[-empyre-] individual responsibility in the netopticon

Heidi May mayh at ecuad.ca
Mon Jan 24 09:41:38 EST 2011

In response to Jon & Alison's story about the teenager who 'staged'  
her offline socializing through online status updates...
I thought this was hilarious and quite clever, but then after thinking  
about it for awhile I realized that this is just a high-tech way of  
doing what we all did at that age (or maybe just some of us). I  
remember telling white lies to my friends over the phone as to why I  
couldn't go out since I didn't think they would understand my wanting  
to be alone, being the loner that I often was and still am. So, I  
guess I read this particular example as more of a "low-effort way to  
appease and deal with immense social pressures" rather than "slavery  
to the second by second pressures of tending to social networking  
personaes," although there could be an element of the latter as well.  
On the other hand, I'm extremely interested in how we manage our  
networking personaes and think it's more complex than what appears on  
the surface. It would be great if psychological studies could be  
created around this act of updating our status, which has been  
described as a "new kind of intimacy" and an "acute form of self- 
reflection" by New York Times writer Clive Thompson: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/magazine/07awareness-t.html

Thompson interviewed people (mind you, this was in 2008) who interact  
with online technologies on a daily basis and writes:  “The act of  
stopping several times a day to observe what you’re feeling or  
thinking can become, after weeks and weeks, a sort of philosophical  
act. It’s like the Greek dictum to “know thyself,” or the therapeutic  
concept of mindfulness…Having an audience can make the self-reflection  
even more acute, since, as my interviewees noted, they’re trying to  
describe their activities in a way that is not only accurate but also  
interesting to others…” (Thompson, 2008)

Our current fascination and obsession, with daily text/image updates  
to social networking websites can perhaps be understood when  
considered within a Bakhtinian conception of the self, a self that  
emerges through the process of dialogue. The literary critic and  
philosopher Bakhtin believed that dialogue could be external, between  
two different people, or internal, between and earlier and later self.

Jon & Alison questioned how individual responsibility is altered by  
being online and what effects that has on us all. I've been using  
myself as a bit of a research subject in this area with an online  
piece I've been doing since April of last year called Selfpost |  
Postself > http://postself.wordpress.com. I've been observing and  
reflecting on my networked self since entering Facebook, which I was  
completely resistant to before that. I think I was resistant because  
of the multiple personaes I would need to maintain and the different  
level/types of "friends" I would collect. In the process, I developed  
an actual FB page in which I try and initiate a sense of mindfulness  
around these ideas, organizing a kind of 'postself' movement perhaps :)

I believe this next week the discussions will focus a lot on the  
individual... I think the first place to start with this inquiry is  
with ourselves. Articles in social research continue to argue for more  
inclusion of self-reflexivity and for this reason I think it's  
interesting to think about how we manage our online personaes as  
researchers, artists, and educators...considering that many of us are  
interdisciplinary and also manage personal lives (at least that's what  
I hear!) with family and friends as well.


On 22-Jan-11, at 5:00 PM, empyre-request at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au wrote:

> Marc, Davin and everyone,
> We were chatting with a friend the other night and he was telling us  
> about his teenage daughter spending the weekend, facebook updating  
> and tweeting strategically about a sleepover and party at a  
> particular friend's apartment that never happened.  When he asked  
> her why on earth she was doing this, she explained (patiently) that  
> although she just wanted to catch up with a bunch of stuff that  
> weekend, she had to maintain a certain level of social interest for  
> her peer group online because she didn't want to be seen to be a  
> 'loser' and so had imagined this hypothetical social event in  
> collaboration with the friend and then acted it out at predetermined  
> time-frames as a series of status updates.
> Is this a remarkably low-effort way to appease and deal with the  
> immense social pressures of teenage-hood, or more like slavery to  
> the second by second pressures of tending to your social networking  
> personae?  Perhaps it's both (and more), but either way it reminds  
> us that the mediation of our digital selves remains something we  
> must let the end-user authenticate on a case by case basis: truth  
> and lies fill the netopticon and perhaps this anecdote is one  
> example of  "the inter-penetration of the netopticon with  
> technologies of surveillance in real life" that Christina raised  
> this time last week?
> As we hand over to next week, we do wonder whether and how  
> individual responsibility is altered by being online and what  
> effects that has on us all, whether at the hands of panoptic forces  
> or not? Franco and Eva Mattes performance video 'No Fun' (http://www.0100101110101101.org/home/nofun/index.html 
> ) offers an interesting albeit sensationalist and voyeuristic window  
> here by 'staging' a suicide by hanging on chat roulette and then  
> recording viewers responses to it as real, a joke, boring, fake  
> etc.  At its worst, some users just seem to be anaesthetised by the  
> chat-roulette network environment, passively immobilised by this  
> fleeting image in the endless rotation of webcams, lost in some  
> oblique pornographic haze.
> Wikipedia, however, is perhaps a rather more edifying example of a  
> p2p mechanism in and of the netopticon, where the possibility of  
> false information making its way into the collective gaze and  
> outpourings of this knowledge bank, forces the onus onto every user  
> of wikipedia to check the facts, just as any self-respecting  
> journalist would do when researching an article or essay.  And  
> surely this is just what you want from any authority of information  
> that is not seeking to inculcate you with propaganda; i.e. not to  
> believe everything regardless, but to question its truth, and to  
> question its provenance and its quality.  This is built into the  
> very operational fabric of wikipedia and partly perhaps as a result  
> of its netoptic authoring mechanism: everything on there is probably  
> true but not definitely true, making it usable but also making us  
> ultimately the ones responsible to authenticate its information for  
> our own use.
> Thanks and best wishes,
> Jon & Alison
> -->
> thomson & craighead
> archive: http://www.thomson-craighead.net
> blog: http://thomson-craighead.blogspot.com/

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