The Fragmented Body: An Entangled Web of Desires

Mirror phase according to Jacques LacanImage from WikipediaJacques Lacan‘s idea of “the fragmented body” is of interest to me and I wish to briefly talk about it in relation to the virtual body of cyberspace. For Lacan, the fragmented body emerges in infancy when, for example, the infant sees his or her body in the mirror and recognizes the body to be somehow apart from oneself. That is to say, the synthesis that was once a wholeness becomes fragmented by coming to see the body as being decentered from the physical body. Moreover, this idea of fragmentation can also be manifest in the subject’s desires, having come from without, which work to fragment the sense of self wholeness. This fragility that we once had, now fragmented and split off from us comes back to haunt us in cyberspace.

Cyberspace invites us to display ourselves, to willingly fragment ourselves through social networking sites, photo sharing sites, video blogs (vlogs), web logs (blogs) and so on. The imaginary trick is to think that we are somehow actually “there,” but where exactly is that there? On the screen? On a server? Thus, the horror of hacking is due in part to the idea of one’s very identity being somehow severed from one’s control.

The Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis provides a useful quotation from Lacan, “‘He [the subject] is originally an inchoate collection of desires – there you have the true sense of the expression fragmented body.'” What this means is that the creature called “human” is that creature that desires what it is not and does not have, a being bundled with a myriad of desires, desires which cannot be fulfilled, imagined desires. Through this entangled web of desires, the human subject is fragmented. Thus, for Lacan it is not only the body but also the subject him or herself which is fragmented. Again, we can see how cyberspace while providing a comfortable space to project our desires, also becomes a source of hysteria. The fragility of the self is given room in cyberspace, but also devoid of privacy. Moreover, the presentation of one’s self in cyberspace consists of nothing but fragmentation. That is to say, no two social networking sites appeal to building one’s online identity in exactly the same way.

Again, as with most of my writings on Lacan, I stir the mixture and watch it change color and hope that in this new mixture, something sustainable arises.

Teeth (CC)