Are lived spaces the same thing as virtual spaces? As a matter of fact, what is a virtual space? does this sensation make it real? so then what is real? These are the questions i aim to explore in the following weeks to come, today I will be focusing on digital subjectivity- are we a 100% ourselves online.
How do we make sense of ourselves? how are we aware of ourselves? through our environment? or by just merely looking in a mirror and seeing that we exist? When we think about these questions from a digital perspective, do we have the same answers?
Travelers on..virtual highways..have..at least one body too many- the one now largely sedentary carbon-based body at the control console that suffers hunger, corpulency, illness, old age and ultimately death. The other body, a silicon- based surrogate jacked into immaterial realms of data, has superpowers, albeit virtually, and is immortal- or rather, the chosen body, an electronic avatar “decoupled” from the physical body is a program capable of enduring endless deaths (Morse 1994, 157)
Digital sensations, Ken Hillis, 1999, p166
To begin deconstructing what digital subjectivity is, i shall start by deconstructing my own digital livelihood. I use Facebook and Twitter predominantly as my social media; more of Twitter than Facebook, I shall explain why. I also use Instagram but not as occasionally as the former two. As a video producer, I have both Youtube and Vimeo accounts to share my videos. How I use these two accounts vary and i shall explain how. What i look for mostly on the web in my free time are contents like editing tutorials, I’m always on the look out for new plug ins, free plug-ins of course, except for times that i can actually afford it. I can stay on twitter just watching funny vines till i fall asleep. I watch a lot of AJ+ videos as a way to keep up with current affairs around world.
I use Twitter more than my facebook because i feel like i can be myself more on twitter than i can on facebook reason being i have all my family on my facebook and there are certain interest and reservations of mine that are just best expressed on twitter. A lot of my peers also use twitter more so for me its a better way to connect with these ‘friends’ of mine. i also prefer twitter because of the lay out of the timeline and the 140 character restriction- i know its absurd to like a restriction to expression but it makes putting the point across more straight forward and vice versa when consuming other users content. Video sharing wise, i use my vimeo and youtube very differently. I use my youtube as a more social account, and the kind of videos i post on my youtube are mostly university projects, my Vimeo contains my professional work and i work on my vimeo being my video sharing portfolio. hence i work on my vimeo page as my portfolio page for my professional work and use youtube to simply browse though the craziness (trolls) in the world.
This account of my own digital ‘self’ online typifies what Morse was saying in the quote above. From this account i have 4 ‘types’ or maybe ‘parts’ of my identity online to fit the different types of platforms specifically. To say ‘types’ will suggest that subjectivity is scattered and dislocated, to say ‘part’ suggest that there is a sense of a core self. What is problematic with this notion of a plural self is how it transforms social relations and what it transforms it into. A communication technologically inclined culture is one that replaces this real experiences by living them out through a band of computer data- the problem here is the change of empirical experiences from sensory data to computer data.
With VR, one one assumption being transformed from idea to action is that a series of extant social relations based on an individualistic understanding and practice of pluralism might be relocated to a disembodied datascape- an immaterial landscape….(this) metaphoric space assumes that the act of communication is a wholly embodied experiential reality; it exchanges communication technologies for the reality of places..
Hillis, 1999, xv
This idea of a practice of pluralism is highly apparent within World of Warcraft. The mere option of being able to create more than one game avatar is evidence of this practice. The worlds are immaterial landscape with no real snow or dragons but a context of time created by codes ad programmes. Walter Benjamin’s the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, he writes that “but the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice- politics.” (Benjamin, 1968, 218)
Benjamin suggest that the dissolution of the aura of art replaces the function of art as a ritualistic purpose into art as a political purpose. Consumer culture is a big reason for the success of the adaptation of digital technology into our lives and this idea is best understood within the discourse of postmodernity.
It (postmodernism) draws on tendencies in consumer culture which favour the aestheticization of life, the assumption that the aesthetic life is the ethically good life and there is no human nature or true self, with the goal of life an endless pursuit of new experiences, value and vocabularies..
(Bertens, 1995, 212)
Featherstone brilliantly described Digital technology here even if he didn’t mean to- and this is because digital technology best describes the kind of times we are currently living in- postmodern. This pursuit of happiness we seek within the digital space has an affect on our subjectivity. Katherine Hayles explains that this is highly mediated by market relations-
the liberal self is produced by market relations and does not predate them. This paradox is resolved in the posthuman by doing away with the “natural” self.
(Hayles, 1999, 3)
This pursuit of new experiences featherstone is talking about here suggest the search of a means to escape- ..seeking out and creating “information superhighways” that permit “migration to new “electronic frontiers” offers an imaginative and apparently compelling utopian alternative to physically going “on the road” (Hillis, 1999, introduction xvii). We constantly negate the real, we ether do this or consciously accept the virtual as being ‘just as good as’ what we know to be real. The worlds are not real in world pf warcraft but immersion makes them real to us, the motifs of our actions, our success in the game is important to us and this acknowledgement makes this reality real to us. We migrate to these forms of spaces to seek escape from the one we are already in, a search for an utopian alternative.
Bertens, Johannes Willem. The Idea Of The Postmodern. London: Routledge, 1995. Print.
Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Print.
Hillis, K. (1999) Digital Sensations. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Benjamin, Walter, Hannah Arendt, and Harry Zohn. Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968. Print.