A sketch of this project first took shape in a paper I was fortunate enough
to present in 1999 at the Knowing Mass Culture/Mediating Knowledge Con-
ference hosted by the Center for Twentieth Century Studies in Milwaukee,
Wisconsin. In the intervening years, the research for this book has been
supported by my home institution, the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill. My work was greatly advanced by a research and development
leave from teaching as well as by a Spray-Randleigh Research Fellowship,
both from UNC. A separate fellowship at UNC’s Institute for the Arts and
Humanities allowed me time to revise the manuscript.
This book is an outcome of my decade-long research adventure into the
various complex intersections among ritual, fetishism, signification, and
Web-based identity practices and techniques. Many individuals supported
me during this time. At UNC, my department chairs, Bill Balthrop and Dennis
Mumby, were strongly supportive of my endeavors. My sincere thanks to the
individuals at Duke University Press who helped marshal this book toward
publication, particularly Ken Wissoker and Courtney Berger. I am grateful to
the three readers who provided both pointed critique and helpful commen-
tary during the process of anonymous review.
No book is written in isolation, and my friends and colleagues provided
many different forms of kindness and assistance. In particular, I wish to
thank Ricky Barnes, John Beauchamp, Lisa Bloom, Wendy Chun, Paul Couil-
lard, Lauren Cruickshank, Mary Ann Doane, Nathan Epley, Philip Hartwick,
Jeremy Hunsinger, Martin Jay, Lynne Joyrich, Jon Lillie, Liz Mc­Kenzie,
Susanna Paasonen, John Durham Peters, Rob Shields, Jon Simons, Jonathan
Sterne, T. L. Taylor, Carol Vernallis, Nina Wakeford, Michele White, and Ayl-
ish Wood. I owe a special debt to Michael Petit, whose critique, editorial
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