Construction and Perfomance of Self
in Bits & Bytes
by John Waiblinger
Librarian, University of Southern California
Doheny Library Reference Center
The Gay, Lesbian and Bi Graduate Student Network
Program Board, and ONE Institute
Web Page Presentation Materials
for November 10, 1996 Talk at Leavey Library
OVERVIEW & CONTEXT
This presentation examines how the Internet provides new spaces and tools for Identity Construction that differ significantly from their conterpart processes in our familiar "physical" environments. The presentor speculates that only in this new Internet environment is it truly possible to create a "Queer Identity and Space".
THEORECTICAL PERSPECTIVE & DEFINITIONS:
- Analog Reality:
Until the advent of the technology we will be examining today, all activities involving the self in interaction with the environment or other selves, took place in "physical" space where events were verifiable by BOTH visual and tactile confirmation. Historically, an indiviudal's experience of the cultural concept called "Reality" was signified by a shared (one + individual's) verification by visual and tactile means. For example, as distinguishing an individual experience of "Dreaming" which is not defined as ocurring in "reality" or in the "real" world.
We will call this the ANALOG WORLD or ANALOG REALITY.
The advent of photography, film, and broadcast technologies created environments and events that are presentable in a "non-tactile" space, in space not existant or locatable in the physical plane. They are, however, capable of very "real" representations that the individual can recognize, relate to, and be affected by. Social convention does not accord this presentation as real, but rather as a representation, copy or immation of the "real thing". The individual experience with this broadcast technology is as viewer -- passive and not directly involved. The viewer knows clearly that she can have no impact or effect on the experience. It flows only one way, and the extent of the individual's participation is to either turn it on or off.
- Digital Reality:
We will call these BROADCAST Technologies.
The Significance of the Internet's functional foundation of INTERACTIVITY
The evolution of the necessary computing and networking technologies built around a central objective to enable and facilitate direct user-to-user connection establishes the functional potential to completely reshape human interactions and the resultant social conventions and expectations for digital interaction. The critical element in the potential for social redesign is the return of the tools for creating, participating in and shaping the direction and outcomes of the environment being experienced. The individual is now no longer viewing someone else's representation of reality, but creating and participating in their own experience. This level of involvement and the ability to directly share and communicate the results, in real time, with another individual(s) validates the perception of "reality"
We shall call this kind of digital experience and environment, the DIGITAL WORLD or DIGITAL REALITY.
WHAT IS REALITY, ANYWAY??
How "REAL" is Digital Reality?
We (whom do I mean by we? -- at this point, pretty much priviledged, generally white, largely male [but this is realigning], well educated, and technologically enabled) -- this we will become a VERY large question for our society in the next decade -- are increasingly re-valuing the importance and validity of DIGITAL REALITY as it becomes easier to access and use, and more profitable or beneficial to do so.
An experience, an environment, an idea or concept qualifies as real when enough of a critical mass of individuals agree that it does.
For all intents and purposes in terms of any given individual's experiences and subsequent action, the Earth was afterall FLAT until enough people (and most especially important, dominant people) we willing to agree that, in fact, the Earth was round.
The digital world of the Internet is increasingly being signified with more and more direct value, importance, complexity and opportunities. As it becomes an essential activity in and aspect of the dominant class' environment, it will increasingly be signified with more and more attributes that define reality.
Return to Queer Frontiers Home Page
Digital Reality, Postmodernism and Social Constructionists
Th e..... In ter Net ..... IS ... QUEER !
That, .... My Dear is What ... THEY ... Fear!