Friday, September 24, 2010

More Thoughts on Internet Identity



One of the strangest things about the internet--and blogging--is its enormous reach, and the personal vulnerability (or nakedness) of one's presence on it. Like all forms of media projection, it facilitates the creation of a specific persona. Soon, virtual visual interaction is coming, allowing users to watch each other--literally to look into each other's real physical space--while spending time online. Whether or not people choose to allow this kind of exposure will depend upon a number of factors. Privacy as it has been thought of in the past will have to be revised. 
 
We already know that much of the world is "under continuous surveillance" by cameras and hand-held devices of various kinds. As technology penetrates ever further into our personal space(s), we continue to lose privacy, to lose the anonymous (incognito) physical sense of being inside our personal envelope, secure, secret, contained. 
 
The satellite mapping devices and street-mounted address programs allow us to look at private addresses (at street level) and down upon neighborhoods throughout the world. 
 
It occurred to me a few days ago that people I've known throughout my life--starting right out with my early childhood, following me all along the roads and byways of my adulthood--could all, given a half-way efficient computer, and an internet connection--see exactly what I'm doing, what I've become, and what I think. It gave me pause. Perhaps unexpectedly, I've only been able to establish any kind of contact--however brief--with just a handful of these people. That seems odd. I was in a high school graduating class of over 500. It's true that I can only remember the names of perhaps 20 people on dead recall, but I'm sure I'd be able to "identify" many, many more if I saw their pictures with the names. And yet, they're hidden out there in the world. Many of them must be dead, many have moved into remote parts of the globe, many have fallen into obscure, hopeless backwaters. 
 
But many of them probably don't wish to revisit their pasts, and even with the venues that now exist--such as high school alumni websites--their curiosity about the fates of those whom they started their lives with, is simply absent. Either they don't want to evoke their past(s), or they're too embarrassed to expose themselves to view. It's strange.
 
Sometimes I catch myself thinking: Do I really want people to know this stuff about me? Maybe there's something exhibitionistic about it. Maybe it's a juvenile craving for bland forms of ersatz "friendship" and pointless contact. Yet the great majority of people I meet here are strangers, people whom I will almost certainly never meet in person, and whose lives will never intersect in any other way, in any other place. It's like having a wide correspondence with a regiment of aliens. Who ARE these people!?  
 
They're just like you and me. Or, maybe not. I always think of the phenomenon of my own birth as a combination of weird accidents. The same could be said of most of our life contacts. They're accidental. In some small villages of the world, the inhabitants may spend their whole lives in close proximity to just a handful of individuals, many of whom are relatives. In the modern world, with its portability, mobility, anonymity, loneliness, disconnection, the only glue that seems to keep people connected is family, and even that frequently breaks down under the pressures of work, dislocation, and generational disapprobation. 
 
I don't know where this is all leading. Am I looking for something here? Why do I write these brief essays and personal accounts? Who am I trying to reach? Who do I think cares about all this? Am I my only true audience?           

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Soon, virtual visual interaction is coming, allowing users to watch each other--literally to look into each other's real physical space--while spending time online."

Yeah, it's called the webcam, grandpa.

Ed Baker said...

So:

We get

More-and-More
of
Less-and-Less

it yet follows that the definition of any single moment precedes that definition of how/when it (the event) is it s OWN presentation where in "real" time as defined BURSTS in-to all possible situate ...possibilities..
when visited?

Not exactly an haiku moment, eh?

as Allen Ginsburg once said (an I was sitting right next to him when he said it):

"(I write) for those who dig it."

J said...

Have you perused Pynchon's thoughts on the Net and cyberspace, Sir F.? (his "Luddite" essay from like 90s for one). He more or less suggests it will become some massive dystopian or possibly totalitarian technology.

I think that's already started--to some extent. With personal private blogs it may not be that obvious but on big name sites--even so-called liberal ones such as
d-Kos, DU, salon, etc--the J-Edgarcrats have seized control. Dissent, and you are "troll-rated", which is to say banned, deleted, if not reported to the CIA. And often the trolls are not particularly subversive or radical but...non-PC. Yr not trollrated for content usually or for using obscene language, but for something like tone, manner of speaking, not being "snarky" or something. You're just not invited to the par-tay (and most A-list "liberal" blogs are hosted by east coast/ivy league types)

We might read Silliman's recent elimination of comments as symptomatic of this growth of moderation and control at all levels--Snitchness.

(this may not be exactly what you are discussing, but related. ).

Curtis Faville said...

Dear Anon:

Ah, another chickenshit jerk-off with time on his hands.

I couldn't become a "grandpa" because our only child was killed in an automobile accident in 1996.

I'm sure you had my best interests at heart.