Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Fragmented Online Self

An undeniable characteristic of the online self is a fragmented worldview - the transitory nature of our online interactions between our virtual selves causes a perception that is made up of many segmented parts.

Hegel's view of fragmented selves being spiritless comes to mind. The online vibrancy displayed by most digerati/netizens somehow contradicts this view - one would not call most netizens spiritless. One opines instead that the spiritlessness of the real world drives more and more people to adopt strong active virtual identities.

One is not referring to religion in this sense, but more to the multiple versions of reality that coexist in the webs of meaning. In one sense, we have already created the Semantic Web, disordered and multifold, though it might be.

This though, is another topic - and one shall expand on this elsewhen.

Assuming for a moment, that the Hegelian view applies to the online self. How then, is one to achieve a reunion between the many parts of the online self?

Perhaps blogging is one way - one can keep linking the bylanes and caches of information - unfortunately, though, there is not much analysis that comes out of the act of blogging - what one needs is a meta-blog - a means of capturing the thread - a Thread of Ariadne, perhaps.

Alternatively one needs a Content Management System for the Self - that allows neat pigeon-holing and insight-enabling, thereby facilitating the reunion of self and digital self.

Ultimately though, the fragmented aspects of the self arise from the collaborative interaction with other selves, and one cannot create a holistic view of oneself by ignoring the others. This brings us back to another aspect of the Hegelian dialectic - Opposites relate to themselves in otherness - without an other, there would be no self

The other extreme of course, which is presupposed in the above - is a retreat to solipsism, and thereby a denial of the other. That however, leads to a form of nihilism, inevitably.

I once saw nihilism as an infectious disease, that unchecked by self -esteem, invigorated by self-doubt, and by neglect of the other, would lead to an epidemic of neglected and lonely selves, meandering through the multiverse in search of themselves. Here is a story I wrote in that period about the feeling of neglect. I myself rarely experienced it, but watched it grow in others, and perhaps even encouraged it, by intellectual elitism.

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