Monday, January 22, 2007

You, Me, and Everybody Else We Want to Know

Just when I think I'm being innovative in the blog / art / theory category, integrating this figure I call the digital flux persona into the world of online social networking where one can engage in acts of hyperimprovisational performance-writing, I realize that I am just another "pop intellectual" who can watch someone else, more journalistic (paternalistic?) in nature, take these ideas and mainstream them for middle-mind consumption. For example, this weekend in the New York Times, an article called "Big Media’s Crush on Social Networking" says:
Social networking, on the other hand, is something potentially deeper — it represents a way to live one’s life online. In many ways, it is the two-dimensional version of what sites like Second Life aspire to be in 3-D: the digital you. And that ties to another earnestly overused term of art at the moment: engagement.

Engagement basically refers to the amount of time people spend doing one thing — reading a magazine, watching a TV show — but also to the depth of their participation. Do they vote on “American Idol”? Flock to Disneyland? Go to the NBC Web site after “The Office” to watch deleted scenes? Or, now, do they integrate their favorite media into their digital personas?
And if we believe Time magazine, then this Digital Persona of the Year is also YOU. But how can that be? Or, more importantly, how can the digital persona you are role-playing ever really be YOU?

My sense is that the whole reason the "Youtube" lifestyle is so popular is because it's a great way to show the world there really is no you, that you are going down the tubes with rest of your culture. And that's a good thing. In fact, in prior posts at Professor VJ, we have referred to this online/offline intermedia integration as a kind of "trendy hybridization" that is partly informed by something I call the Youtube Effect. But it goes much deeper than just coming up with a catchy term (although that helps too). Quoting Professor VJ, with "the emergence of digitally constructed identities, fictional personas, meta-histories, narrative mythologies, and collaborative networks (both anonymous and pseudonymous) as strategic aspects of naming / performing the Artist-Medium-Instrument-Body," we now see ourselves self-reflexively writing out or otherwise performing our roles as nomadic biomorphs in the networked space of flows. YOU is as much of a fiction as ME is (and by muttering the words "ME is," I am, in effect, initiating the fictionalization process).

Constructing digital personas who are fluid decharacterizations of "self" that continuously initialize this fictionalization process in cyberspace, relates to what Italo Calvino, writing out his role as writer, refers to as "the selection of a psychological attitude, a rapport with the world, a tone of voice, a homogeneous set of linguistic tools, the data of experience and the phantoms of the imagination--in a word, a style." And once you start playing with your digital persona as an object lesson in style, then you are moving way beyond the YOU of Time, and entering the hallucinatory otherspace of not-me.

ME is ... not-me.

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Blogger flic said...

And what happens at home at the end of the day will (thankfully) always still be there. At least right now it is and seems to be something that's staying. That's where life still is real and fresh, no matter what goes on in the digital internet you-tubed world.

And knowing that makes all this online-living not so threatening, I think. To see it or to get into it (artistically or "realistically").

The key is bringing realness and freshness to the digital sphere. And "realness and freshnes" I mean seriously, not real TV -- but real life: That (albeit short) time spent at home, not in front of technology.

And again, that's the beauty: there really is a real life. I don't care how "far from themselves" these online personas get, there's still a real life that happens in those people outside our eye-and-ear shot.

Great post!

8:48 AM  

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