Inventing the Self

A scary proposition…

November 19th, 2013 by Alessandro Mitrotti · 2 Comments

The arguments presented by this week’s readings are compelling.  Ito embraces the advances of the technology, and his arguments seem more neutral and methodical that Turkle’s. Ito’s observations are surprisingly  simple: (Ex.) Gaming represents the central form of early computer experience for kids….

The dominant approach to studies of gaming and learning has been the relationship between the gamer and the text.. The game has not directly or explicitly taught them technical skills, but game play has embedded young people in a set of practices…

Gaming has gradually become established as one of the dominant forms of entertainment of our time, there has been widespread debate over the merits of the medium… (Echoes Newton Minnow’s comments about television in the early 1960s in Abandoned in Wasteland)

But while I am impressed with Ito’s study, my own feelings about technology are closer to Turkle’s: “The devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful they not only change what we do, but who we are.” (Although I’m not sure it’s a bad thing)

Perhaps the virtual world does pose a danger for young children or developing adolescents. I remember reading Erikson’s Identity: Youth and crisis, in which he calls identity formation is the chief concern of the adolescent. At the time writing (1968), Erikson named peers as having the most impact on a person’s sense identity. How might  the advent of technology influence this fundamental cornerstone of human development? A child who spends all their time playing computer games might not develop important social skills; an adolescent who actually believes that their online persona is real may later develop identity issues.

Turkle says that “The virtual environments were most compelling because they offered opportunities for a social life, for performing as the self you wanted to be… So what kind of identity does a 16 year old develop with so much time spent in websites like Facebook as opposed to just hanging out with friends?  Is an online “performed self” less genuine than a real time authentic self?

The other dangerous idea I think is that people feel their technology to be an extension of themselves.  If an adolescent grows up believing this, how might their self image be impaired? Did people see television in the same way in the 1950’s, or radio in the 1920’s? Are those forms of technology so embedded in our experience that their effects are no longer noticed? That is a scary proposition.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Gabriel R. Seijo // Nov 19th 2013 at 11:13 pm

    I like the contrast you create between television and actual social media. I think television portrayed or created the idea of what people wanted to be, and then the viewers could guide their identity through imitation or distance. Being that television is a medium that can not be directly interacted with television viewers can feel the need to respond in other space. Meanwhile social media is the medium with which one can contrast personal identity, but also it is the place where that identity can be constructed. Did television overwhelm peoples lives enough as if to influence us without notice?

  • Yitian Liao // Nov 20th 2013 at 2:29 pm

    You made me think up this question: whether we overact or not when we meet new technology. Think about the self-driving car, I do not think people have accepted it yet, which is like the television in 1950’s and radio in 1920s. But now, neither television nor radio are “rare” objects. 10 years ago, facebook was as likely to come into existence as the radio would have seemed to have been 1920s. No one would imagine we would adopt it so quickly and use it so widely. We could still remember the past and make the comparison, but for children growing up with facebook, they will think facebook is part of their identities and selves by sharing every single moment of life. Maybe anther 10 years from now, the way we define the self should be coupled with facebook page together. Maybe it seems terrifying as we speak, but it may be a regular thing for new generation.

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