digital invisible
When we turn to computer viruses to consider a more recent example of
technologies of transportation and communication being seen as purveyors
of invisible contagion, we find that the elusiveness of the moment of digital
infection is further exaggerated by the intangibility of the object under in-
vestigation. While the precise instant of contamination may be impossible
to pin down in the postwar public health films discussed in earlier chapters,
the site of infection was clearly identified as the human body (even as it was
collapsed with a national body). But with computer viruses, the object be-
comes more elusive still—is it the computer itself ? The wires that connect
computers to each other? The abstract realm of cyberspace? The representa-
tions of the Internet in other media such as film, television, animation, print
journalism, science fiction novels, or advertising? Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto has
described cyberspace as an ‘‘object which does not exist anywhere except
as an effect of its own image’’
and one might say the same of contagion.
Thus, there is a parallel between the fundamental unrepresentability of con-
tagion and the unrepresentability of the Internet. And yet, the abstraction of
the body into digital zeroes and ones on the Internet is belied by the insis-
tent embodiment of the network through the rhetoric of disease and bodily
The network news media coverage of the May 2000 Love Bug Internet
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