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Abstract

This article develops the argument that digital platforms are significantly infused with originary (and unconscious) residues of the sexual. Drawing on Laplancheian conceptualizations of sexuality, I argue that the digital has always been sexual(ised) in itself – a process that precedes and exceeds the erotic or pornographic. For Laplanche, sexuality is constitutive of the human subject as such. Infantile sexuality is shaped and transformed in an enigmatic relation with the caregiver. Drawing on this model as an analogy, I claim that users are drawn to platforms because they (unconsciously) desire to return to infantile sexuality and a holding environment but are disciplined and policed by platforms into adopting modes of adult sexuality that are shaped by ideology and the social. Platforms resemble a child – caregiver relation that is further complicated by other users who, from the perspective of the individual user, occupy the position of siblings. The user – sibling relation is marked by competition as well as moments of care and cooperation. As users work, chat, share, like, and practically live online and via networked objects, their forms of usage mimic, or come close to, the sensual-affective rhythms of sexuality itself.

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