Regular readers will recall that I am a big fan of the work of Sherry Turkle (though, shamefully, I haven’t read, or even purchased, her latest book Alone Together yet; I might download a copy if someone gives me a Kindle for Christmas.) I’ve been particularly influenced by her 1997 paper Multiple subjectivity and virtual community at the end of the Freudian century, in which she advances the idea that online interaction allows one to dis-integrate the various strands of one’s personality, in a way that allows one to gain greater insight into one’s internal mental landscape, and, in theory at least, escape the restrictions of a unitary conception of the self.

This was in my mind the other day, when my Second Life Premium membership came up for renewal. I duly handed over the $80 or so, which is small beer in comparison with what I spend on other types of entertainment, but enough to set me thinking about how many different online identities I have, and how much they cost me each year.

The answers to those questions depend on what one considers as a separate identity; my virtual presence divides into four main groupings which have no overlap at all, but within these there are multiple blogs, web-pages, Twitter, Facebook and forum accounts, and, of course, virtual world avatars. Most of these are free, but I must pay out about $200 annually in hosting and subscription fees, not to mention all the valuable time I spend maintaining the whole show.

Is this worth it? Have I become more self-aware by disaggregating my personality traits? Do each of my four core online identities represent a pure strand of my self, uncontaminated by the other three, and better for it?

Not really. I certainly appreciate the freedom to express myself in certain contexts without having to worry too much about how people who know me through different channels would react, and this has sharpened my understanding of how I function internally, highlighting some strengths, but also a lot of flaws. In each guise I do, in some ways, feel more like my “real” self, but also that there are important parts of “me” missing.

The main thing I have learned, if that’s not too grand a phrase, is that I actually like my messy, complicated, contradictory, every-day, real-life self a lot better than any of my supposedly idealised avatars. Maybe it’s because I started off from a good place; if my self-esteem was lower I might be more inclined to identify with my virtual representations. Perhaps it’s harder to reinvent oneself online than it might appear, and I’m actually just reproducing myself over and over, and delusionally believing that each time I’m somehow different. Or it could be that I am at heart a conformist, and I’m subconsciously inhibiting myself from embracing the full liberating potential of virtual life.

Whatever. It seems unlikely that, at this point in my life, I’m going to be changing much, so I guess that you, my dear readers, the parallel audiences for my other projects, and those fortunate enough to know me in real life, will have to go on putting up with the same old nonsense.

Thoughts on the Eurozone crisis

I must admit to having rather mixed feelings about the ongoing Eurozone crisis. From my leftist point of view the difficulties besetting the neoliberal Euro project should be encouraging, since they expose the democratic deficit at the heart of the EU, which one might imagine would raise public consciousness about the need for progressive social change, but, on a more personal level, the prospect of the European economy entering a prolonged period of recession, with the accompanying political turmoil, is rather unsettling.

People have been comparing the current crisis to the situation in Europe during the inter-war period, which obviously didn’t work out too well, what with the rise of Fascism and the mass destruction of the Second World War. That may have sounded a bit hyperbolic a few months ago, but events since then on both sides of the Ionian Sea have added to the general sense of gloom, and the transparent inability of our political leaders to address the problems hardly inspires confidence.

Things went badly wrong the 20s at least in part due to the mishandling of the situation by the Comintern, but at least back then there was an international Communist movement, with influential mass parties in most European nations, and the still-fresh example of the Bolshevik revolution to provide inspiration. Today the organised left is much weaker, and such opposition as there is tends to coalesce around disparate formations like the “Occupy” movement, which are all over the place politically, and in some ways openly reactionary.

So I’m finding myself hoping that the Eurozone leaders will pull some sort of rabbit out of the hat, probably involving the ECB issuing Eurobonds to relieve the difficulty Italy is having accessing credit at affordable rates. As these will be underpinned by the German economy, the quid pro quo will be Berlin taking over control of financial policy for the Eurozone as a whole, since the prospect of the ECB printing money to bail out the Greeks and Italians terrifies the Germans who remember the hyperinflation of the Weimar era.

It probably won’t take a great deal of time for the populations of Italy, Greece and the other peripheral economies of Europe to wake up to the fact that they are being forced to endure severe austerity by politicians over whom they have no democratic influence. What will happen then is the big question; the stage would be set for a populist neo-fascist movement, but hopefully the left will have enough time to formulate a coherent response, and to get sufficiently organised to withstand the troubles that lie ahead.

Life During Wartime

Tonight is the night that we in the UK display our liberal values of tolerance and inclusivity by letting off fireworks to celebrate the fact that Roman Catholics are constitutionally barred from becoming Head of State.

I quite like pyrotechnics, but in recent years the ubiquity of cheap Chinese imports has meant that, in the run-up to Bonfire Night, even a quiet middle-class neighbourhood like mine reverberates with explosions for half the night. Obviously it’s nothing like living in an actual war-zone, but it does get to me a bit. Another sign I’m getting old I guess.

%d bloggers like this: