A Continuum of Traversing Lines: Youth Political Participation in Gaia Online
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This qualitative research project uses a Deleuzo-Guattarian theoretical framework to address the question: “How are the politically oriented social forums in Gaia Online experienced as a continuum of overlapping of lines, including molar lines, lines of flight, and molecular lines?” Although smooth lines of flight may occur in Gaia, there are always mechanisms that work to re-territorialize them as more striated molar operations. Conversely, while more striated molar lines may be evident in Gaia, there are also smooth lines of flight that attempt to deterritorialize them as smooth space. Founded in 2003, Gaia is a virtual community in which members use 3D avatars to socialize with others, create content, and play games. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) have defined space with three systems: on one end is state-oriented static space, on the other end is nomadic fluid space, and situated in the middle is molecular space which contains both smooth and striating elements. While state-oriented striated space is based on routines, rules, and specifications, nomadic smooth space is flexible, always changing, and full of possibility. Some of the smoother operations that are evident in Gaia include becoming other, decentred communications, desire as resistance, and lines of flight. Some of the more striated operations include social reproduction of gender norms/expectations, capitalist mechanisms, violence and intolerance linked to categories and binaries (racism/sexism/ageism), the regulation of desire, and the organisation of bodies.