Thursday, November 1

01/11/2012 - Identities as Performance

Here in the limbo time between 8am and when everyone arrives (extended, no doubt, due to the Halloween party last night), I've got time to consider my options when it comes to my PhD. One of the things about being here in limbo is that sometimes the disparate second year PhD students who have been carted off to their respective departments will wander down to ultilise the coffee machine or leftover cake - and I can usually bounce ideas off them or at least take a bit of comfort from their seeming lack of direction which mirrors my own.

Recently I've been toying with the idea of Performance. As I keep explaining to other people when I mention that word - I don't mean performance as in art or dance. Nor do I mean performance in terms of a measurement of success of an action. I mean performance as in playing a role, in any context.
I'm still playing with Identity as my main topic. Throw Performance into their and you've got "Identity as Performance".

This has some interesting implications (which I'll display as dichotomies):

  • Identities as primarily transient, brief and temporal - rather than structured, tangible or permanent.
  • Identities as performed, rather than built.
Social media, then, is a series of performances to an audience - as opposed to a lasting record of your life.

This is really building on E.Goffman's work on identity and interaction. Goffman argued that we are always performing, even when alone - we all have roles to play; each different for person and situation. There is Will at the office, Will on the sofa at home, Will at a family meal and Will in an important meeting. Each of these is a performance.

I think it would be interesting to see if there is a Will on facebook, and a Will on Twitter, and a Will on his blog, in a game, on a forum, on Skype, on Talk Tyria, on YouTube... etc.

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