On Online Selves

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In a recent interview, the creator and primary writer of the British anthology series, Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker, offered the following commentary on selves and social media.

Social media has made it…, and the internet and technology in general, has sharpened all of those things — I guess they’ve always been there, that performative nature of life, has always been there, that you sort of perform your personality, I guess, to everyone, on some level. I remember…, my theory is that we’ve got…, that we used to have several personalities and now we’re encouraged to have one, online. By which I mean…, I remember once having a birthday party and people from different aspects of my life showed up…, and I behaved differently with all of these people, in the real world, but once they were all together in one space, and they were all mingled in, in one group, if I walked over to them I suddenly didn’t know how to speak. Do you know what I mean? Because like, with some of them I’d try to be all intellectual and erudite and with others I’d just swear and curse and be an idiot. And suddenly when they’re all in one space I don’t know who I am. And I kind’a feel like one sort of thing is that online you’re encouraged to perform one personality for everyone. And I wonder if that’s one of the things that’s feeding into the kind of polarization that seems to be going on…. I think that lends itself to group-think, in some way… I wonder if we’re better equipped to deal with having slightly different personas…, that come out when you interact with different types of people.

For the full interview, see 28:46 onward from this episode of Fresh Air.

Watch the trailer for the newly released third season:

On Conscience

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Eventually, peace was going to be built on the distinction between public and private affairs. Conscience had fought with pope and emperor for control of the world. Both had claimed universal rights. When both realized that victory was out of reach, they agreed to divide the spoils. And in so doing they transformed themselves into the shape in which we have known them ever since: a conscience that makes no claims on politics and a politics that makes no claims on conscience. Conscience was recognized, but only as a private voice that had no right to public force, except indirectly, through peaceful debate. Augsburg‘s abstention [in 1555] from settling questions of religion by force was thus kept intact. But it was also made legitimate by a new distinction between politics and religion that had lain beyond the imagination of the sixteenth century. Sovereigns reciprocated by surrendering the rights claimed by their universal predecessors to govern the consciences of their subjects. Religious faith was abandoned as a foundation of the commonwealth. Its place was taken by a faith in the distinction between public and private matters that helped to restore obedience to law…. By means of the distinction between private and public affairs, church and state, morality and positive law, Europe thus managed to build the institutions that brought back peace and then enabled it to extend its reach across the globe — much as by means of the distinction between spiritual office and temporal fief, pope and emperor had managed at an earlier time in European history to divide the world between themselves and put an end to the Investiture Controversy, that high medieval analog to the early modern wars of religion.

– Constantin Fasolt, The Limits of History (2004: 137-8).

On Metaphors

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“. . . . We know (or think we know) that history is a perplexing, incessant web of causes and effects; that web, in its natural complexity, is inconceivable; we cannot think about it without resorting to the names of nations.”

From “A Note on Peace” 1945 by Jorge Luis Borges, included in Selected Non-Fictions.

 

Photo “Jorge Luis Borges 1951” by Grete Stern, public domain

On Experiences and Institutions

A demonstrator raises his hands in front of police in riot gear during protests in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S., July 10, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

“From the outset, people’s experiences of desire and rage, memory and power, community and revolt are inflected and mediated by the institutions through which they find their meaning—and which they, in turn, transform.”

—Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest

On Science


“From this point of view, science…is rhetoric, a series of efforts to donna harawaypersuade relevant social actors that one’s manufactured knowledge is a route to a desired form of very objective power.”

Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective” in Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives (2013)