Identifying Identity with Craig Martin

“Identifying Identity” offers a series of responses from members of Culture on the Edge to the following claim made by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg:

zuckerberg blurb

The End of the (Face)Book and the Beginning of Writing

In Of Grammatology, Jacques Derrida deconstructs the metaphysics of presence: differance — nothing in itself — is the constitutive negativity that makes presence possible yet impossible. No thing can ever be present to itself or to another without the insertion of differance, the gap that makes hearing or vision — or any form of knowing — possible in the first place, and that gap makes full presence a priori impossible.

Zuckerberg’s comments on identity strike me as a defense of the metaphysics of presence: the self with integrity — the integral self — must make itself fully present to itself and to others. To hide part of the self is, apparently, to lack integrity. In this Zuckerberg is correct, except that that very lack of integrity is what makes selves possible in the first place; unless we except our selves from our selves, we cannot be present to another at all. Every manifestation of a self on Facebook is always already constituted by differance; every click is a dislocation of unity. The loss of integrity is what makes the self visible. There is nothing outside the text —this process of textuality, iterability, and writing is what weaves selves into existence in the first place (although, for Derrida, this means that there is no “in the first place”).

The critique of the metaphysics of presence and logocentrism are, for Derrida, tied to questions of power. Logocentrism forbids dangerous supplements while masking the fact that the Logos is itself constituted via supplementarity. For Zuckerberg, split selves are dangerous supplements. Dangerous to whom, though? One suspects that split selves are dangerous to the profits of an institution whose profitability relies on access to demographic information; were we to present a less than fully complete self (for Derrida, the only possibility in any case), there are supplements to which Facebook may not advertise.

To read the other posts in this series, search the Real Name tag.

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