25 mai 2010

Digital technologies of self

 

Digital Technologies of the Self
Editor: Yasmine Abbas and Fred Dervin
Date Of Publication: Dec 2009
Isbn13: 978-1-4438-1419-5
Isbn: 1-4438-1419-9
Inspired by the “technologies of the self” theorized by Michel Foucault in the early 1980s, this volume investigates how contemporary individuals fashion their identity/identities using digital technologies such as ambient intelligent devices, social networking platforms and online communities (Facebook, CouchSurfing and craigslist), online gaming (SilkRoad Online, Oblivion and World of Warcraft), podcasts, etc. With high-speed internet access, ubiquitous computing and generous storage capacity, the opportunities for staging and transforming the self/selves have become nearly limitless.

This book explores how technologies contribute to the expression, (co-)construction and enactment of identities. It examines these issues from various perspectives as it brings together insights from different disciplines — design, discourse analysis, philosophy and sociology.

Yasmine Abbas is a French architect (1997), holds a Master of Science in Architecture Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2001) and a Doctor of Design (2006) from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Her research and publications focus on the strategies adopted by neo-nomads to recreate with digital technologies a sense of belonging to places. She is the Founding Director of PanUrbanIntelligence, a consultancy offering pre-planning services. She currently works as an Environmental Sociologist for the first sustainable city, Masdar City, located in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Fred Dervin is Adjunct Professor of Sociology at Joensuu University (Finland) and Adjunct Professor of Language and Intercultural Education at Turku University (Finland). His books include Intercultural Education and Communication. Finnish Perspectives (2008, co-edited with E. Suomela-Salmi) and Students, Staff and Academic Mobility in Higher Education (2009, co-edited with M. Byram).


hen considering “What is an author?”, Foucault describes writers as hollow shells destined to shuffle around drafty apartments, stare vacantly across town squares, and presumably come into the unknowing ownership of a large number of cats.

Alright, some of that is me. He does say:

..it is a voluntary obliteration of the self that does not require representation in books because it takes place in the everyday existence of the writer. Where a work had the duty of creating immortality, it now attains the right to kill, to become the murderer of its author.

Given the number of papers I am writing this week, I might be putting this to a literal test. However, I just received some exciting news that is deserving of an interruption: Digital Technologies of the Self is out, and along with it, my chapter on craigslist Missed Connections.


Image courtesy of Yasmine Abbas's hand, and the helpful birds on Twitter.

You can find information about it on the publisher’s site, and it has even shown up on Amazon, where you can (as I have – tehe) sign up to be notified when they have it ready to be shipped to your eager hands!

What is the book about, you ask?

Inspired by the “technologies of the self” theorized by Michel Foucault in the early 1980s, this volume investigates how contemporary individuals fashion their identity/identities using digital technologies such as ambient intelligent devices, social networking platforms and online communities (Facebook, CouchSurfing and craigslist), online gaming (SilkRoad Online, Oblivion and World of Warcraft), podcasts, etc. With high-speed internet access, ubiquitous computing and generous storage capacity, the opportunities for staging and transforming the self/selves have become nearly limitless.

In many ways, my contribution serves as the culmination of my multi-year research project on craigslist. In other ways, this work lives on, continually informing every other project I engage. There is a certainty that it has granted me in my first weeks at UCI, but it is nonetheless a bit startling to see my name so stabilized in the table of contents.

Digital Technologies of the Self - Table of ContentsLikewise, and inline with Foucault’s essay on authorship, it is equally startling to read others (in this case the editors in their introduction) writing about my chapter:

In the second chapter, Jed Brubaker examines… craigslist advertisements in the San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C, metropolitan areas. Brubaker writes that individuals leaving online notes (that are more likely to result in a “missed connection”) “engage in practices of self-description, balancing disclosure and anonymity in these public posts”. They construct an ephemeral identity. As Saul Alinsky writes, it might just be “a desperate search for personal identity — to let other people know that at least you are alive” (Alinsky 1971). However, Brubaker examines how, in the new spaces between the physical and digital, power and knowledge operate.

I know this sounds somewhat naive, and it isn’t like this is the first time I have been published. But this is a “book”, and somehow it feels different. Derrida may be laughing from his grave, but there is something both static and dynamically communal here. In contrast to the depiction of the author-singular, I might present the viewpoint my editors offer up instead:

Our interaction during the editing process… took place via… technological devices, often on the move, rushing between various professional obligations in our respective countries or in far-off places and spaces. Whatever the nature of our disembodied encounters, we know each other in the sense that through the many and varied “tethering devices” (or our “identity accessories”, Turkle 2006, 223) we have used for direct (Skype, Twitter, etc.) or indirect (website, blog) interaction, we have created an often-shifting picture of who we are — representations we want to come forward as “auctors” (authors/actors) of our lives (Bauman 2008, 52) who “create and shape things as much as… [we] might be a product of that creation and shaping”.

All in all, the whole thing kind of makes you question that image of the hollowed, isolated author. After all, regardless how exhausting or all-consuming it might be, Foucault would also be the first to agree: we write to stay alive.

Posté par bodyepistemology à 06:41 - - Permalien [#]