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  • mono 12:20 pm on April 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Data Portability, , Flickr, Fragmentation, , Labyrinthine Self, , Mash-Up, , , , Social network service, socialnetworks, TechCrunch,   

    A Messy Marco-Analysis of Social Media: The Labyrinthine Self 

    An example of a social network diagram.Image from WikipediaThe following is a messy macro-analysis of social media and I hope to elucidate these ideas in the coming weeks. Please bear with me. Also, if you have spent time with what is talked about here, please get in touch, suggest links, propose theories, probes, ideas, etc. I support fragmentation.

    It seems that the decentralization of the self across a number of social networking sites multiplies and fragments the self while creating what I want to call: the labyrinthine self. A definition of the labyrinthine self could be: the self that is created from the decentralization of one’s identity through the fragmentation of one’s knowledge-networks as existing within various social media platforms.

    An easy-to-understand example could be: one creates a Myspace page as a “Film Director,” one then creates a Youtube page as a “Film Director,” in order to extend one’s knowledge-network. In addition, to represent one’s “private” self, one joins Facebook to reconnect with old friends. In order to keep the world updated instantly, a Twitter feed is created, a “film blog” at typepad and finally a Secondlife character is designed in order to further spread one’s “films” or simply just to connect via the virtual world (with other Lindens). In doing this, one has essentially and willingly created the labyrinthine self, that is one’s self has extended to the extent that it has become impossible to fully keep track of and be in control of one’s own knowledge-network. In addition, the self in seeing itself existing across these platforms becomes fragmented. Data that is shared on Facebook is not shared on Twitter or Secondlife and so on. Moreover, even with sites that work to centralize one’s self (Friendfeed), I still see the labyrinthinization of the self. That is to say, even in the centralized space of Friendfeed, there is still a reliance on the labyrinth that one has created or that one is feeding off of. That is, what is Friendfeed apart from the decentralized sites that it allows one to share? Moreover, if anything Friendfeed sustains the fragmented self by willfully encouraging one to put back the puzzle of one’s social media existence.

    Then, there is “data portability,” which is the sharing of data across time-space. This means, jumping from node to node along the labyrinthine tunnel, consciously decentralizing oneself, while maintaining one identity, perhaps something like a “master password.” In this way, one jumps from room to room – different rooms are experienced, but you are still you, fragmented nonetheless.

    Within both of these examples is the unfolding of one’s knowledge-network and, moreover, the ability for one’s data to float through that network into a hither unknown area only to be re-appropriated by another person. That is to say, the “mash-up” trend in blogging. “Mash-up” is the conjoining of two or more things to create something new. It is kind of like cooking. If I mix one part “silly pet video from Youtube,” one part “crazy New York party pics from Flickr” and one part “book review from my favorite blog,” I create a new way of visualizing and interpreting the data, due to the unique context that I created. This leads to what we could even call “the mish-mash self,” the self that appropriates online symbols (images, music files, viral videos, photographs) and uses them to represent one’s self. In a way, this blog represents facets of my labyrinthine self and my mish-mash self. That is to say, one’s blog is a space where one, through the “mashing” of one’s favorite media, creates a new space, a new context from which to view the data.

    Questions for Consideration:

    How is the virtual representation of your identity transformed by your use of social networking sites?
    How deep does your knowledge-network go?
    Do you think that a centralized social media site will fulfill your social media desires? That is, do you prefer centralization or decentralization? What is the relationship of centralization and decentralization in sites like Myspace or Friendfeed?
    Where does Secondlife exist in all of this?

    The article that you have just read was inspired by and relates to: This blog
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  • mono 12:02 am on April 3, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Online identity, , Social network service, , Subcultures, Urban Primitive   

    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)

  • mono 11:31 am on April 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Me.dium, , Social network service, , , ,   

    Me.dium: A Real-Time Graphical Browsing Enivronment or “The Voyeuristic Web Experience” 

    MediumsvgImage from WikipediaIf yesterday I wrote about Zizek‘s interview regarding “hysteria and cyberspace,” today I began using a quite “hysterical” add-on called “Me.dium.” Generally speaking, “me.dium” provides you with the ability to graphically see your browsing activity. It also shows other me.dium users who are on the same website as you (and surrounding websites) and gives you the ability to interact with them, add them as a friend or simply ignore them. Also, there is a small forum built into the add-on, which allows one to freely post a topic regarding a website or event that one wishes to talk about. One can also peruse the small forum to see what other me.dium users are discussing. Thus, other users, while surfing can post comments in real time and view where other users are in relation to oneself. Moreover, me.dium provides what they deem “relevant” pages that revolve around what page one is currently on, although thus far I am yet to discover a new interesting page or in general to find much traffic at all in the me.dium world. However…

    What I like about me.dium is the idea of “responsible browsing”. That is, while privacy is usually the mainstay on the internet, this map allows others to track where you are on the net and click there to join you. Upon clicking, you can see their icon as being on the same page as you. I can see this as being very useful for some work-related project with members located in various offices or even in different countries. Similarly, it can be useful for those who wish to join the bandwagon and see what websites others are using. Otherwise, it can be a bit mesmerizing to watch your icon as you float from one website to another: the self transformed into an orange silhouette.

    It seems that me.dium is still in its developmental stages, but if this mapping/interactive function takes off, it could provide an interesting twist in web hysteria. From a Zizekian standpoint, there may be something terrifying about the unknown other being able to follow one’s web activity in real-time (what does the other want from me? Why are they on the same page as me?). Also, it may curb what websites one finds oneself on in relation to how one wants others to perceive him or herself. That is, searching an obscene website knowing that one is openly exposing oneself to it, is visible, may prove quite an uncomfortable experience.

    Neil Postman asked the question: “To what problem is this new technology the solution?” So, one could ask the question: “To what problem is me.dium the solution?” Well, it seems that me.dium is working to combat the alienation of the internet, the internet as a private (and perhaps lonely) experience and bringing out the idea of “you are not alone while browsing.” That is to say, it seems to function as a social networking site based not on a flashy profile, but on browsing interests. However, one can also see the business sense in this. Of course, it could become easy, once enough people begin using this function, to track what websites are popular and thus where to advertise. It is also possible to imagine virtual bots used by a company, programmed to converge on a site (perhaps pushing a new product) and thus creating the illusion of their actually “being there.” Also, it should be noted that the sites that appear in relation to your own are not controllable by you, which has its positive points for being able to discover new web content. Postman’s second question: “Whose problem is this actually?” Well, again, it seems that me.dium appeals to those wishing to connect with others knowingly exposing their surfing habits and vice versa those who wish to view others’ pages, the voyeuristic web experience. Moreover, the business person looking to find how people go from one website to the next could take interest in following web habits to determine what is relevant to other people. Postman’s final question: “What does technologies does this new technology obsolesce?” It seems that me.dium is pushing the increasingly popular “visualized” web interface and with the advent of new visualized browsers (such as touchgraph, spacetime, etc.) the text based browser may wither. Also, in creating a real-time graphical browsing environment, me.dium has the capacity to create an interactive and communal browsing experience, which may again affect linear text based search engines.

    At its current stage, me.dium is still rather small, but it seems that given the chance and time to grow, perhaps some beautiful things could blossom out of me.dium. Imagine a group of scholars separated by location, converging on me.dium, engaging in chat, while researching some topic of interest. If me.dium were able to set up private spaces for groups to converge and research and chat while viewing the topology of where the others are, then this could benefit the said party, or at least provide an interesting space for discussion and discovery.

    • jenniferlauren 1:09 am on April 3, 2008 Permalink

      Hey thanks for the write up about Me.dium. We have a team here happy to answer any questions you may have about our sidebar.

      We take user’s privacy very seriously here, that’s why we have multiple different settings to make our users most comfortable. Be visible to all if you want everyone to see your activity, visible to friends only, or visible to no one. This should alleviate any uncomfortable feelings of “being watched” like you mentioned.

      Please add me as a friend on Me.dium if you have any further questions/comments/whatevers! We love hearing from our users

      Username: Jenniferlauren

    • jgrefe 10:31 am on April 3, 2008 Permalink

      Hello Jennifer

      That is a good point. I do admire the “visible” and “invisible” functions very much. I will add you on me.dium. Thank you for reading.

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