Generation of Self and Digital Cultures

Our life on the wings of smart phone has entered the digital cultures. Digital cultures are performative cultures. It is not just that they based on high tech are performing for us, we too are performing on these platforms. This means technology is performing for us and intimidating us. It is as if the digital technologies powered by the AI are having an agency. The performativity of technology has to be granted some degree of agency because we as humans to a large extend are not able to control it. We are pushed in what we may call technological wonderland that functions autonomously keeping us enslaved to it. To some extend these digital cultures takes us into what may be called self-illusion by their seductive power. We as human actants are under their regime. This regime of control and our fascination may be understood with the assistance of Michele Foucault’s concept of Governmentality.

These digital cultures have their ways of leading to the generation of our selves based on their dependency on data and use of its analysis. Because we are hooked to the digital cultures, we are not free from the way they can lead us to produce our self. This means we perform a self that is designed by Big Tech. There is no comfort of distance which otherwise is produced by art. Digital performativity due to the sheer acceleration that it produces leaves no time to think and reflect. This is why our engagement with them produces a performativity which is human-technology alignment with its complex agency. Technology has gained its own seductive and we are enjoying the ride. There is also human plea that seeks to get these technologies to be more humane and less manipulative and destructive of humans and everything else.

The digital cultures are co-produced by humans and computational technologies including AI. Just as in the theatre the roles of the characters are co-produced by the co-presence of the audience and the actors, our digital life in the digital cultures is co-produced by our engagement with this technological wonderland. But the co-production remains liminal far removed from our critical consciousness. This possibility of co-production is our strength to develop a critical resistance to the technological intimidation that we face in the digital platforms. Besides, the fact that digital performativity is reductive and has only a fixed arch of operation regulated by the algorithms in operations makes them predictable and hence, our measured engagement can become a mode of resistance, though it is not easy most of the times as the said algorithms work behind our backs. We are used to frontal operations and dorsal operations are often given little or no importance. Dorsal operations are regarded as betrayal. But with the advent of digital cultures, we have the challenge to factor in the dorsality at work in the digital world.

The digital world influences us through the invisible force of secrecy. This is why maybe being aware of it is the first big step to resist allurements of the digital cultures. It can enable us to understand how we produce our own self without truly being even aware of the same. This is nothing but an illusion of the self. It is a designer self that is constructed to be domesticated for a market. Another issue that we have to come to terms is the unequal agency that we have in the generation of our self in digital cultures. Unfortunately, computers and smart phones have almost become toys that we cannot live without. Hence, this compulsion to be playing with them just to pass our time has to be critically examined. What are we doing with our boredom is important to understand our resistance to the lures of digital cultures . We have become dancers in the dark . This I because we are ruled by lazy reason and hence are often enchanted by the digital world which is the next best thing. Perhaps, we have to come to appreciate the real face-to- face world and resist the temptations of the next best thing. May be we have to let our performance in the digital culture become a critique. Foucault thinks of performance as a critique. He seem to suggest that critique is creation of space for interrogation or contestation. This means one becomes an embodiment of that contestation. This is easily said than done. But we can generate our self interrogatively far away from the symbolic orders of digital cultures. This will make our very self become a counter culture in the wonderland of digital cultures.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao