Tag Archives: identity

Flesh/self.

Aforementioned busy-ness (as opposed to business, but I think I could also use business there, but it might’ve been confusing for y’all) is probably going to prevent me from posting anything in depth and/or funny over the next little while (59 days til Thesis D Day* OHMYGAAH), but as I do the final bits of reading and writing up I want to share some ideas as I come to them.

Today I’m writing about phenomenology. Don’t worry if you don’t get it; I’ve been enrolled in my course since March 2008, and I think I only just really managed to understand phenomenology in September 2012… and even then, I’m probably waaayy off track.

husserlplate

edmund husserl on a paper plate. kind of starts to begin to explain phenomenology, only not at all. i think they purposely made it confusing, like you have to be a member of some elite club. the secret password is the ability to say ‘phenomenology’ without stumbling on your words. //source//

In short though, the idea is that we understand the world – and ourselves – through lived, embodied perception. That is, there’s no point in deploying Cartesian dualisms and suggesting that the mind and body are distinct entities (dualisms that always privilege the mind), and that the body is simply the vessel for the mind. In phenomenology, as in other social thought, the body and the mind are as one.

From an article I’m working from today:

The phenomenological body is inherently reflexive, but it is a reflexivity related to perception, to a corporeal mode of knowing… The flesh of the body becomes part of the flesh of the world, where the flesh of the world refers to the perceptibility that characterizes all worldly reality that is actualized but not created by human perception.**

Now, I know. This is dense stuff. But think of it, if you will, as saying that we do not live in the world; we are part of the world. We do not have bodies; we are bodies. Everything we know, all of our opinions and truths and values, are based upon our experiences as embodied individuals that are simultaneously in and of the physical world. There is no ability to escape the history of the embodied self, and geography at this point is critical, as the spaces we inhabit are the spaces of us. We give meaning to the spaces around us, and this creates places of those spaces.***

I’m so endlessly fascinated by the notion of the body, the mind, and the physical world as inherently intertwined. The idea that I am a part of everything around me, philosophically at least, is so enthralling. It means that everything I do – all of my experiences, all of my interactions, all of my movements through space – are linked together and contribute to the person that is Me. It’s the reason that identity is constantly in flux – new parts of the story are added and the past is reflected upon through the lens of this fresh context. All of our experiences, from the most banal to the most devastating to the most magnificent, happen because we are embodied individuals that occupy space. All of our reality is such because we have found a way to interpret it through our place in the world. Isn’t that grand?

It also speaks volumes of the experience of feeling out of place: when you are feeling hurt, unsure, rejected, or alone, there is this shell shock, this sense of feeling like your body doesn’t fit in the world at that point in time. It’s the reason why the longing that comes with separation from those that you love can physically hurt. Through the body we understand and we feel. We know how our body fits into the world, we know who we are because of the distance between our bodies and those of users, and we forge our identities based upon what our bodies bring: growth, illness, childbirth, racism, blushing, butterflies in the stomach. They’re all somatic experiences of being a person.

The relationship between bodies, identities, and geographies is such a marvellous, complex issue, I believe. It makes me aware of my insignificance in this world, but at the same time endows me with a sense of responsibility that I ought to care for the world as I would care for myself.

phenomenologycolour

google images tells me this is phenomenology, which i suppose is not an inaccurate representation of how my brain feels when i think about this. //source//

*D-Day = draft day, y’all, as in the full draft.

**Kirsten Simonsen (2012). In quest of a new humanism: Embodiment, experiences, and phenomenology as critical geographyProgress in Human Geography 37(1), p.16)

***As I’ve mentioned in another post, I read the different between ‘space’ and ‘place’ as, simply, place being space made meaningful. So an empty room in a house you’ve never visited is a space, but when you enter that space, you bring with it parts of your being: memories, thoughts, physical objects, experiences. That space becomes meaningful; it becomes a place.

The curious case of GOMI: The dark side of having an audience.

The web is seriously creeping me out today.

Or, more accurately, I should say that the people on the web are creeping me out. For the first time in the more-than-a-decade that I have been blogging, I suddenly feel quite uncomfortable with the idea that people, for no good reason other than to express themselves, share the minutiae of their lives online for the entertainment of strangers.

Perhaps it’s because I spent far too long today trawling the forums of the Internet’s bitchiest hate site, Get Off My Internets!, taking screen shots of conversations that I will reference in my thesis… and then doing some very internet-stalkerish back-trawling of the blog posts that were the subject of those conversations, relying upon the fact that many of the blogs they referred to were blogs I knew so well that all I had to do was look in the archives at a particular month, and (generally) locate the post in question without too much trouble. All in all, I feel a little bit dirty.

GOMI isn’t a particularly nice site, but it’s a free Internet, right? We’re all entitled to our opinions. Perhaps why I feel so strange about it is because the users express many of the opinions I’ve had, but kept to myself. An unfortunate side effect of researching blogging for the past four years is that there are blogs and bloggers that I am sick to death of, but keep reading because I have to for my research.

I still feel like bloggers are real people, and should therefore be exempt from the dissection and character assassination that celebrities are subject to. At the same time, the moment that you choose to put your life online, you essentially have to accept the fact that you will be criticised, for everything from your poor grammar, to the fact that one of your eyes crinkles a bit when you smile, to the fact that your baby is a bit too chubby to be cute – and he has a weird name, anyway. And that’s not to mention picking apart the financial situation of those bloggers who are able to work from home, or (good heavens!) not work at all. (These are all examples of real posts that I read today, and are far from the most vitriolic.)

I’ve been blogging in some form since before I even knew it was called blogging. I blogged at LiveJournal (remember that??) from 1999-2002 before starting my previous blog, and this is what i think: (atiwit:), in 2004. I stopped posting to atiwit: at the start of this year during another crisis of confidence in which I suddenly began to feel a bit too exposed.

Neither of my blogs ever drew particularly big audiences. At best, atiwit: had up to around 500 visitors per day, and the only thing I ever saw written about it on a site (other than blogs written by friends) was when someone referred to my smoke detector battery removal method on a forum. Perhaps there were other things, but I never saw them, so as far as I am concerned, they don’t exist. (Yes, I vanity Google, but the forum post was actually discovered via link trackback.)

I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with the idea of online celebrity. Being Big on the Internet always seemed a bit too… invasive, I guess, and after reading GOMI today I’m pretty sure that I’ll never be striving to do anything exceptional with my blogging (not that I need to work on that – now that I’ve converted to research blogger, I’m getting 1/10th the visitors that I used to).

Get Off My Internets is such a peculiar site, and more than a little disturbing – but then again I’ve always subscribed to the policy of ‘Don’t like it? Turn it off!’. I will turn off the radio in my car if I don’t like a song. I will skip an episode of a TV show that I don’t like if I’m re-watching the series for the fiftieth time. I won’t read blogs that shit me to tears unless I absolutely have to – and I certainly won’t post about how much I hate it on the Internet.

I’m writing a chapter at the moment about identities and audiences, and I’ve included a case study of one particular blogger (who I won’t name here, as I don’t particularly enjoy her blog anymore, but I don’t think she needs extra negative attention) who received an immense amount of backlash from her readers when she changed the genre of her blog. She’s a perfect case study in how identity and authorship are really discordant concepts online. The audience of a blog has much more of a say in identity and authorship than they ever would “in real life”, and yet they’re only privy to part of the story – the identity that the blogger chooses to display. Bloggers essentially separate that part of themselves that is the blog-subject when they publish online, particularly when they become ‘successful’ bloggers. Audiences (or, in the case of face-to-face interactions, those that we engage with) always have a say in the person that we feel ourselves to be, but it’s never more visible than it is online.

I can’t help but feel that the reason so many people on GOMI are determining that bloggers are complete ‘flakes’ and nutjobs is because we, the audience, are causing them to be so.

Proceed with caution.

When I speak

If communication and self are inseparable, then surely the self is part of a network, a collection of links, not an object. We usually feel ourselves to be discrete entities, but that is not a particularly useful way of understanding the self. Delineating analytically where the self starts and where it stops, what is me as opposed to what is you, is an impossible task. Part of me lives in the languages I speak, and that part is also a part of millions of other people; when I speak, we all resonate.

Paul C. Adams (2005). The Boundless Self. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, p.xii

This is why I keep going.

The sensory-inscribed mode of embodiment places the subject in a vital role in the writing and practice of history as that which is defined as a present recognizing itself as a formulation of the past. Here, the process of ‘re-membering’ (i.e., the constructing of community history and the battle that ensues over who is able to construct history) is very much an embodied experience. Re-membering is a construction of various pieces that, while not the Grand Narrative of history, is instead an experience of ongoing creation. This type of creation is not simply a retelling of what was, but is an embodied experience of the phenomenology of temporality. The body plays a role in at least two ways here. First, it serves as the metaphor for the self’s constructive relationship to history… Secondly, the body is integral to the construction of history because culture and bodies are indelibly linked to representation and history.

Farman, Jason (2012). Mobile Interface Theory. Routledge: New York; Abingdon, p.125

The past few days have brought more pleasant discoveries and excited moments of learning than the months leading up to this point. Perhaps it’s the fact that I know I’m so close to finishing my thesis, but all I want to do is keep reading and writing and absorbing all this information.

I have been reading about embodiment and place and locative media and mobile phones and networks and storytelling and so much more. I’m so happy that I finally want this.

Researching networked, place-based identities

(or: four years of work in a couple hundred words)

My PhD research is a complex thing. And by “complex”, I mean “super geeky”.

It started out as an exploration of place identity – that is, our sense of self that ties us to the places that we inhabit, and the places that we are from – in the context of blogging.

Over the past four years it’s changed a thousand times, but I’m now nearing the end and need the hard data to back up what I’ve been observing for the past few years.

I’m looking at the idea of re-placing the self online.

Once upon a time, in the 1990s, there was no room for place or bodies online: you sat behind your computer (no mobile Internet back then!), left your physical self behind*, and adopted a new identity. Slow connection speeds and clunky interfaces made it difficult to represent the real online, and as such the virtual world looked very, very different.

Now though, thanks to a number of factors (including mobile technology, social media platforms, and the general ubiquity of the Internet) place has begun to matter once again. When we’re online, we tend to replicate our offline selves, rather than adopting a persona. Indeed, this line between online and offline doesn’t really exist anymore. Our profiles tell other users what our name is, where we’re from, and show them what we look like.

My research looks at the way that physical place influences our online sense of self. Online, we re-place our “real world” place networks, through blogs and social media.

Through gathering information about Perth bloggers, the platforms they use, and the networks they share, I am trying to paint a picture of what Perth looks like online. I’m also interested to know how far these networks extend offline, and will be getting in touch with bloggers over the next month to see if anyone would like to participate in providing me with this information that isn’t so easily seen online.

If you have any questions, please just leave a comment or email me.

*to some degree. We never have quite reached that cyberpunk fantasy of being able to detach ourselves from our physical being and live online forever!