Inter-Facing Digital Doppelgängers: What it Means to Live Online

Now more than ever with the pandemic, many of us are logging on to access our communities. We are living through disembodied, virtual copies of ourselves — digital recastings. These copies are pixilated portraits of who we perceive ourselves to be, or better yet, who we imagine others see us as: an avatar, a Twitter handle, a four-by-two-inch animated face on-screen. So what happens to us short-term, long-term, when experiencing the world through the eyes of our copies outweighs encountering the world in our fleshy bodies? How is our subjectivity, our Ego adapted and re-represented when, the majority of our waking hours, it’s filtered through Wi-Fi or an on-screen mirror?

ITCH is a tale about a struggling contemporary dancer who makes an unsettling connection with a homeless man outside of her favorite coffee shop.
Who are you when you're experiencing your world on-screen? (Photo: h heyerleinon on Unsplash)

Understanding Digital Subjectivity

Now you may be thinking: hang on, Carolyne… sure I’m in self-quarantine over here, Zooming my colleagues and friends like there's no tomorrow, but I’m still experiencing my world in flesh-and-blood; otherwise I wouldn’t be popping Cold-FX like Tic Tacs and overstocking on toilet paper — a product that is 100% intended for the good-old-fashioned, down-and-dirty body. (To paraphrase The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, nothing makes us more human than going for a shit.) Fair point. I see the irony. The threat of COVID-19 is a material, physical one; however, that makes our response and retreat into virtual existence all the more fascinating.

Note that our social interactions in communities, be they positive or negative, help create a sense of who we are. Our concepts of Self — human Self, Other Self — are interdependent on a social feedback loop. So to rephrase the question: when the majority of our social interactions that conjure a sense of Self are disembodied copies, what are the results? What are the (side)effects and affects of negating the flesh as a starting point for subjectivity?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this complex and challenging matter! (or no-matter; aren’t puns fun?) Throw me a line on Twitter, where my cyborgian-self likes to hang out like I’m fourteen and it’s a shopping mall: @TopdjianC. And thank you for dropping by! In the meantime, wishing you wellness in your bunkers, online and off.

#posthumanism #COVID19 #writingcommunity