Boundary Maintenance

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Boundary maintenance describes the act of maintaining boundaries in the presence of others in a physical or a digital space. Boundary-making can manifest as maintaining boundaries of one's social class or maintaining the boundaries of one's secondary self online.

Boundary maintenance has played a central role in all societies throughout history. In India, sacred ground is maintained by taking one's shoes off before entering the space, etc. But the concept bears a special relation to our modern cyborg condition. Boundaries that used to be considered "natural", such as gender, have been thrown into question due to modern scholarship and technological advances. When natural boundaries, such as death, gender, social status, and romantic status, become problematized, more energy is required to maintain the boundary. Cyborgs defy boundaries and flourish in the slippery slopes between preconceived categories. What do we call a mouse with a human ear growing on its back? "Soon, perhaps," says Maureen McHugh, "it will be impossible to tell where human ends and machines begin".[1]


In a restaurant, boundary maintenance manifests as those sitting near each other maintain their own space although they are physically proximal. On Myspace, people understand how to maintain boundaries even when they are challenged by outsiders - for instance, people know what status or social class they are and seek to reproduce that over time, reinforcing their own social behavior and blocking others - and communication with others who are outside that behavior.

Cyborg Security

Cyborg security is aimed at maintaining boundaries between the digital self and its data and intruders. As we extend our technosocial selves online, our brains and extended selves become open to social and physical access. With that new level of access comes some security concerns. For instance, as researcher danah boyd discovered, some teenagers are known to disable their Facebook accounts when they go offline. This is to prevent people from posting on their wall when they're not there to defend it. This practice, also known as "super-logoff"[2] and is an example of a risk reduction strategy on Facebook.


  1. Gray, Mentor, and Figueroa-Sarriera, eds., The Cyborg Handbook, New York: Routledge, 1995, pp. 13.
  2. boyd, danah. Risk Reduction Strategies on Facebook. Accessed June 5, 2011.