© Alvin Langdon Coburn
© Winifred Casson
The post-industrial world, provokes a crisis in this sense of self: Individuals feel increasingly ‘lost’ in an advanced technological society.
While industrial machines were tools used by human agent, post-industrial technology comprises “intelligent” machines. Automation and information systems have dispensed with the human subject, while we have become dependent on such computerized systems. Our everyday vocabulary for human interaction has absorbed terms originally used for information technologies: ‘input’, ‘feedback’, ‘interface’.
As our lives become more involved with information technologies, and information-processing concepts become culturally as well as technically more influential, we may find these involvements call into question the notions of centered, coherent subjectivity and personal freedom that have traditionally propped up our ideals of selfhood and individuality.
Barglow sees the crisis of self manifested in the language of fragmentation: Individuals ‘cracking up’, ‘falling apart’, ‘losing coherence’.
Gergen is particularly concerned with the saturation of the self by media images, a process that generated a ‘self multiplication’. For Gergen, much of our concept of self derives from the Romantic age, with its emphasis on intense feeling and an emotional inner sense. The postmodern age engenders a form of overload through its technologies of social saturation, primarily media. Yet there are so many different characters or lives of celebrities -that identification with one core version of self becomes increasingly difficult. Individual identity becomes a patchwork construction, made of many alternative personae. Gergen calls this form of selfhood a ‘pastiche personality’.
David Harvey finds the postmodern condition characterized by a ‘space-time compression’ brought by technologies of transport, communication and information flow.
Celeste Olalquiaga expands on the confusion of postmodern urban space in her book Magelopolis (1992). She connects the ubiquity of video screens and the dizzying spatial design of shopping centers with contemporary disturbances of the self. Psychasthenia, a psychological disorder in which the self becomes confused with its surroundings, serves as a metaphor for Olalquiaga,for the ‘induced disorientation’ of consumers in shopping malls, seeking ‘concreteness’ in the act of purchase. Likewise, she regards the nervous disorder obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as indicative of a more widespread condition of uncertainty. Defined by the uncontrollable repetition of a single act, OCD is a ‘doubting disease’ that produces ‘an overlapping of the self’ onto space and time. This condition entails a loss of confidence so that ‘all acts are suspect and self-perception is unreliable’; it generates rituals of mechanical repetition that paralyze the individual.
Source: “Culture and Technology” by Andrew Murphie& John Potts
© Ruben Brulat
© Tristan D. Grey