In the last couple of years, online dating has expanded. A great number of young and older people in Western societies are using different platforms of online dating that come in all shapes and sizes. I have found some examples:
eHarmony is for those who believe in a logical and scientific approach to finding the one.
As the concept of online dating grows, our approach to dating grows with it. Online dating platforms provide a fast and superficial approach to dating. The access to hundreds of other single people may result in a shallow dating culture, where people are quickly off to the next person, if the first person makes a minor mistake. This is very understandable, because how do you chose, if there are thousands of people to chose from?
The sociologist Sophia DeMasi (2011) is arguing that our behaviour on online dating platforms is adopting a consumer behaviour. She explains how online dating websites mime some of the features from online shopping websites, and that the users are selecting their partners as they would select commodities (DeMasi 2011, p. 212). The online dating forum is like a marketplace where you can pick the best available deal and return it for another, if you find something wrong with your product. In a tweet, I questioned her criticism of online dating:
In offline dating (if that even exists anymore), I would argue that people in a similar manner consume possible partners in terms of picking and throwing away. But I do agree with DeMasi that the rise of online dating gives people the opportunity to practice consumer notions in online dating environments. The fact that online dating websites are constructed in a similar way as online shopping websites, and the fact that all single people in your area are visible for you as possible future partners make the online dating sphere equal to consumer culture on a more concrete level.
With this being said, I am still of a positive opinion towards ethical online dating websites as they give people the opportunity to experiment, discover and socialise. But my positive attitude exists insofar that people become aware of how to behave on online dating platforms so that they meet people rather than consume them. Therefore, I have made a simple ‘how to’ in terms of online dating conduct:
DeMasi, S 2011, ‘Shopping for love: online dating and the making of a cyber culture of romance’, in Seidman, S, Fischer, N and Meeks, C (eds.), Introducing the New Sexuality Studies, Routledge, Abingdon and New York, pp. 206-13.
It’s Saturday. You have made plans with your only cultural friend to visit the local museum. You arrive at the museum and get a minor heart attack when you pay for the expensive entrance ticket. You go in. You walk past the paintings, sculptures or whatever. You do not really notice, because you find your conversation with your friend about the latest drama in your friend group much more interesting, much more relevant. You post a picture on Instagram to share the art piece you find the prettiest. After an hour of walking around you have walked past all the art works and are allowed to go to the museum’s café to buy a cappuccino and finally enjoy your Saturday.
Do you recognise this? If you do, you should not be ashamed. I often feel this way, and I am a visual art student. And I do not think the problem is either you or me. I think the problems lies within the museum’s structure.
The number of visitors in museums and galleries are continuously dropping year by year (Ellis-Petersen 2017). As a student majoring in visual arts this concerns me both because of how important I find visual culture and also because my future employment is at risk. But on the other hand, I am not shocked. In our constant changing postmodern society, the fact that museums still exist in the somewhat same format as centuries ago is more shocking.
The world and the people within it have changed. We are not impressed with or affected by visual representations in the same way as we were in ancient time. Most people in the Western world see countless of visual representations daily due to digital technology. If museums and galleries are to survive, they have to lose their anachronism even though the romantic idea of museums then might be challenged.
But what is the solution then? How can we engage people in the art that they meet at museums without it being on the cost of the institution or the artists? Tate Modern in London and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are trying out a very possible solution to this problem. They are using the concept of gamification to engage their visitors.
Gamification is a concept that transfers some of the elements of game to non-gaming contexts. Elements such as scores, levels, competition and cooperation can be applied in another context to motivate and engage people (Kim 2015, p. 5-6). Gamification is already being used by several smartphone apps to motivate people to complete boring tasks in their everyday life (Faiella & Ricciardi 2015, p. 16).
The Tate Modern gallery has developed the app Race Against Time where players are taught about art history in a gamified environment. And San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has developed the app SFMOMA Families that encourage interaction throughout the museum (Raymond 2012).
While art by spirit is an engaging media to arise discussion and participate in society, the institutions providing this spirit need to make sure to adjust to contemporary society. Gamification is contemporary society’s contemporary solution to motive people in the crisis of engagement. For museums to implement gamified elements in exhibitions, they can find a form to restore the art world in the digital world.
Scrolling down my Twitter profile, I see what I am trying to do. I see the constructed pictures, the themed videos, the linked academic articles, and the carefully considered following of people and businesses. I see how I try to be in and be a part of the contemporary world. I see how I constantly create and recreate my profile to constitute myself in the postmodern world. A fragmented world where the sociocultural complexity increases and identities become fragile (Kellner 1995, p. 233). My online identity on Twitter is my subject’s digital attempt to constitute its self under diffuse contemporary circumstances.
These postmodern conditions cause conscious individuals who understand their self as being unique and having an agency in the world (Poletti & Rak 2014, p. 4). New media is an identity technology that influences the self insofar that the self is understood as an effect of this online representation (Poletti & Rak 2014, p. 6). The elements involved in constructing an online representation must therefore be explored to understand the self, which the two American professors Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson (2014) have attempted. To interpret some of their elements, I have completed a Prezi:
Database, audience, authenticity and branding are four elements that we use as building material for constructing our online identity (Smith & Watson 2014, p. 72-79). Digital media enables a conscious representation of self that includes these elements, and allows us to constitute a complex and considering self in the noisy world. Digital media creates an online world of coded systems and corporatized environments (Smith & Watson 2014, p. 72-79) that facilitate our online identity project to constitute our self.
On Twitter, my profile picture is a visual construction of my online identity that has been carefully picked to express a fitting self:
The picture is taken in a hip area in Richmond, Melbourne with charismatic Vietnamese restaurants and hipster cafes. The surroundings are taking up a bigger percentage of the picture than I, so the coffee with latte art, the retro furniture, the street art and the urban streets of Melbourne become symbols of the identity that I am trying to construct on Twitter. The slightly off photographic angle of my face and my whimsical smile forms a relaxed and informal representation of my identity. The filter added to the picture reveals an editing and staging, which underlines the notion of construction in a picture that might appear casual. Therefore, the authenticity of my identity in the profile picture is manufactured even though the scenario might be authentic. The concept of authenticity in relation to my profile picture can be understood through the Australian professor David Marshall’s notion of the public private self:
It is in this version of the self that the celebrity engages, or at least appears to engage, in the world of social networking. It is a recognition of the new notion of a public that implies some sort of further exposure of the individual’s life. […] The value of the public private self is still being determined, as individuals construct their versions of what parts of their lives they are willing to convey to an on-line public (Marshall 2010, p. 44-45).
In this quote, Marshall explains new media culture comparatively to celebrity discourse of the self. My profile picture is with its surroundings and their connotations constructing my authentic private self that I wish to display for public presentation.
With my tweets, Twitter also allows me a linguistic construction of my identity. Taking point of departure in the French structuralist linguist Émile Benveniste, language is understood as a system in which subjects are embedded and with which they constitute themselves (Benveniste 1973, p. 220). Benveniste focuses on how subject constitution occurs through the use of pronouns (Benveniste 1973, p. 223), whereas I would suggest that a similar subject constitution happens in the self’s ability to tweet. In my first tweet example, I link to an article by the philosopher Bernard Stiegler:
When I tweet about phenomenology and digital media, I position a self interrelated with academia concerning this area. In my second tweet example, I link to the work by the Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima:
Here Twitter facilitates my identity to be linguistically constituted in relation to contemporary Japanese art and technology. This tweet is directed towards my audience of people interested in art and technology, and therefore they also constitute this certain identity. In my last example, I link to my blog post about selfies in an art historical perspective:
I once again constitute an identity relating to digital media and visual art at the same time as I construct my identity as a brand with interest in and knowledge of these topics. The tweet enables me to integrate my knowledge and ability in Twitter’s corporatized environment.
Other than the visual and linguistic content I share on Twitter, the people and businesses that I follow are likewise an identity construction. I have visualised an outline of my following on Twitter:
The Australian professor Rob Cover argues that actions like following on digital media is a construction of subjectivity:
An alternative view is to consider the ways in which social networking sites operate as a space for the continued, ongoing construction of subjectivity – neither a site for identity play nor for static representation of the self, but as an ongoing reflexive performance and articulation of selfhood that utilizes the full range of tools made available through common social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook (Cover 2014, p. 55).
The quote supports how following is a performative act that enables a belonging to certain communities and thereby defining a selfhood (Cover 2014, p. 55). Cover understands online identity in relation to the American philosopher Judith Butler’s performativity theory (Cover 2014, p. 56). In this theory, Butler argues that gender is a performative social construct rather than an ontological essence (Butler 1990, p. 9-10). When I follow art networks on Twitter, it is a performative act where I embed my subject in a context with connotations I thereby mirror. In Butler’s performativity theory, she discusses how the subject is always already embedded in the discourses of the culture (Butler 1990, p. 13). On Twitter, these discourses are materialised in who I follow, with which I understand my subject. When I follow an art network, it is archived in Twitter’s database, and these algorithms are understood as the discourses that construct my Twitter platform to support my online identity.
Twitter is a tool for contemporary individuals to constitute a sense of self in the postmodern, fragmented world. My identity on Twitter is constructed visually, linguistically and through whom I follow, and represents a public private self that is defined through associations with art and technology, formal and informal. Database, audience, authenticity and brand are the elements I consciously consider in my online performance on Twitter. At the same time as my online performance is constructing my identity, it is also limiting my identity because I constantly verify a specific self in a closed circle of context and environment.
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My broader ALC203-related online activity
My ALC203-related activity online has consisted of regularly tweets. The tweets have been related to readings and discussions within the unit, where I have reflected on technology related topics, linked to several articles and concepts, and participated in the Tiffit Challenges. On Twitter, I have been engaging in discussions with my peers to reflect upon digital media together. Additional to my Twitter activity, I have weekly been blogging on WordPress about different issues from the ALC203 unit. On my blog, I have used readings from the unit to critically interpret different aspects on digital media.
Benveniste, É 1973, ‘The Nature of Pronounce’, Problems in General Linguistics, Miami University Press, Oxford, OH, pp. 217-230
Butler, J 1990, Gender Trouble, Routledge Classics, New York City, NY
Cover, R 2014, ‘Becoming and belonging: Performativity, subjectivity, and the cultural purposes of social networking’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J (eds.), Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI, pp. 55-69
Kellner, D 1995, Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity, and Politics Between the Modern and the Postmodern, Routledge, New York, NY
Marshall, PD 2010, ‘The promotion and presentation of the self: Celebrity as marker of presentational media’, Celebrity Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 35-48
Poletti, A and Rak, J 2014, ‘Introduction: Digital Dialogues’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J (eds.), Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI, pp. 3-11
Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J (eds.), Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI, pp. 70-95
As a part of my ALC203 unit I was challenged to make a selfie with the theme ‘study’. I took a selfie in the library where I usually study with the book I was currently reading that coincidentally is about knowledge. As I tweeted my selfie, I looked through the other selfies being tweeted and started reflecting upon the concept of tweeting.
The selfie is certainly a new definition taking point of departure in the contemporary digital world. But the concept is not necessarily a contemporary one. Before smartphones with front cameras and before cameras in general, artists have been painting selfies in centuries.
The Mexican painter Frida Kahlo has used surrealistic imagery in her self-portraits to express her female position in society in the first half of 1900. The Dutch painter from the 1850s Vincent van Gogh is especially known for his self-portraits where he with his expressive painting technique successfully has portrayed a neurotic and depressed self. Even in early 1500, the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci was painting self-portraits to express his intellectual self.
When artists have been constructing these selfies through time, they have used their medium to construct the kind of identity they want to portray. They have used symbols, painting techniques and intertextuality to let their audience, the museum visitors, know who they were as an artist, and what they wanted to contribute to society.
Today a selfie seems more rapid than an oil painting, but they still are a way of constructing a certain representation of the self. A representation we upload on social media to let our audience know who we are. We still use the medium to construct the image using different camera angles, props and filters to present a sense of self. When I looked through all the creative selfies on Twitter, I perceived my peers in certain ways according to how they had constructed their ‘studying self’ in their selfie.
The word ‘selfie’ is inclusive of these reflections. It is and always has been a way of capturing, but most importantly, constructing a self to constitute the self to the world and thereby to oneself.