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<nettime> part 2: online profiles
chcrandall on Wed, 21 Oct 2009 22:43:11 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> part 2: online profiles

Part 2:
online profiles:  narrative/attraction/extension

Profiles attempt to establish presence.  They script a sense of self
through elaboration of fragments of a personal history, setting forth a
diegetic world -- the world of the subject's life (their "story").  At the
same time, they attempt to solicit attention, contact, and relation
outside of the demands of this narrative, in ways that involve the
mobilization of affective attractions.  They attempt to stabilize a sense
of self through past encounters, while attempting to "pitch" the self for
potential encounters.

This dynamic between narrative and attraction has been well-theorized in
the context of film history.  Attractions are forms of exhibitionistic
spectacle -- direct address or performative display -- that can stand in
contrast to the coherency of narrative flow.  They are not about narrative
time but experiential immediacy:  in contrast to the mechanisms of
maintaining a coherent story, transporting the viewer into another time
and space, they solicit direct contact with the viewer in the
here-and-now, arousing immediate sensations.

And yet attractions work in conjunction with diegetic absorption as
affects work in conjunction with meanings.  While attractions open up an
erotic and experiential dimension that sometimes works at odds with the
narrational, they assume power precisely by working through, or in
conjunction with, the narrative world, generating a productive tension
between the reinforcement (stabilization) of narrative coherency -- a
social world or self-construct -- and the solicitation of attention and
intensive exchange that might undercut or destabilize this coherency.  In
some ways, this is the very dynamic of desire, in its flux between
presence and absence, availability and withdraw.

Through online profiles, people attempt to extend and reduce their social
worlds, opening up zones of intensive exchange that can be modulated.  The
profile "stages" the self within a dynamic of stabilization and
destabilization; it facilitates a dynamically stabilized sense of self or
social world.  It embodies a self formed through past encounters, while at
the same time opens up the self to immediate and potential encounters. 
The profile functions as an interface that serves to structure a narrative
coherency, solicit contact, and conduct reciprocal flow -- for the purpose
of stabilization and destabilization, or consolidation and extensibility.

The self that results is actively defined in terms of its connections and
associations, in varying degrees of intimacy and intensity.  The emphasis
is not on person but persona:  as Mez Breeze has suggested, this self is
an assembly generated through clusters of distributed identity markers,
which does not add up to stable meanings or groundlevel actualities
because it also coalesces in terms of the volume, degree and intensity of
its connections.  Less a reductive experientiality than a connective

A profile is both a portal and a facet of an assembling-self that reaches
out to presence itself through a dynamics of encounter.  It hovers between
actual and potential; between diegesis and extension; between story and
solicitation.  The encounter that it aims for is a real, imaginary, or
potential construct that exists both internally and externally, between
the internal narrative space (which has its own structured timeframe), the
solicitous address (which always exists in the immediate present), and the
unrealized potential.  It functions between staging, soliciting, and
extending:  between self-narrative, conductive solicitation, and
connective, intensive extensibility.  As such, profiles are mechanisms for
the "staging of the self" within an encounter; the "pitching of the self"
for a desired encounter; and the "amplification of the self" within
networks of encounter.  They are presencing mechanisms for developing
ecologies of self.

Jordan Crandall

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