An assistant professor of modern culture and media at Brown University, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun combines her background in systems-design engineering and critical theory to analyze the cultural, political, and technical implications of and possibilities for high-speed digital networks. In her current book project, “Sexuality in the Age of Fiber Optics,” she examines how the Internet simultaneously democratizes publicity and surveillance. By breaching the boundary between private and public, spectator and spectacle, the Internet both empowers and disempowers those who would be its “users.”
As a Radcliffe fellow, Chun will complete her investigation of the remapping of public and private spheres brought about by fiber optic networks. This remapping predominantly is experienced as, and explained through, sexuality—from “cyberporn” legislation that seeks to regulate the World Wide Web to webcams that provoke new levels of voyeurism and exhibitionism; from cyberpunk dreams of “jacking in” to male and female connections that figure all connectivity as electrifying heterosexual intercourse. Focusing on fiber optic networks, she will engage the rich philosophical tradition of light as a figure for knowledge, clarification, surveillance, and discipline in order to understand how the Internet literalizes and questions enlightenment.
Chun earned her PhD in English literature from Princeton University, where she received a presidential fellowship. She has also been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Fellowship from the Canadian government and the Wriston Fellowship from Brown University, which she will defer until spring 2004.