Ch 07: Seeing Ourselves

Digital Archives

(I’m hoping I got this right) This week’s reading is Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs, and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves, specifically chapter 4. In this chapter, author Jill Walker Rettberg discusses the concept of digital archives, how our phones and technology have gotten so advanced enough to the point where the act of preserving something can be automated. In a way, as I’ve stated before, the identities of a person is now blurring with a digital persona that is getting harder to separate from.

I have to be honest, this concept actually terrifies me. I’m a believer of living at the moment, so any sort of data or remnant of something from me is a bit concerning. In a weird way, I kind of make an effort to be as enigmatic as possible, which sounds conflicting with my status as an artist, but let me reiterate: As a creator, I want my works to become different from me, I want to them to live their own lives and worlds without having to be tethered by me. Inversely, I don’t want to be known definitively in one way, I strive to be a changing person so I never feel I’m stuck in one place. If it can be helped, I ensure that my phone doesn’t keep track of most of my data (well, as realistically as I can possibly make it) because I want to keep moving forward. I say all this in conjunction with this unit because since I make effort to ‘bury my tracks’, I never realized how much can be done now to preserve ‘someone’ that the concept scares me.

This also leads into my thoughts with academia, and a unit that I’ll be covering in the future. We know have technology for online learning, that much is certain, but we have apps like Proctor (or something) that analyzes and stores data of a test taker, down to the minimalist detail. I had to take a GRE exam under these conditions and I never felt the same after. I can’t imagine being stared and analyzed in that way, while to ensure I don’t cheat, and having that data stored somewhere. Let’s be honest, information is never gone online so somewhere that information lies somewhere out there. A fabricated concept of who I am as a person.

I don’t advocate against preservation in any way, that would be hypocritical of me as a photographer. But I feel with all the apps and methods illustrated in the article, however convenient they are, are taking away a part of the human self and automatizing our way. Writing down something on a journal feels more intimate that is lost on having an app predict your next thoughts. Or taking a series of photographs only to have an app suggest where to go next and store it in a way that seems artificial.

This feels like a minor thought of mine in a larger scope of ideas that I feel are against what I feel. Life is going to continue to be automated and digitized but I can’t help but wonder how much left we have to give before our characters are no more different than what our artificial personas say about us.

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