Identity
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Slides used in the session identity and self online for the unit 'From Home page to Tweet'.

Slides used in the session identity and self online for the unit 'From Home page to Tweet'.

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  • ‘… the internet links millions of people in new spaces that are changing the way we think, the nature of our sexualities, the form of our communities, our very identities’ (Turkle, 1995:187) Turkle uses the mirror metaphor to liken the computer to the looking glass that Alice stepped through Are we the new Alice? How has the computer and the internet tempted us to step through the looking glass What worlds have we discovered and how has the computer changed the ways we think of the mind, body, self and machine?
  • 11/11/09
  • 11/11/09 Identity simply answers the question, who am I/you? Or does it? Is it about the sort of person you are? In that case is it the same as ‘personality’? No: We may share personality ‘traits’ but sharing an identity involves some kind of active engagement. Personality describes qualities people have – being shy, outgoing (internal characteristics) Identity requires an element of choice – we choose to identify with a particular identity or group (external). And we need to be aware of that identification. E.g. I go to football matches because I enjoy shouting etc I go to see Man City and NOT Man Utd because I want to identify with that particular team. I wear a scarf that identifies me – it makes a statement about who I am. So, I actively take up that identity. Other examples: music, fashion, gender, student/staff The examples illustrate the importance of marking sameness and difference. E.g. Meeting new people. What do you want to know about them? Why Where they come from – what they do – i.e. what we have in common (sameness) and what we don’t (difference). Badges/books/clothes mark out identities and belongings. Maybe you were abroad this summer. Hear voices speaking the same language? If you did you probably felt a sense of recognition and of belonging – or maybe not if you’re trying to identify with another group (on the ferry back from France/in Nigeria with the ex-pats) E.g. on a train, someone reading a local newspaper from your home town. This provides a moment of recognition that might lead to conversation exploring those things you have in common. It works in negative ways too. Think of any examples? Denied access to credit (not creditworthy, not allowed to identify) Denied benefit payments (not worked enough, not poor enough) Denied a job (wrong accent) Denied entry to a club (wearing jeans/not a member) Denied access to the country (wrong nationality) Cont
  • 11/11/09
  • Multi User Dungeons Star Trek MUD/TrekMUSE LandaMOO MUDs allow users to create personas MUDs enable individuals to create a decentred self Participating in MUDS makes players not only authors of texts but also of themselves, constructing new selves through computer mediated interaction Turkle: Windows as a metaphor for thinking about the self as a multiple, distributed system. Life on the screen – entwines the human and technological.
  • The experience of this parallelism encourages treating on-screen and off-screen lives with a surprising degree of equality.
  • The self as reconstituted polymorphous and fluid A new world of fantasy and imagination Storytelling and playing become the foundation of the online self Cyberspace becomes ‘… the most tempting stage for the acting out of mythic realities, realities once confined to drug enhanced ritual…cyberspace can be seen as an extension… of our age old capacity and need to dwell in fiction, to dwell empowered or enlightened on other, mythic planes.’ (Benedikt, Cyberspace p6)
  • Turkle explores the development of computer technology and use to compare modernist and postmodernist aesthetics
  • From the 1980s to the 1990s and beyond
  • We have become accustomed to opaque technology. We don’t have a desire to understand the inner workings of the machine we use, as opposed to the early counterparts which were considered “transparent” because users could “imagine that they could understand its ‘gears.’” We have learned to take things at interface value. Part of the idea of moving to a culture of simulation is the thought that we are becoming comfortable with “substituting representations of reality for the real.” (desktop, folder etc.) We have used our relationships with technology to reflect on the human. We don’t ask anymore “What does it mean to think?” but “What does it mean to be alive?” We have sought out the subjective computer. “Computers do things to us, including our ways of thinking about ourselves and other people.”
  • Modern/Transparent POM/Opaque Apple II MacIntosh MS DOS Windows
  • Dreams and slips of the tongue were the keys to understanding psychoanalysis The computer is the new ‘key’ to understanding postmodernism
  • Turkle believes the Internet provides a “significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and deconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life” (180). One woman writes that while online, she feels more “like who I wish I was.” Another writes “maybe I can only relax if I see life as one more IRC channel.” Perhaps the most potent post was “Can anyone tell me how to /join #real.life?”
  • Turkle discovered that she was more comfortable being a virtual man than a virtual woman. She discusses that woman are not the only ones, however, who experiment with crossing gender lines. Turkle notes that both men and women must face the challenge of “understanding how gender inflects speech, manner, the interpretation of experience” (212). As virtual life becomes a way of life we must ask certain questions.
  • Virtual communities offer an example of postmodern flexibility. We have learned to become fluid. Even if we don’t play on MUDs, we do often times create different login names as we participate on BLOGS (my inclusion since blogs weren’t around in 1995). Turkle includes a portion of a WELL discussion group who were dialoguing about how their virtual identities helped them “think about the self” (256). The following is an excerpt: Did you ever see that cartoon by R. Crumb about “Which is the real R. Crumb?” He goes through four pages of incarnations, from successful businessman to street beggar, from media celebrity to gut-gnawing recluse, etc. etc. Then at the end he says, “Which is the real one?”… “It all depends on what mood I’m in!” We’re all like that on-line. 257
  • We become moulded by whom we know, our associations and connections. The Internet is simply another step in that development. Turkle likens this process to the building of a webpage - we are not limited to the links we include, the illustrations we incorporate, or the text we write. “ Home pages on the Web are one recent and dramatic illustration of new notions of identity as multiple yet coherent” (259).
  • Derrida Student: "Derrida’s dense prose and far-flung philosophical allusions were incomprehensible" (17) Hypertext Writing is not created within a vacuum by the author; rather, the audience participates in the construction of the text. Student: Derrida was saying that the messages of the great books are no more written in stone than are the links of a hypertext. I look at my roommate’s hypertext stacks and I am able to trace the connections he made and the peculiarities of how he links things together...And the he might have linked but didn’t. The traditional texts are like [elements in] the stack. Meanings are arbitrary, as arbitrary as the links in a stack. 17
  • Derrida Student: "Derrida’s dense prose and far-flung philosophical allusions were incomprehensible" (17) Hypertext Writing is not created within a vacuum by the author; rather, the audience participates in the construction of the text. Student: Derrida was saying that the messages of the great books are no more written in stone than are the links of a hypertext. I look at my roommate’s hypertext stacks and I am able to trace the connections he made and the peculiarities of how he links things together...And the he might have linked but didn’t. The traditional texts are like [elements in] the stack. Meanings are arbitrary, as arbitrary as the links in a stack. 17
  • Foucault’s belief that knowledge is created not by the act of observing but through relations is explored in visual terms on Turkle’s homepage (linked on WebCT). It is a visualization of Turkle’s theory that we change with our interactions with the computer When we cross the boundary of the Internet and step into that new online personae, we come into a new knowledge about ourselves We could extend this with the idea of ‘bots’ and surveillance. Are ‘bots’ (for example ‘spyware’) the new manifestation of the panoptycon?
  • Self/ Other Nature/culture Animate / Inanimate Human / machine Real / Virtual Unitary / Multiple Self Intersection between nature, culture and technology re-aligns traditional conceptions of identity and subjectivity.

Identity Identity Presentation Transcript

  • Life on the Screen
    • Sherry Turkle (1995) Life on the Screen
  • But first …
    • What is identity?
      • How are identities formed?
      • Do we have any control over our identities?
      • Theories – Concepts - Explanations
  • Key features
    • Identity links the personal and the social
    • Identity combines how I see myself and how others see me
    • Identities involve being the same as some people and different from others, as indicated by symbols and representations
    • Identity involves some active engagement
    • There is a tension between how much control I have in constructing my identities and how much control/constraint is exercised over me.
  • What to wear …
    • When I rummage through my wardrobe in the morning I am not merely faced with a choice of what to wear. I am faced with the choice of images: the difference between a smart suit and a pair of overalls, a leather skirt and a cotton skirt, is not one of fabric and style, but one of identity. You know perfectly well that you will be seen differently for the whole day, depending on what you put on; you will appear as a particular kind of woman with one particular identity which excludes others. The black leather skirt rather rules out girlish innocence, oily overalls exclude sophistication … often I have wished I could put them all on together – just to say, ‘how dare you think any of these is me. But also, see, I can be all of them’.
    • Williamson, 1986: 91
  • MUDS
  • Doug
    • ‘ I split my mind…I can see myself as being two or three or more. And I just turn on one part of my mind and then another when I go from window to window. I’m in some kind of argument in one window and trying to come onto a girl in a MUD in another, and another window might be running a spreadsheet program …and then I’ll get a real time message, and I guess that RL - it’s just one more window.’ (Turkle: 291)
  • Mind-space: Fantasy and Imagination
  • Culture of calculation/culture of simulation Modernist Postmodernist Linear Decentred Logical Fluid Hierarchical Non-linear Transparent/with depth Opaque
  • Culture of calculation/culture of simulation 1980s (modernist) 1990s (Postmodernist) Limited to typing commands Products to paint, draw, fly in cockpits Centralised structures and programmed rules Characterised by complexity and decentring. Intelligence cannot be programmed in but emerges through interaction. Computers can extend a person’s intellect Computers can extend a physical presence
  • Are we living life on the screen or in the screen?
  • The Seductions of the Interface
    • “ When I want to write and don’t have a computer around, I tend to wait until I do. In fact, I feel that I must wait until I do” (29).
  • Of Dreams and Beasts
    • “ Children, as usual, are harbingers of our cultural mindset” (82). And as children become more and more immersed in the computer culture, their original question has changed. Today’s children no longer ask "is it (the computer) alive?" They recognize that the machine is not alive, however, they have begun to see that computers can “both think and have a personality” (83). But they are comfortable with the idea that "inanimate objects can both think and have a personality" (83). Where adults might balk at the idea that computers could/can be conscious, we have gradually become “accustomed to talking to technology, and sometimes, in the most literal sense” (85).
  • On the Internet
    • “ a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and deconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life” (180).
    • “ [I am] like who I wish I was.”
    • “ maybe I can only relax if I see life as one more IRC channel.”
    • “ Can anyone tell me how to join@real.life?”
    • Interview with Sherry Turkle
  • Gender Trouble
    • Choosing
    • Choices
    • Crossing
    • Passing
    • Questions …
  • Virtual Sex
    • What is the nature of my relationships?
    • What are the limits of my responsibility?
    • And even more basic: Who and what am I?
    • What is the connection between my physical and virtual bodies?
    • And is it different in cyberspaces?
    • What is the nature of our social ties?
    • What kinds of accountability do we have for our actions in real life and in cyberspace?
    • What kind on society or societies are we creating, both on and off the screen?
  • Virtual Identities?
  • Virtual Selves?
  • Turkle’s Conclusion
    • Virtuality need not be a prison. It can be a raft, the ladder, the transitional space, the moratorium, that is discarded after reaching greater freedom. We don’t have to reject life on the screen, but we don’t have to treat it as an alternative life either. We can use it as a space for growth. Having literally written our online personae into existence, we are in a position to be more aware of what we project into everyday life. Like the anthropologist returning home from a foreign culture, the voyager in virtuality can return to the real world better equipped to understand its artifices. 263
  • Poststructuralism/Postmodernism
    • Writing is not created within a vacuum by the author; rather, the audience participates in the construction of the text.
  • Poststructuralism/Postmodernism
    • Derrida was saying that the messages of the great books are no more written in stone than are the links of a hypertext. I look at my roommate’s hypertext stacks and I am able to trace the connections he made and the peculiarities of how he links things together...And the he might have linked but didn’t. The traditional texts are like [elements in] the stack. Meanings are arbitrary, as arbitrary as the links in a stack.
  • Poststructuralism/Postmodernism
    • knowledge is created not by the act of observing but through relations
    • power is the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization.
  • Erosion of traditionally stable boundaries
    • what are the binaries?
      • Self
      • Nature
      • Animate
      • Human
      • Real
      • Unitary
  • So, utopia or dystopia?
    • Embracing a new world or rejecting an old one?
    • A (postmodern) crisis of identity?
    • A banal distraction from reality?
    • Or simply, business as usual?