Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: Chapter One Notes


“As readers, we encounter other people in social media as texts… and from this point of view, we analyse the other writer primarily as text rather than as a living, breathing human being.”

We encounter other people as texts rather than humans and texts are open to judgement. What the author is saying here very well could be the root of all the online bullying and harassment that occurred in the past and continues today: when ‘voyeurs’ online do not view the tweet, post, or status update as another human on the other end of the web, it gives that ‘voyeur’ permission to openly and harshly criticize the person. There is power in the keyboard. There is power in not being able to see the other person’s face, and in response, you don’t get hurt. You get more text, just spiked with anger. There is little human emotion in text.

On the other hand, there is a risk in putting anything out there. There is a risk in me posting my thoughts on text in this blog. There is a risk in uploading pictures of oneself. No one on the internet is immune to hurtful comments, sarcastic remarks or the ‘block’ button. The internet is a dissimilar reality. In filtering these aggravating comments or blocking those who don’t happen to agree with you, you are creating a bubble around yourself. You begin to see those who don’t agree with you as text: something you can ignore, something you can block out forever and live inside your bubble.

The real reality is that you cannot block out the judgmental or the misaligned.

Key Terms & Main Ideas: 

  • Main Idea: Self-representation through different types of media has been around since the beginning of writing, but updates in technology has made it so we can see ourselves in the moment and others as text.
  • Self representation types: written, visual, & quantitative. Can also include curative and musical.
  • Filter: an analytical term for filtering out or removing certain aspects of self expression
  • Journal: at its earliest, used for religious and spiritual self-examination. More recently used for thought processing.
  • Self-photographs: originally taken in a mirror with the camera taking up much of the photograph. Today’s “selfies” are taken at an arm’s length and often mock an embrace.
  • Lurker: in the early internet, one who watched and did not participate in conversation.

Unorganized Notes

  • Self representation in the digital media: written, visual, quantitative (curative & music also counted)
  • Blog/written status come from diaries, memoirs, autobiographies
    • Selfies descendant of self portraits
    • Lifelogs, productivity records from accounting and to do lists
  • Technology can reflect back to us a version of ourselves that can distort
  • Self representation isn’t new. It has been around in self-carvings and paintings, diaries, scrapbooks, photo albums, songs and ballads
  • ‘Filter’ used as an analytical term for filtering out or removing certain aspects of our self expression as we utilize different technologies
    • -Writing-
      • Writing about oneself became common in the sixteenth century with religious/spiritual self-examination
        • Augustine’s Confessions written in 397-8 CE is considered the first autobiography
          • ~1,000 years passed before autobiographies became common (late 18th century)
        • First English biography The Book of Margery Kempe (1373): mainly religious examination and travels
      • This is uncommon until this point due to the lack of technology
        • Paper was expensive and until ~200 years ago people were illiterate: social appropriation may have been a factor
        • Most autobiographies written by priests and nuns [educated women?]
      • Often business records with personal notes, then to Puritans and religious diaries, then to personal diaries not meant for publication
        • Many Puritans used their diaries to confess their sins directly to God, unlike Catholics who confessed to a priest
        • Catholics writing for self-improvement was also part of tradition
        • Christians mostly emphasized sin but left room for joy, unlike today’s journaling for self-affirmation
      • Transcendentalist authors often fused spiritual journals with personal diaries
      • The Japanese nikki bungaku traditional predates Western diaries by several centuries and track daily events while barely mentioning the author
      • Every blog will somehow expose the author’s personal experience of life 
    • -Visual-
      • Before Parmigianino’s Self-Portrait, monks would draw small pictures of themselves in their texts and artists would paint their own faces on characters in paintings
        • ~18th century, self portraits became collectors’ items. End of the 20th century, artists using themselves in art has become more common.
        • The first self-photographs were mostly in mirrors so they included the camera as well. They were seen as extensions of the photographer or as barriers.
          • These works are reminiscent of today’s “mirror selfies”
      • More recent portraits tended to hide the face and head and show fragmented views of the body
        • Some collections of self portraits were labelled by the artist as “acting”
      • Today’s selfies do not use the camera as a barrier and very clearly show the face to the viewer
        • The outstretched arm provides a bit of a forced embrace
    • -Quantitative-
      • Includes numbers, lists, maps, graphs
        • Today: spreadsheets, activity trackers, GPS diaries
          • Star sheets to track children’s good habits
        • Past: pen & paper tracking habits, money, sleep, travels
          • The earliest collections include writing years and naming them accordingly
          • Prisoner tally marks on the wall is an example
          • Benjamin Franklin sought to achieve perfection through writing down his actions
      • Pre or post narrative
      • Can infer causality and must be interpreted
      • Dependent on other forms of literacy, ie counting & graphs
        • Procedural literacy and basic numeracy
      • Becoming more commonplace
  • Self representation = self documentation
    • This is the first time we can simultaneously see our reflection AND record it
    • Easy deletion assists us to further edit our representation
    • Our target audience is not just friends, but ourselves
    • People should be equally aware of how we reflect upon ourselves and not only sharing
  • We interact with others on social media as texts
    • Until late 90’s, Internet meant communicating with peers
    • Early online diaries emphasized social over personal, and there were few photographs
      • Participation was expected (if not, you were a ‘lurker’). You saw yourself as a peer.
    • Late 90’s-2000’s, Facebook was invented to show people’s faces.
      • We primarily see and analyze others as text and not as humans [why the epidemic of online harassment exists]
      • Many websites remove any type of text communication whatsoever
    • People who use social media to share hardships or illness are often shamed or seen as sharing too much
      • It is not beneficial to use the tools of celebrity culture to analyze the lives of regular people
      • Selfies are often disdained in a similar manner, seen as narcissistic
        • Women are often the targets of this because, according to the author, women are taught to hide themselves
          • When the most successful bloggers of Norway and Sweden were teenage girls, their topics were mostly fashion & makeup or humanitarian issues. The author notes that it is striking how once young women find a voice and a platform, society’s immediate reaction is to mock them
          • This is about putting women back in their place
    • Society is finding new ways of deciphering who will be heard

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