I'd like to jump in and offer a conceptual distinction for thinking about the intersection of the online/data/Profile and the offline/Person.
PJ Rey and I have been arguing something similar since we started this blog. Indeed, the name Cyborgology makes explicit reference to Donna Haraway's cyborg theory of bodies and technology as enmeshed. Further, I have written extensively on what I call "augmented reality," the perspective that views the on and offline as enmeshed, opposed to the "digital dualist" bias to view atoms and bits as separate. To fully theorize the self from the "augmented" perspective, one must rigorously take into account the data-flesh-enmeshment from both directions.
one great power of social media is not just what happens to us when logged in uploading data about ourselves and our lives, but also how sites like Facebook change how we view the world even when logged off and not staring at some glowing rectangle; what I call The Facebook Eye. To only focus on how the self produces data is to miss how data influence our experience of the world; how we behave within it and how data creates that same self that creates the data.
because my Profile contains listening behaviors that I know are being judged by others, I may choose to listen to slightly different music to "give off" the impression I wish to portray. More than just a better-than-accurate presentation of self, the fact that the Profile exists changes my experience and behavior as a person.
"normal" identity is becoming explicitly data-based--that it's natural to think about who we "really" are in terms of statistics-driven self-surveillance rather than depth psychology or self-actualization quests or anything like that.
But my suspicion is that this runs deeper -- that data collection is slowly becoming the ideological basis of the self -- what we regard as the real self. Data is the authorized way to pursue self-knowledge in the networked society; the other means are suspicious, deluded or outmoded.
Our filters are who we are; the "social graph" is not something on which we are merely one point, but it's instead a map of our identity (or at least what capital wants us to think of as our identity). We become more of a person the more we build out this graph, let the flows of information it facilitates constitute us.
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