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.


  1. Gray, Mentor, and Figueroa-Sarriera, eds., The Cyborg Handbook, New York: Routledge, 1995, pp. 13.