When talking about technology, we cannot leave out the human. Technology evolves in tandem with our desire for the better, the superior. In our current cultural climate, this intrinsic relationship allows technology to become embedded within our personal selves – our personal traits that we consider individual in a landscape of automated voices and movements. We have a soft copy and a hard copy of our identities. When interacting with digital mediums, we are subject to a parallel identity – one that we can carefully curate compared to our real-time, live selves. Often the soft copy metamorphoses from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional and cements itself into the interpretation of our offline identities.
Whilst the soft copy self exists in a seemingly intangible space, its fluid combination with the hard copy self through sensory media makes it difficult to differentiate between the two. How others perceive us can be highly or sometimes even solely driven through the data we amass online. The affiliation cannot be ignored. As DeLillo (1986) states, “you are the sum total of your data. No man escapes that.”
Take popular culture, for example. Icons emerge from a virtual space – we know they exist, but often never see them in the three-dimensional. They are manufactured in a method that Mitroff (1989) refers to as hero-making. They are rendered as a kind of superhuman and idealised without any hard copy proof of their animation in physical space. To consume, we rely on the soft copy identity. This information we receive digitally has immense power, having the capacity to invoke deep emotional reaction, influence opinions and alter interpretations.
With the growing popularity of social media over the last five years, we become the hero-makers. These platforms allow us to construct a virtual body through which we browse the virtual world. We have the ability to augment two-dimensional form so that it does not sit flush with the three-dimensional. It is an amalgamation of material reality and lies. Magdaleno (2014) mentions that we have been lying through images since history. An example he mentions is the erasure of Mussolini’s horse handler from a photo “to appear more Napoleonic.” (Magdaleno 2014) In a similar vein, we curate the data uploaded. Maybe we refrain from uploading certain elements as it does not align with our soft copy self. (Think of the aesthetic!)
It is inevitable to be engrossed in the data bubble. Here, we perform a method of reformatting the human identity – we can become anything, explore anything and experience anything. Fagan (2015) references how the minimalist pixie dream girl becomes a pillar of desire despite obvious laborious effort behind her images. We recognise the deception of effortlessness in the digital form, but continue to pursue it in the real world. This hybrid highlights our emerging dependence on technology in moulding our sense of self. Perhaps this is why we are likely to accept the practice of data aggregation (Kasunic 2015). It is an oxymoron that we fear the collection of data, but simultaneously, need to create data to generate ourselves.
DeLillo, D. 1986, White noise, Penguin, New York.
Fagan, C. 2015, ‘The minimalist pixie dream girl: who she is and why I hate her,’ The Financial Diet, 20 March, viewed 25 August 2015, <http://thefinancialdiet.com/the-minimalist-pixie-dream-girl-who-she-is-and-why-i-hate-her/>.
Kasunic, J., 2015, ‘Data, data, everywhere!,’ UTS Subject 85502, Lecture, UTS, Sydney, viewed 21 August 2015.
Magdaleno, J. 2014, ‘Why are we so obsessed with editing photos beyond reality?,’ The Creators Project, 18 July, viewed 24 August 2015, <http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/why-are-we-soo-obsessed-with-editing-photos-beyond-reality>.
Mitroff, I. and Bennis, W. 1989, The unreality industry: the deliberate manufacturing of falsehood and what it is doing to our lives, Birch Lane, New York.