The essay: Does new media narrative change our identity?

Does new media narrative change our identity?
(Will new media lead us back to the global tribe?)
What are new standards for writing narratives with new media?

Internet:  absolute communication, absolute isolation.

~Paul Carvel

 

In this essay I will try to mention the changes that have been occurring in our identities due to the impact of new media narrative. I would like to start with the previous identity change or even maybe a continuous change that was noticed by Plato in the Ancient Greece. By that I mean the change from oral to written culture.

Speech is inherently an oral event, based on human relationships, unlike texts. Plato in his book “Phaedrus” shows strong resistance to literate technologies, which he calls pharmacon – the word has two meanings: medicine or drug but also, a poison. Writing, Socrates argues, is inhuman. It attempts to turn living thoughts dwelling in the human mind into mere objects in the physical world. By causing people to rely on what is written rather than what they are able to think, it weakens the powers of the mind and of memory. True knowledge can only emerge from a relationship between active human minds. And unlike a person, a text can’t respond to a question; it will just keep saying the same thing over and over again, no matter how often it is refuted.[1]

According to the following the change in how humans perceive the world started to change and evaluate. The world became divided into sentences, words, and letters. Now any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another.[2] With the passing ages we became so habituated to written words that we no longer imagine our lives without them. It’s enough to look at Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 where the books are burned for the good of humanity. According to Plato maybe it would be a good solution but for our culture it’s something completely unimaginable.

The exact evaluation might be understood better thanks to McLuhan (The Gutenberg Galaxy) analysis of the history of communication – from the invention of speech, to pictograms, to the phonetic alphabet, to typography, to the electronic communications of today. It is how human consciousness was restructured, profoundly changed not only the frontiers of human possibility, but even the frontiers it was possible for humans to imagine.

Thanks to the new imagination we no longer face the world as its underlings – as subjects – but we now possess the faculty to calculate it as a field of virtualities, and to compute some of those virtualities into simulations of realities according to our own program. This is the new imagination. The consequence is that we no longer seize and handle the world in order to change the real, but that we do so in order to realize virtualities. We are no longer sub-jects, but pro-jects. Our head turns if we try to execute such an existential revolution. […] And this explains the curious creative dizziness which takes hold of those who program synthetic pictures, who possess the new imagination. With each key they press they dive into a field of virtualities, and entire worlds emerge which they themselves had not expected. A new level of existence is opening up, with new experiences, sentiments, emotions; concepts and values proper to it. Homo sapiens is about to bring a faculty into play which so far has been dormant.[3]

Now, McLuhan and Ong also document the re-emergence, in the electronic age, of a kind of ‘secondary orality’ that displaces written words with audio/visual technologies like radio, TV and telephones. Unlike primary oral modes of communication, these technologies depend on print for their existence. Mass internet collaborations like Wikipedia rely primarily on writing, but re-introduce relationships and responsiveness into the text. Even though from this point of view the orality might be coming back into power there are plenty of medias based on new narratives which have a huge impact on our identities.

Prior computer image of the era – in which the virtual reality user travels through the virtual space, is replaced by the new – in which a man who is at the airport, on the street, in the car or anywhere else, checks his emails or makes his phone calls using a phone connected to the PDA.

You see your first fragments of Implementation on stickers posted on signposts on your way to work and find the rest online when you google a remembered sentence. Surrender Control sends you text messages regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. You read Online Caroline and Blue Company in a series of emails arriving in your inbox amid spam and work mail. A character in a fictional weblog sends you instant messages and appears in the comments of a political weblog you also happen to read.[4]

Also video surveillance is becoming ubiquitous, and not only activated by governments, military, or enterprises, but also by private individuals – low-cost, wireless camera, with connection to the Net, can currently be placed almost anywhere.

In the popular media, there is currently no common discussion on the different types of technology – mainly due to the fact that they belong to different industries and different markets – but the future is a combination of both – all of them will change our physical space in the information space – by drawing from the information (surveillance, observation), or fitting it into information (mobile space, computer displays). This close relationship between surveillance and the accompaniment is one of the key elements characteristic for highly developed technological societies. The concept of enriched reality means computer strengthening of the human intellect. The world of tomorrow will know that it does not need to be made in the immobile office. This raises the new paradigm in which computing and telecommunications will be delivered to the mobile user. For this purpose, new technologies are being created, hence the discussion about information outlet and tide is being held.

The contemporary world is guided by the idea of individualism, and places the individual and autonomous actions in the center. The man has no longer simply to be in the world; he has to affect the world. Even abstention from action becomes a decision, and thus in some sense the action. What’s more, the human individual’s impact on reality is not debatable; it only has to become conscious. This way Michael Heim (The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality[5]) is right analysing the term of interactivity in the contexts of virtual reality. Heim notes that many people see virtual reality as every form of electronic representation, which implies their action. While deleting files from our desktop we use the icon representing the trash can where we put the unnecessary files. Text documents, although they do not exist on paper – still are documents. Our computer desktop may be identified with a wooden desktop from our room. Each of these entities is a virtual entity – not existing physically, but still existing, with which we enter into active interaction. They differ from the representations of similar items on the television by that that we treat them as real objects. Image does not need to deceive the eye, to become virtual. The reality of computer trash comes from your true commitment to interact with it.

It seems that, consequently, a unit of a modern audience, tele-viewer and observer, a passive consumer of meanings, learns about live from mediated reality presented in the medium. His emotionality is a secondary emotionality which indeed is rooted in its original ancestor, but then it has been processed, reconfigured and directed as authentic. While television and film have a tendency to raise awareness that death on the screen is not really happening, the computer goes a step further and suggests that even the protagonist is not true. Already a large extent can be observed that the behaviors and scenes that are not in approval among the hard-core viewers of television, they do not affect computer viewers. In the context of apathetic society, reaching the peaks of hypocrisy and moral relativism, indignation presented only on the outside is not outlived at all. Baudrillard watching the events at Heysel, noted (J. Baudrillard “Heysel Syndrome”[6]):

rather than complain about the revival of atavistic violence should be understood that what produces this form of violence, these special effects, which also include terrorism […] is  our modernity, our hyper-modernity. Traditional violence we know from Third World countries comes from enthusiasm and sacrifice, is ritual, yet spontaneous. Our violence, on the contrary, is simulated, it doesn’t come from passion or instinct, but from the screen […] The media go ahead of it and cause it.

The obscene and the absurd no longer have limits. In a world that you create, there are no other rules but those that you have created. There is no ethics; it’s not necessary any more. While creating, sometimes you get the status of a god (as in the game Black & White[7]) – what a tribute paid to human vanity. The sense of power takes the place of responsibility, to mistakenly perceived ability to create worlds and beings.
This type of virtuality is transferred to many areas of our lives on the Web – to the interpersonal contacts, the authenticity of a politician that uses this medium to disseminate his views, the online studies and the social gatherings.
In each of these situations we are more than passive observers, we have more abilities than just giving a meaning to a message, we are the actors of interaction in the same way as its audience.

The modern world creates various forms of tele-presence – from talking on the phone, Internet, through internet bots (which can be substitutes for real users), by sharing our body and mind we go toward creating agile models not just of the collective intelligence, but maybe in the future also of a collective body. Deleuze proposes that all the elements of a machinic assemblage, including human bodies and technological devices, are part of a collective machine. For him the organic body and the inorganic tool are nothing without the machinic assemblage which gives them a certain relationship of vicinity with each other, animals, and other elements.[8]

Ones that improve (psychologically: deepen) the human-machine communication are avatars – graphical representations of the person/character, otherwise: virtual corporeality. Interestingly, the avatar does not necessarily take the form of a human. Depending on the type of contact, the world in which one participates, the forms that we deal with are anthropomorphic, drawn from animal world or myths. With an image is intended to fill a space of non-verbal communication – which is the basic for the interpersonal communication – the avatar can smile, cry, be happy, sad or ashamed instead of you. Temporarily range of emotions possible to present through the avatar is narrowed to the easiest and most versatile. However, these representations exist – and move naturally in the physical level of nonverbal communication phenomena produced artificially, with a large bit of effort invested in it. It can be argued that avatar’s emotions are hyper real – they constitute of (Baudrillard’s) simulacrum both of emotions and their images.

To sum up I would like to present the table based on Eriksen’s book Tyranny of the Moment: Fast and Slow Time in the Information Age:

Industrial society[9] Information society 

 

Bulding of nation Globalization
Book Internet
One-chanel TV Multi-chanel TV
CD and LP MP3
Life-long monogamy Serial monogamy
Depth Breadth
Linear time Fragmented time
Too little information Too little freedom from information

Probably there is no need to add anything but just realize what those changes do with us. Even though we are chatting with 3 persons through skype or facebook in reality we are alone, we don’t speak, we barely move, we don’t have any eye contact. We stick to this one thing that is just a thing but for us it is everything. There is a big danger and temptation in just staying at home instead of going out and meeting real people. With absolute communication we become absolutely isolated and forget that all actual life is encounter…[10]


[1] Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 78-79.

[2] Kristeva, „Word, Dialogue, and Novel“, In Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, edited by L. S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, pp.66

[3] Vilém Flusser’s view on art – Session 1: A NEW IMAGINATION, pp. 4.

[4] Jill Walker, Distributed Narrative: Telling Stories Across Networks, pp. 1.

[6] Jean Baudrillard, „Syndrom Heysel“// Andrzej Gwóźdź, Media, eros, przemoc – Sport w czasach popkultury, Kraków 2003, pp. 57.

[8]Deleuze, G. & Parnet, C. Dialogues II. London: Continuum, 2006, pp. 76-77.

[9] Eriksen T., Tyranny of the Moment: Fast and Slow Time in the Information Age, 2001.

[10] Buber M., I and Thou, 1937.

additionally:

the values that are being forgotten…

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5 responses to this post.

  1. […] one is Does new media narrative change our identity? by Rasa, who describes history of communication and the way how it has changed during times. Good […]

    Reply

  2. […] last picked essay was Rasa’s about new media narratives. This essay was the hardest to follow and I had to read it through few times to get the main point. […]

    Reply

  3. I very much enjoyed reading this essay. I try to summarize how i understood your argumentation:

    You write that: “In this essay I will try to mention the changes that have been occurring in our identities due to the impact of new media narrative. ”
    Your conclusion is: “With absolute communication we become absolutely isolated and forget that all actual life is encounter…”

    You have found some quite good quotations to support your thinking. For example:

    “Writing, Socrates argues, is inhuman. It attempts to turn living thoughts dwelling in the human mind into mere objects in the physical world.”

    “True knowledge can only emerge from a relationship between active human minds. And unlike a person, a text can’t respond to a question; it will just keep saying the same thing over and over again…”

    You explain that modern society has some ways created the second world where they play and live:

    “…And this explains the curious creative dizziness which takes hold of those who program synthetic pictures, who possess the new imagination. With each key they press they dive into a field of virtualities, and entire worlds emerge which they themselves had not expected. A new level of existence is opening up, with new experiences, sentiments, emotions; concepts and values proper to it. ”

    “Now any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another.

    “the consequence is that we no longer seize and handle the world in order to change the real, but that we do so in order to realize virtualities. We are no longer subjects, but projects.”

    “…the close relationship between surveillance and the accompaniment is one of the key elements characteristic for highly developed technological societies. The concept of enriched reality means computer strengthening of the human intellect.”

    You point out the following consequences of active participation in this virtual world:

    “The contemporary world is guided by the idea of individualism, and places the individual and autonomous actions in the center. The man has no longer simply to be in the world; he has to affect the world.

    The obscene and the absurd no longer have limits. In a world that you create, there are no other rules but those that you have created.

    The sense of power takes the place of responsibility, to mistakenly perceived ability to create worlds and beings.”

    What i am thinking, do you dislike that we became isolated from the reality…
    Do you see that some new developments, such as geotagging and mobile services may bring back the connection with the real world?
    Are we happy or sad in this virtual world, is it a place for escaping, or has it became the real world and the real world is becoming more and more marginal in our lives?

    Of course, these are just thoughts about your own perspective in this essay and in the essay you may leave these points open as well for the reader.

    Reply

  4. I think it is pretty clear that I am not a big fan of the new technologies. Yes, they do bring a lot of good advantages into our lives making them much easier. But is it what we want from the life? Sit in front of the desk staring at one thing and say that now I am interacting with the whole world. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to go outside on the street and meet some real person that has pulse and warmth? Of course there is a big step in making the connection easier between people that are far away but is it that necessary? For personal purposes I prefer not to talk to my friends or my family too much when I am abroad just because I want to meet them at home and talk for hours about my new experience and express myself in oral way with ’emoticons’ on my face.
    From one point of view it is just useless the struggle against the technology and the aim for the old values. They die everyday together with the non-technology-natives. As one of them I prefer holding up to the old value-system.

    Reply

  5. Hello,

    I will take the time to read this very detailed essay but I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you quoting me in introduction. Feeling more comfortable there than in the middle of the eternal classics quoted in the text !

    If you are interested in readin more, I must confess my web site is not updated so the best way to check on the Paul Carvel “Ink jets” project is to just type my name on a search engine and enjoy other people quoting me, or checking the facebook “Paul Carvel – writer” that I just started, hoping that I will take the time to feed it properly… My books are only published in French so far.

    Best regards,

    Paul CARVEL, Brussels

    Reply

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