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?
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.