In one of my classes, I'm requiring students to participate in an online threaded discussion board. We'd been reading about Foucault and surveillance, and a question came up about the adjustments people have made that allow them to relax about the constant surveillance we're under, especially in social networking sites.
I took it in this direction:
I'm not usually a fan of trend-thinking (identifying and analyzing passing trends), because it often seems to be either a kind of futurism, or else devolves into fairly obvious commentaries on something essentially already passé. In the case of social-networking sites and the mode of self-disclosure, there does seem to be a change in the way we deal with matters we keep secret and those we disclose.
An example of this is journal or diary keeping. The electronic language of on-line journals alters relationships between self and others, both known and unknown, both intimate and anonymous.
We could interpret this as a genre of narrative, as well, and track how online self-disclosing expressions operate as performances or constructions of self or of identity. I keep an online journal, in the form of a blog. It's fairly self-disclosive, but in the shape of a narrative of personal events, world events, ideas, and so forth, that are genuinely expressive of certain shapes of my identity. I even have a name for this identity (as do many online diarists - their handles or screen-names): Doc Nagel.
Am I Doc Nagel? At least provisionally, at least in some respects. That identity is located somewhere between/among my instructor-identity, my academic-identity, my activist-identity, my philosopher-identity, my gourmet-identity, my hockey-fan-identity, my kitten-obsessive-identity, and my private life. All those intersect, are played out, and are shaped and addressed through the journal. I'm careful about how I write in it, though not all that careful. (Then again, I'm not all that careful about what I say in any public forum or in any university venue.)
Exposure, surveillance, and discipline are decidedly at issue. At one point, I was asked by a university official to either take down or to eliminate a link to my online journal, because its contents were printed off and mailed to the university in order to try to get me into trouble (it's a long story, and no, I'm not telling). Some people have been fired for criticizing their employers in online journals, and a good friend of mine has changed journals three or four times to evade being identified as the blogger in question (though not because she's particularly critical of anybody).
In other news, I have completed 4 weeks of non-stop work, stress, and craziness. I am taking the (vast majority of the) weekend off. Penguins-Rangers in just over an hour. Woohoo!
Kittens kittens kittens kittens. Alexander is now 2.12 pounds, and Alex is 2.07. Pictures to come soon. Stay tuned. They'll get nipped in 3 more weeks. Meanwhile, total kitten insanity reigns.