The Nodal Closet

With Wyatt Niehaus (University of Cincinnati, USA)



“Our epoch is one in which space takes for us the form of relations among sites” (Foucault, 1984, p. 47).

This communication grows from understanding the transformation of spatial metaphors since the advent of cybernetics. Attending particularly to the metaphors of “the closet” as placement for a transition between personal/public status, our aim is to look upon the move from a metaphor of outing, an accepted signifier for gay identity accordingly to hetero-normative expectations, to a metaphor of log-in, a distinct metaphor based on profile updating.

The new possibilities of logging-in as an identity generator are conveyed in different means and metaphors that antiquate our old ideas about the need for outing the closet as a ‘personal-shaping’ rite of passage. It is our aim here to eschew that the understanding of such process of identity shaping is not locked in the transition of personal- to public alone but that it also pertains to a contemporary move between solid spaces and virtual ones. The concept of the node will be used here as a metaphor for a conversation between ideas regarding online sociality and the impact that such cultural shifts have brought to personal identity politics.

Realizing how relations are formed and established is perhaps much more observable – and in a certain sense, more quantifiable – through the incremental spread of an online sociality. It is not to say that this is possible solely due to algorithm tracking but because decision-making seems to have a much more deliberate, affirmative nature. This relation of extension and intersections from a source recalls the idea of the node. We will use such terminol- ogy to observe how certain devices privilege a “nodal space”- a field in which the signifier of multiple nodes relies mainly on the type or amount of intersections established with other nodes. In this new field, the metaphor of outing still prevails; however it is transmuted from a metaphor of location to a metaphor of action and time. It is in this context that according to Foucault (1984) notion of heterotopia as a space that defines itself, as permanently open to crisis in redefinition is useful. Applying this definition of heterotopia to our concept of the node establishes as a premise, the non-static nature and dismissal of normative cultural rites that tend to happen at the expenditure of personal anguish. This trope activates and emphasizes continuity against isolation, beyond the limits of a physical closet, beyond the existence of a closet in a house and the subjects trapped inside.


Year 2011
Type Journal Article without peer review
Publication International Journal of Art, Culture and Design Technologies (IJACDT), 1: 2
Pages 38-43
Publisher Politecnico di Milano University
Local Milano
Ed/Org Gianluca Mura
Language English