Identity and Internet Surveillance

Apparently Zuckerberg is worried about what is called ‘context collapse’, that people are not wanting to share so much personal information about themselves on Facebook.

A friend said to me the other day ‘I’m a terrible “over-sharer”, I say far too much and need to cut down and edit what I say!’

However it does seem to me that people, even if they intend not to share so much, or they edit personal information about themselves they do share, videos, music, images and articles written by other people as a way of sharing how they are and what they are thinking and apparently kids, terrified that their parents are checking their pages have even developed strategies to code their shares so they might quote a limited few words from of a song, a song which their friends will know the entire lyrics and therefore what personal feeling that child is wanting to project. Apparently in an attempt to snoop on their kids, some parents will even try to befriend them disguised as ‘friends’ and kids are careful not to accept certain suspicious friend requests.

Last week I went to a seminar given by a wonderful Slovenian thinker and writer Renata Salecl and she was talking about this very subject. One really interesting thing that she elaborated was the idea that our sharing is not only presenting something about ourselves but also functioning as cover or camouflage. That although technology has taken away a lot of our privacy, it has also created new ways of defining areas of privacy.

Privacy is a really important part of our psyche and the way we maintain a sense of secrecy is perhaps changing with the internet and it is a great source of anxiety when we feel that our privacy is being ‘invaded’. However maybe it’s more complicated than it would first seem.

One of the fundamental concepts in psychoanalysis is that we have a secret, a secret kernel that we are aware of but can’t actually articulate. The common and misleading idea that psychoanalysis is like a form of confession, that it is merely a process of naming the psychic material and therefore releasing ourselves of its burden, as in the Catholic sense, this concept is not entirely the case. The act of speaking and free associating in analysis is for the purpose of presenting ‘truths’ about ourselves but it is also displaying our camouflage and a significant part of the analytic work is the process of cutting through this narrative to reveal something more fundamental about ourselves.

Our identity on the internet is equally complicated. We share information on our ourselves and the internet makes calculations and algorithms based on our web movements and it creates a certain identity. But it’s a set of signifiers gathered from the symbolic order and organised in a chain. It is a creation, our www identity and it is a creation in the big Other. This links to what Lacan means when he says that we are a subject enunciated by the Other; culture and language. Our clothes are like the material of culture that we wrap ourselves in. Although we forget and become absorbed into culture this is, perhaps, not where our true secret, our kernel of truth is located. Maybe we only get present to to the possibility of exploring this kernel when we extract ourselves from the language of our culture.14718792_903307996469470_7101713754667399266_n


2 thoughts on “Identity and Internet Surveillance

  1. … interesting that you say that because I had originally written another paragraph which I cut off the end. I went on to evoke the psychoanalytic situation which is the way I have found to extract myself from the language of our culture … but then I thought that we all find different ways and strategies? The important part is the ongoing revelation that we are enunciated by the Other/ symbolic order/ culture/ language.


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