< hmmm... >
Basically, what I'm going to do here is to sum up my entire 366-page thesis (although it looks like a full ream of bond paper) into one entry.
"The Articulation of Self in Virtual Environments: The Case of Friendster.com Home Profiles" will be referred to here as "Articulation:" somehow, abbreviating it into acronym form - like "TAoSiVE: TCoF.CHP" - is so not cool-sounding.
Basically, the central problem of my thesis is articulation in a different context. In both contexts of "real space" and "cyberspace," we articulate ourselves through language (Charles Taylor for the masses). The difference in articulation is while "real space" articulations are presentations, "cyberspace" articulations are representations. In "real space," like in a classroom or in a mall, self-presentation functions through the use of all possible elements: language, material facts, clothes, hairstyles, and so on and so forth. But in "cyberspace," there is nothing to use but language.
In my Conclusions (Chapter XI), I called it "emptiness," although it has nothing to do with that general emo-Angst feeling: "emptiness," to me, is the relationship that is the sign when there is no relationship between the signifier and the signified.
Sounds complicated? Not really.
Consider your average Friendster profile: while by convention we assume that Friendster account "X" belongs to Friendster user "Y," we need to go beyond that convention, and turn différance over its head in saying that this convention - this one-to-one correspondence - must exist because a virtual representation must always have an actual presentation (i.e. my initial hypothesis). Based on my research, there is no correspondence between representations and identities: in fact, identity is not even the question. What we call "identity" in virtual environments is, in fact, appropriation: it is the instance of using elements found in the structure in order to form this concept of selfhood, in order to concretize an abstract thing like the self.
This, of course was accomplished by Claude Lévi-Strauss in a single concept called bricolage, and Jacques Derrida in a single concept called grammatology. Well, I suppose I can't be blamed for forsaking them. The semiotic, for me, is of necessity in my inquiry: that each particular element of a profile must have meaning. Now because every signification is bound to subjective interpretation no matter what it is, there is meaning and at the same time there is no meaning. There is a self, at the same time, there is no self. Yup, after forsaking Derrida, I had to concede to différance, although I'm not very explicit about it in my thesis.
But then what? More importantly, so what? Ah, if functional correspondence does not at all exist, "Articulation" is very strong in saying that the assymetry between actualities and virtualities (here goes Deleuze) means that self is not a unity: it is a fragmentation. There are multiplicities of selves. Friendster is one of those ways where we articulate potentials, not actualities.
Which basically means that Friendster profiles are bodies without organs. OK, here you can start reading Deleuze.
Posted at Thursday, November 22, 2007 by marocharim