“Closer and The Nether: The End of Intimacy as We Once Knew It” presented by Jefferies


Session Title:

  • Post Human - Can Non-anthropocentric Relationships Lead to True Intimacy with Technology?

Presentation Title:

  • Closer and The Nether: The End of Intimacy as We Once Knew It




  • In the mid-1990s, when access to the internet was on the rise, there were many debates about online interaction carried out in Internet Relay chats or chat rooms (and Multi-User Domains). The second, and the one hand there were some who celebrating the fantasy and pretense of role-play partly because it was faceless and any identity could be chosen. Sherry Turkle’s 1995 view was celebratory, “As players participate, they become authors not only of the text but also of themselves constructing new selves through social interaction”. On the other hand, there were those who were unnerved by the very lack of an ethical dimension to faceless identity: distance could lead to deception, intimacy in private projected on public display, a dissolution between private and public boundaries of safety and surveillance.

    Shifting Representations of Technology

    This short paper discusses 2 plays some 20 years apart to note the shifting representations of technology, what the implications are for experiencing feelings of intimacy and how ‘sexbots’ programmed to suit all your needs impact on the young and the not so young. Patrick Marber’s 1997 play (and then film) Closer (commissioned and performed Cottlesloe, National Theatre, London) illuminates this view through an exploration of new technology. It was probably the first play by a British playwright and produced on the British stage to explore the ways in which an on stage representation of two people communicating through the interest as well as the use of mobile phones. When one character is asked whether he frequently visits the online environment, the reply is specified as ‘Net’. [9] In one of the scenes most remembered by visitors, two main protagonists interact in an online sex chat while one identifies himself as Anna (another character in the play with whom he is in love [10]), then proceeds to play a practical joke on the other be arranging to meet in real life. Nearly 20 years later, another play, Jennifer Haley’s The Nether (2015) takes on the complexities of advanced technology where the darker side of the Net is explored. [11] How much of the web do we really know about? The Nether projects some of our deepest social fears with the aim of interrogating technology, projection and simulation in which a lucrative site called ‘The Hideaway’ hosts punters, retaining their anonymity by adopting avatars, are able to have sex with virtual children. What do young people think? Young people’s relationships in the early 21st century include a host of devices, social media websites across heart emojis on Instagram or instant messaging. A report released by the Pew Research Center in Technology (October 2015) includes interviews with Americans aged between 13-17. [12] It notes that many teenagers enjoy the anonymity of text messaging as a pleasurable aspect in all stages of dating. The negative aspects of technology, such as surveillance and trolling, are played out publicly on social media for all to see. Named after the wicked troll creatures of children’s tales, an Internet troll is someone who stirs up drama and abuses their online anonymity by purposely sowing hatred, bigotry, sexism, racism and misogyny. This is the world of Closer and The Nether as the move is made from the stage (literary) to the platform (social media).