Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hodgkinson lashes out at fb

with a well-inked pen, Tom Hodgkinson whipped the blogosphere into a frenzy with his Jan 14 op-ed in the Guardian "With Friends like These", see using one of those inevitable lapses into bored procrastination, you should check it out. stinging, hot, and bright - kinda like the tropical sun, but...well, not. there is lots that is being said out there about it and i add 2 reflections; faces and places.

first, faces. in the midst of the piece Hodgkinson echoes what i have heard others say before about fb and other such spaces; people are manufacturing and carefully maintaining a proxy of what they "look" like on fb. naysayers are unhappy about this, and point out that we are not being honest about who we are on these virtual spaces, loads of our fb friends are imposters, and in our fb profiles so are we. well i ask, who are we in physical space, anyway? do you have one face? instead, perhaps all of these new spaces are places for us to put on many different masks and have some fun. for a long time anthropologists have studied the cultural significance of masks and identity presentation across cultures; from french-colonial balls, to Trinidad carnival, to halloween, we love to mask, even in the physical world. in general, we are told that masks have two important social functions: (1) they provide a disguise for the wearer and (2) they allow the wearer to assume the identity, at least temporarily, of some other person or being. in new media, there may be a third social function: (3) virtual masking allows us to highlight and project in a much more flamboyant way that we can in face-to-face interactions a sub-set of ourselves geared to the whomever we perceive to be the audience. e.g. perhaps i want the explicit-content, spoken-word orator in me to be my dominant face for MySpace, but push my academician face on my website? (btw, i don't yet have an explicit-content spoken-word orator in me... but it's a thought).

second, places. while Hodgkinson catches plenty, he misses the point that many people get disappointed with this glorified utopia that is the physical, f2f world - where environmental degradation, terrorists, pedophiles, corruption, politics (of any kind neoconservative, liberal, whatever), and mindless jobs persist, and where we get to go to pubs with our friends loads of times. my research subjects tell me that virtual spaces like fb are places where they can just relax, take a rest, and whoa betide, have fun of the silly, mindless ilk. especially when life says that f2f is rarely possible when we need it.

so, i largely don't buy what hodgkinson is selling. not because there is not some truth in it, but because every now and then i know that folks just want to escape the f2f, and throw a chicken at someone out there.

L8R, R. (ne1 can undRst if th will is thR, IMO. nuf Z)


Carla said...

I too read the Hodgkinson piece in its entirety and found much in it to agree with. I must confess I was one of those people who initially resisted the fb thing, and then jumped in with both feet. I now have 4 full albums and a sizeable bookshelf for the enjoyment of my fellow voyeurs on fb. However I participate with a critical mind. I must also confess that I share some of Hodgkinson's fear that we are creating a virtual world that will eventually replace life, reality and relationships as we have known them. The very nature of "virtual" and "real", may, as we blog and post, exchanging places. As soemone who is interested in the workings of the human psyche and know for sure that the relationships we forge are a huge determinant of our psychological health, I am worried that the ways in which we are connecting via facebook and such media, will have adverse effects on our long term collective psyche.
At the same time, I must also confess ( I am amused how this post has turned into a Sunday morning confessional, somewhat unconsciously): it IS fun.


Rhonda McEwen said...

thanks for the comment!! yes, it is troubling and fascinating all at the same time. in new media studies this sentiment echoes from the invention of the typewriter (which Nietzsche saw as a disturbing separation between an author and his words; and as an early user felt at "the mercy of the machine as messenger for his word"), to the radio, TV, and everything since. i'd like to think (hope)that the collective psyche is resilient and persistent over time, and that the current adoption of these new mediators reflect wider societal currents that will require more psyc. health practitioners, like you, who dabble in it with a critical mind.

Carla said...

You're absolutely right. I'll just have to hang my virtual shingle in cyberspace too.

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