Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Conversations Make It Real?

I was reading Danah Boyd's latest post in which she muses on the ways that the "public performance" of our lives in socially networked spaces change the "reality" of our experiences. I love the quote with which she begins her post and it makes me wonder if this isn't what makes the Web 2.0 world go ‘round:

"The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and ourselves." -- Hannah Arendt

Like the Velveteen rabbit . . . people all “esforzandose” to ensure that their desire to “become real” is fulfilled.

Leads to all sorts of interesting questions . . . who do we spend our time talking with in “real” life? Are those people different from the folks we spend time with “virtually?” Are our goals for both sets of relationships the same, or do they meet different needs? Are there people who play in both worlds who aren’t so interested in being heard by the world at large, but rather, are content for a small minority of a chosen few to “witness their worlds” . . . and if so, why is that?

Sigh. Probably another conversation I'll never have . . .


N. E. Miller said...

Wow. This is something I've also thought about, and it's led me to realize in some crazy way that I not only have two sets of relationships, but two versions of self identity (real and virtual, whatever those terms mean). And in that case, I can't imagine that the goals for those two relationships could ever be truly the same, as they are in some ways the goals of two different people.

As for 'being heard by the world at large, but rather, are content for a small minority of a chosen few,' I'm not sure that there exists a single 'world at large' anymore. And I'm not sure that we really long for that, anyway.

Cherice said...

Well, the fact that someone else has thought about this at least assures me that perhaps I'm not completely crazy! ;-)

I'm wrestling with your comment re: two versions of self-identity. On the one hand, the "identity" that people come to know in cases where there is a strong writing component to my relationship with someone (be that via blogging, e-mail, or snail mail), probably takes in a wider and deeper cross-section of who I am than is generally the case in my face-to-face relationships. I think it is also much more grounded in the core of who I am.

On the other hand, I don't think that I am "fake" or a completely different person in my face-to-face relationships. Rather, I think the circumstances of those relationships make it more difficult to get beyond the superficial. I also think I am much more cautious about what I'm willing to share in a f2f relationship because it is more difficult to evaluate the other person's investment. Writing requires a significant investment of time and self that is more difficult to identify and more easily avoided in a f2f relationship--especially a "relationship of convenience."

Nonetheless, I do think you may be right when you say that the goals for those two relationships (f2f v. virtual) aren't really the same as they are, in some ways, the goals of two different people.

I suppose that is one of the reasons that the relationships I enjoy the most tend to be hybrid ones (part f2f, part virtual).

I suspect you are right re: the existence of a "world at large" . . . except that I expect that such a world never has really existed. And, although I was tempted to take issue with the remainder of your comments, the more I think about them, the more I realize that you are probably right. If people were interested in being "heard by the world at large," then they wouldn't guard so much of who they are in their daily interactions with others (a.k.a. the ones that drive me absolutely crazy because they are so incredibly superficial most of the time).

Thanks for taking the time to comment on this one!