(un)common ground

a commonplace book

Tonight, on Identity Theater…

Social media surely change identity performance. For one, it makes the process more explicit. The fate of having to live “onstage,” aware of being an object in others’ eyes rather than a special snowflake of spontaneous uncalculated bursts of essential essence is more obvious than ever–even perhaps for those already highly conscious of such objectification. But that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that identity theater is older than Zuckerberg and doesn’t end when you log off.

Nathan Jurgenson, “The Disconnectionists,” The New Inquiry, Nov. 2013

I’ve generally appreciated Jurgenson’s series of three essays deconstructing the arguments for “unplugging” from social media in favor of “the real.” The articles are:

  1. The IRL Fetish
  2. Fear of Screens
  3. The Disconnectionists

The problem, for Jurgenson, is that antagonists of the screen culture assume a dualistic nature of reality that posits that mediated or image-ized experience is unreal or less real than direct experience. Such a position perhaps oversimplifies the nature of experience, particularly in terms of modern consumer capitalism (cf. Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle: “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation”). Jurgenson argues that, given the inherently performative nature of human social networks, of individual identity in relation to others, social media only makes aspects of human performance more explicit or overt; but we can’t not perform ourselves. Jurgenson asks, “Is social media really any less real than our directly lived experience?” (having concluded that there is a false dichotomy in the question).


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This entry was posted on February 21, 2016 by and tagged , , , .
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