from the local to the global. and sex.86 on Mon.75. The Internet can interrupt family life by absorbing an individual's time. In this sense. these complex geometries of intimacy also clearly demonstrate that online and offline worlds cannot be understood as separate or discrete spaces. there are potential tensions between "the doing of family life" offline and the use of ICT by individual family members. some lesbians and gay men use the "privacy" afforded by anonymous online communication from the comfort of their home computer to develop sexual relationships without the necessity of going to public spaces such as offline gay bars and clubs. this is not always a substitute for the physical intimacy of a parental hug or a lover's caress. caring.

"doing sexual intimacy" online can also potentially contribute to the "undoingof family" offline. children and parenting. 1995. NOTES 1. and research methods.VALENTINE 389 and can import new problems into the familial home by. for example. and nongovernmental organizations to a value of more than one million pounds (British). the extent to which ICT support and facilitate offline intimacies or challenge and undermine them will depend on the different ways that use of the technologies emerge in practice in the context of different families/relationships. VALENTINE GILL is professor of geography at the University of Leeds. Polity The Construction of a SpaceBetween. U. facilitating individual members (including children) to develop intimate or sexual connections with others (entirely online or online relationships that are consummated offline) beyond the porous boundaries of the home that might disrupt offline familial and intimate relationships. in Human Geography 27:414-37. citizenship and belonging. This might occur not only in terms of the sexual infidelity but also in other ways. Ghose. government departments. charities.188. Barbara. these complexities illustrate that ICT do not necessarily impact on "the doing of intimacy" in fixed ways."India.86 on Mon. consumption cultures (especially in relation to food and drink). Her research interests include social identities. for example.andR. either positive or negative.2003. if the use of illegal Web sites leads to one family member's committing a criminal offense and bringing shame on the whole family. WORKS CITED The SocialAnalysisof Time. Rather. Her most recent book is Public Space and the Cultureof Childhood(Ashgate. She has an international reputation for theoretically informed empirical work that is methodologically innovative and has popular and policy impacts.75. 11 Nov 2013 01:12:56 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ." Adams. Timewatch: Press. In other words. Progress This content downloaded from 203. In sum.K.: Adam. Although its importantto recognize that this is often dependenton an ability to communicate in English given the prevalence of English language lesbian and gay sites on the Internet.Paul. Gill has been awarded research grants and contracts from research councils. 2004).

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