06: Harkness

The Self-Aware Blog(ger): The Cultural Impact of Digital Identity

Darren James Harkness

Cite this article (APA): Harkness, D.J. (2011). The Self-Aware Blog(ger): The Cultural Impact of Digital Identity. Media : Culture : Pedagogy, 15(2). Retrieved from http://mcp.educ.ubc.ca/v15n02DigitalGeneration_Article06_Harkness

 

Abstract

This article presents a new critical framework for how the blogger works to define her digital identity. I will implement a theoretically-based approach to untangling the blog-self using a layered implementation of Jacques Lacan, Alfred North Whitehead, and N. Katherine Hayles. A process not dissimilar from Lacan’s mirror stage theory of identity formation is encountered by the blogger as she blogs; however, unlike the Lacanian subject, her identity is in a constant state of construction and deconstruction, flickering between the "Ideal I" and the "Social I" reflected back at her. Lacanian identity is troubled by the posthuman body, which lacks presence/absence, and is unable to resolve its identity. The blog-self is a new self. She must be recognized to be understood.

 

In the introduction to Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation by Gerard Genette (1987), Richard Macksey argues that paratexts are “the liminal devices and conventions, both within the book (peritext) and outside it (epitext), that mediate the book to the reader” as well as the “framing elements” of the text that help create meaning for the reader (xviii). The blog’s content is important, but it is only a small part of the analytic problem when looking at the larger issue of identity. In her article A Blogger’s Blog: Exploring the Definition of a Medium, danah boyd (2006) “invites scholars to conceptualize blogging as a diverse set of practices that result in the production of diverse content on top of a medium that we call blogs” (1).

She goes on to argue that:

By conceptualizing the blog as a medium instead of a genre, it is possible to see how blogs are more akin to paper than to diaries. It is not the conventions or content-types that define blogs, but the framework in which people can express themselves. Using paper, people document their lives. The same is true in blogs. Using paper, people take notes. The same is true in blogs. Paper and blogs are used for everything from creating grocery lists to publishing innovative research, drawing pictures to advertising furniture for sale, tracking personal bills to writing gossip columns. Mediums are flexible, allowing all different sorts of expressions and constantly evolving.
(http://reconstruction.eserver.org/064/boyd.shtml)

Although this analogy allows us to see blogs as flexible conduits for the creation of identity, when looking at blogs as paper, as platforms, we are also aware of how that paper is configured. We use different papers in different ways: lined paper is purposed for writing, sketch paper for drawing, ledger paper for numerical data. One can think of the relationship between a blog and the software that runs it in similar ways to that of a diary and the paper it is written on. The average user would not spend time thinking of the elements of an interface within the blog software they are using, but its design determines the way that they will blog, and acts as one force shaping their identity. Another shaping force is, of course, the bloggers themselves.

Arguing for the creation of identity through medium is not without its dangers: identity is a very subjective, full, and locative term. Identity has different critical meanings within different disciplines: certain philosophers mark “identity” as that which simply differentiates one item from another; in terms of an individual’s identity, they prefer to use the term “personal identity”—a particularly troublesome term, fraught with questions (Olson Stanford Encyclopedia of Psychology);[1] certain branches of psychology break identity into self-identity, social identity, cultural identity, and gender identity. When I refer to a blogger’s identity in this article, I am speaking primarily of her online identity. The blogger’s identity conflates presence and absence, representing the blogger even when she is not physically present at her blog. Yet, identity is the right term; bloggers frequently self-identify with their blogs; boyd argues it is “the facet of them that is captured through the practice of blogging.”

This article will present a new critical framework for how the blogger works to define her digital identity. I will implement a theoretically-based approach to untangling the blog-self using a layered implementation of Jacques Lacan, Alfred North Whitehead, and N. Katherine Hayles. A process not dissimilar from Lacan’s mirror stage theory of identity formation is encountered by the blogger as she blogs; however, unlike the Lacanian subject, her identity is in a constant state of construction and deconstruction, flickering between the "Ideal I" and the "Social I" reflected back at her. Lacanian identity is troubled by the posthuman body, which lacks presence/absence, and is unable to resolve its identity. The blog-self is a new self. She must be recognized to be understood.

Viviane Serfaty’s The Mirror and the Veil (2004) looks at the American online diary as a location for personal and social influence. Serfaty suggests that the computer screen acts as both a mirror and a veil for the blogger, allowing readers to see themselves reflected in the blog, while limiting the access they have to the blogger herself. The work invites the application of Lacanian theory, though this is something from which Serfaty herself tends to shy away. She spends only one chapter in a section on social support on Lacanian theory, where she uses the mirror stage as a means for the blogger to provide a “mirror to others,” who can in turn provide a “mirror to himself” (57). However, this application of Lacanian mirror theory, although useful, does not give a completely accurate depiction of how the blogger’s identity develops. An exploration of how the electronic body complicates Lacan is required.

Donna Haraway pioneered discussion of the electronic body and how it muddies the borders of subjectivity in her work A Manifesto for Cyborgs (1991).[2] In it, she discusses how the borders between the physical and the informational can blur. The blog—in fact, any electronic communication—certainly works to blur this line; it gives the blogger an informational presence even when they are not physically at their computer. However, Haraway’s ideas provide a jumping off point into looking at how the digital space of the blog, the software, combines with the needs and capabilities of the audience and the blogger, both in terms of structure and information, to help create the medium of the blog. The audience and blogger are paratextual elements in the creation of blog as medium; like infrastructure, these are central to the development of her identity as blogger; they function as a mirror, reflecting her own image. However, bloggers’ identity is more complex than either Haraway's or Serfaty's theories might imply.

The blogger creates an identity based on the act of blogging, but also through the process of seeing herself being seen, and writing and witnessing herself having her ideas and confessions witnessed. Identity in social media is self-reflexive, fluid, and multivalent. In order to catch a glimpse of the fleeting and flickering multi-faceted blogger identity, I will create a multi-faceted approach to blog-subjectivity using the following theorists: Lacan, who wrote on the formation of identity through the mirror stage; Whitehead, who conceived of the subject-superject that signals the death of subjective immediacy; and Hayles, who posits that the coding of language replaces Lacan’s floating signifier with a flickering one, therefore breaking the boundary between presence and absence. Ideas from each of these theorists can be combined to create a compound analysis of the subjective blogging experience, and how it reflects the issues at stake in the subjective experience of blogging.

Lacan’s lecture The Mirror Stage (1949) is useful for uncovering the first layer of the blogger’s experience. The Lacanian subject looks first at an external reflection of itself, the “Ideal I,” and then at its community, the “Social I,” in a desire to create its identity. Lacan’s mirror model, in which the subject is essentially static, breaks down when applied to the blogger, though, because the blog-self is grounded in informational space, rather than physical. In Lacan, the infant misidentifies its reflection as the other; for the blogger, the "Ideal I" and "Social I" blend as she looks at her reflection. The image in Lacan’s mirror blurs when we move in closer to see the details of the blog-identity.

Whitehead’s concept of the subject-superject, developed in Process and Reality (1929), provides a little more clarity. The subject-superject is a gestalt of subject and object (the object of its experience), which together form an entity. Whitehead defines the subject as an entity composed of the objects of its experiences. He frustrates the definition, however, by stating that a subject may also be an object of experience for another entity. One can understand this by saying that the solar system is a subject, composed of the planets, but also the object of the Milky Way. In Whitehead, outside of one’s own physical body, the subject does not understand itself as being composed of the objects of her own experience (Nobo, 1986). Whitehead, writing in the 1920s, could not conceive of the way the digital age would affect the act of being, and how the entity would experience herself. Blogging locates the entity in an informational space where the body and the self have different parameters, because while the electronic subject shares mental space with the physical subject, it is located outside of the body and thus available for self-reflexive observation. This difference in being creates a recursive loop where the blogger is both the subject and object of her own experiences, able to observe herself in a way the physical subject is unable to.

When we look at the blogger, we look at an electronic entity, an electronic body that is at once present and absent. In order to understand the electronic body, I will add a final plane to my theoretical construction of the blogger. N. Katherine Hayles, in How We Became Posthuman (1998), provides a frame that can be used to expand Whitehead’s subject in order to cover the blogger; the electronic entity understands herself as being composed of the objects of her experience, something Whitehead’s subject is denied. This self-reflexivity combined with the constantly moving subject position resets the Lacanian development of identity, causing the blogger to flicker continuously between "Ideal I" and "Social I."

Peering at the Mirror: Lacan’s Mirror Stage

Lacan placed the formative power of identity in the external body; an individual first gains identity through recognizing his own body reflected in a mirror (Écrits 4), but as a “misidentification of himself with the other” (Muller & Richardson, 1982, 30) that is reflected by the child’s speaking firstly in the third person (32).[3] By experiencing his exterior self in reflection he ceases being a collection of objects and starts becoming an individual entity. Lacan calls this the “Ideal I,” a “primordial form [precipitated] before it is objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject“ (Écrits 4). Lacan writes that the mirror stage is “an identification” that sets the individual in “a fictional direction which will always remain irreducible for the individual alone” (4). He argues there is a jouissance (a “jubilant assumption of his specular image” (4) ), which occurs for the individual in this stage. I would argue there is a new jouissance in the blog; there is a joy in learning how to operate within this new self. Like the infant, the blogger is learning how to communicate.

Lacan sees the mirror stage as a developmental phase, one the individual quickly grows out of when she enters the social. At this point, the individual shifts away from a reflection of the self as the defining force behind her identity, and centers instead on a social gestalt. The Lacanian subject and the blogger construct identity through the observation of others (in both senses of the phrase). The individual bases her identity on those she observes around her—the “illusion of autonomy” that hides the “consciousness of the other” (6); however, her identity is also affected by how she is observed by those around her. It is through the conscious and unconscious responses to (and of) those around her that she shapes her identity. Unlike the infant, however, the blogger constantly flickers between observation of the self and observation of others. The Lacanian mirror is a static entity; once the infant has recognized herself in it, she moves away. The blogger returns every time she starts a new blog entry.

The blogger’s mirror stage does not resolve in the same way as Lacan’s infant; she forever flickers between "Social I" and "Ideal I," constructing and deconstructing her online identity. This is an online identity being built-up and taken apart. The blogger creates a new identity when she starts her blog, an identity that is fundamentally different from the one she inhabits outside of the blog. This blog-self is a posthuman hybrid of text and thought, which is simultaneously present and absent because it transgresses the boundaries between physical and informational. The adult who blogs already has a self-concept, but it is constructed around more traditional social relationships, such as coworkers, friends, and family. Her identity as blogger creates a second self for which she must create a new self-concept. Jill Walker (2005) in her article, "Mirrors and Shadows: The Digital Aestheticisation of Oneself," describes this process of creation as “discovering a version of my digital self that I had not before been acquainted with” (3). She sees blogging as “the first step in choosing to express ourselves rather than simply allowing ourselves to be described by others” (6).

The digital self appears as a commonality in many blogs. Eden Kennedy is the writer of Fussy (fussy.org); but until 2006 she did so under the persona of "Mrs. Kennedy," a subset of her offline self. Leah Peterson, a blogger who has interviewed other bloggers to examine the motivations behind their writing, interviewed Kennedy. Kennedy admits,

The deeper answer would be that I grew up in a family where I didn’t feel comfortable talking about personal issues, and so to blatantly overcompensate for that constraint I went and found a public place to spill. Making the private public is enormously liberating. But then I also feel I have to make a joke out of it all. It’s stupid. But it’s a formula that seems to work.
(http://leahpeah.com/interviews-2/eden-marriott-kennedy 2005)

Eden Kennedy is happy to write of her own life and thoughts, but only in an immediate manner. Events with her family are for the most part absent.[4] She does not blog about her parents, saying “the way I see my family isn’t necessarily the way they should be represented on the Internet.” Blogger Sue V. in her weblog, confesses, “I know that what I portray on my blog is real, however it's definitely just one side of me.” (http://sueveeblog.blogspot.com/2006_11_01_archive.html)

Rebecca Blood, on the other hand, has created the identity of a blog historian through her weblog, what's in rebecca’s pocket? (http://www.rebeccablood.net/). In her interview with Leah Peterson she says, “I am [comfortable being considered an authority], if only because I have been around from almost the start . . . I usually don’t write about personal things. I’m a pretty private person.” (http://leahpeah.com/interviews-2/rebecca-blood 2006)

The blog-self frustrates Lacan’s model of identity in several ways: the blog-self exists not as a physical entity, but as an informational one; in addition, it is both dependent on and independent of the blogger herself. The Lacanian subject is dependent on a physical reflection and a static location; although the subject misidentifies the "Ideal I," it is unquestionably separate from the entities that help define the "Social I." The blog-self has no physical component—it exists purely in informational space. The reflection the blogger sees and identifies with flickers between her image and the image of her community. Her subject position is constantly in motion.

Looking into a Two-Way Mirror: Whitehead’s Subjectivity

With social media, however, we need another way of looking at identity. Whitehead, a mathematician and philosopher of the early twentieth century, began the Process Philosophy movement with his 1929 treatise Process and Reality. Whitehead’s writing is concerned with the process of subjectivity and experience. He is referenced primarily in the study of metaphysics, as he directed his investigation towards the subject and subjectivity as a way to unfold theological problems. The part of Whitehead’s work that stands out with respect to the current matter, however, is his discussion of the subject-superject. He describes the subject-superject as a condition wherein an individual is “at once the subject experiencing and the superject[5] of its experiences” (1932, 43). It “acquires objectivity, while it loses subjective immediacy” in the process of becoming an entity and its subjectivity is “perpetually perishing” (44).

In short, the subject-superject is simultaneously subject and object. Jorge Luis Nobo explains that “a conscious human subject does not normally identify itself with, nor does it understand itself as composed of, the objects it consciously experiences—except of course, in respect to its own body.” (385) He argues that Whitehead’s line of reasoning is that “the empirical subject and its datum are alike ingredients in the one occasion of experience” (386). Reality is composed of like objects, according to Whitehead, all “enjoying objective immortality” (Sherburne, 1966, 15). Jill Walker in Mirrors and Shadows: The Digital Aestheticisation of Oneself (2005) argues that blogs “are a form of self-presentation and -reflection that is cumulative rather than presented as a definitive whole” (5). The “weblog consists of a continuously expanded collection of posts, each of which is a micro-narrative or a comment that tends to express an aspect of the writer” (5). The blogger is the self-aware sum of her experiences, the subject-superject, and through the act of blogging, is able to achieve her own kind of ‘objective immortality.’

The subjective for Whitehead is a constantly decaying moment; it coexists with the objective in creating the experiential entity. In terms of the blogger, the subjective experience is found in self-reflexivity. Serfaty in The Mirror and the Veil: An Overview of American Online Diaries and Blogs (2004) discusses self-reflexivity in online diaries, saying it can “therefore be said to be the representation of inner spaces as well as of the self-consciousness of the post-modern writer, for whom writing primarily is an exploration of the system of signs constituting language” (34). Serfaty argues that this self-reflexivity is “crucial to the slow construction of meaning diarists are engaged in;” they become “at the same time the observed and observer: they become the observers of their own lives and play the part of the observed for whoever interacts with them” (35, 64). The blogger needs to be a part of and apart from her blog in order to construct her identity around it.

Bloggers are a curiously introspective group, often and repeatedly examining their motivations behind writing a blog. Jenn, the author of Reappropriate (reappropriate.com) wrote in a 2007 post that as bloggers, “it is our responsibility to interrogate what we hope to gain out of blogging and to continuously re-examine our intentions.” Reconstruction published a special issue on blogging in 2006 (http://reconstruction.eserver.org/064/contents.shtml), and asked a handful of bloggers to write an article on why they blog. The responses varied:

  • Michael Béreubé says he is fond of blogging because it helps intellectuals gain “the mediating skills that we knowledge-merchants have to learn” because “the response from readers is more immediate”
    (http://reconstruction.eserver.org/064/whyiblog1.shtml#berube).
  • ET from View from Iran writes that she first started the blog to communicate with family, but soon found it to be “a way to have a conversation that would be difficult to have any other way” with the rest of the blogosphere.
    (http://reconstruction.eserver.org/064/whyiblog1.shtml#iran)
  • Sokari from Black Looks notes that a “starting point in reflecting on identity, blogging and me is to ask the question, ‘Where does my writing come from and where does it take me?’ . . . Neither the blog nor my identities are mutually exclusive.”
    (http://reconstruction.eserver.org/064/whyiblog1.shtml#blacklooks)
  • Viviane Serfaty in The Mirror and the Veil: An Overview of American Online Diaries and Blogs (2004) writes “the screen is transformed into a mirror onto which diary-writers project the signifiers of their identity in an ongoing process of self-destruction and reconstruction” (14). She later writes that the blog is a mirror, in the Lacanian sense, not for the blogger but rather for her readers, “inviting others to act as a mirror to himself” (57). For Serfaty, the blogger is looking out from behind a one-way mirror she has invoked.

    I would like to modify Serfaty’s idea, and suggest the blogger sits in front of multiple-mirrors created, in part, by the software she has decided to use. However, the image reflected is not that of her readers alone, although certainly they are there: the image presented is of an electronic version of herself among electronic versions of her readers. The problem, of course, is that the electronic versions of the blogger and her readers indicate an absence as much as they indicate presence.

    At the beginning of this article, I discussed how the blogger is both present and absent because their identity exists as an electronic identity. Lacan and Whitehead both require presence in order for their models of subjectivity to work; how do we apply them when the blogger is absent? Hayles offers a way in which we can solve the problem of absent presence through her description of flickering signifiers. Hayles extends Donna Haraway’s cyborg theory in her discussion of posthumanism. She describes the posthuman as an entity that “privileges the informational pattern over material instantiation,” “thinks of the body as the original prosthesis we all learn to manipulate,” and “configures human being so that it can be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines” (2-3). If the body is the “original prosthesis,” then the blog can be seen as an additional prosthesis we learn to manipulate as a way of extending our consciousness; the blog is an extension of the physical body into the electronic.[6]

    boyd, in Broken Metaphors: Blogging as Liminal Practice (2005), suggests the blog itself is the blogger’s identity, giving them “a locatable voice and identity in a community” (11). In their study on weblog communities, Lilia Efimova, Stephanie Hendrick, and Anjo Anjewierden write, “weblogs are increasingly becoming the online identities of their authors” (2). The problem, then, is to place this within the Lacanian model; how does the online identity work with Lacan’s model of identity, when the subject has lost its subjective immediacy?

    Hayles argues in Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers (1993) that language becomes a code when made electronic due to the programming involved in transforming language from its original form into an “informational structure that emerges from the interplay between pattern and randomness” (30). Unlike the paper-based text familiar to Lacan, electronic text is neither concrete nor static; it exists in a constant state of flux—encoding and decoding, continuously deconstructed and reconstructed through the blog software. Hayles argues,

    Information technologies operate within a realm in which the signifier is opened to a rich internal play of difference. In informatics, the signifier can no longer be understood as a single marker, for example an ink mark on a page. Rather, it exists as a flexible chain of markers bound together by the arbitrary relations specified by the relevant codes. . . . a signifier on one level becomes a signified on the next-higher level (31).

    To illustrate how the signifier flickers, one need only follow a typical blog entry from entry to display. The first step in any blog entry is to enter it into the blog software’s interface. Unlike writing with a pen and paper, the form the entry takes in the blog entry interface does not necessarily match up to the form it will take when read later. The example below illustrates one such interface, from the Movable Type software (http://www.movabletype.com/).

     

    Figure 1: Entering a new blog entry in Movable Type
    Figure 1: Entering a new blog entry in Movable Type

     

    When the blogger has written her entry, she clicks the save button, and the entry is encoded into query parameters to be passed through the blogging application as a URL. For the above, it may look something like the following:

    http://staticred.net/mt/mt.cgi?author_id=1&blog_id=1&__mode=save_entry&_type=entry
    &return_args=__mode%3Dview%26_type%3Dentry%26blog_id%3D1&magic_token=
    Nu39Rg08J0lir5US6HMGiQX49nWNRxkQjQ3rX94e&action_name=&itemset_action_input=&title=
    Welcome+to+my+blog%21&convert_breaks=__default__&_text_=This+is+the+first+entry
    +of+my+blog.+Awesome%21&text_height=228&text=This+is+the+first+entry+of+my+blog.
    +Awesome%21&text_more=&tags=&category_ids=&excerpt=&keywords=&status=
    2&created_on_manual=2010-06-16+20%3A20%3A19&basename_manual=0&basename_old=
    &allow_comments=1&to_ping_urls=

    Each field within the entry interface is given a unique identifier within the query string; the text we placed in the blog’s interface is translated as the following parameters in the URL:

    title=Welcome+to+my+blog%21
    _text_=This+is+the+first+entry+of+my+blog.+Awesome%21
    created_on_manual=2010-06-16+20%3A20%3A19

    The parameters pass along the body of the post, along with its title (Welcome to my blog) and the time it was entered into the software (8:20:19 pm on June 16, 2007). The query string also contains other information pertinent to the blog entry, such as to which blog the entry appears in or whether to allow comments for the entry.

    The query string instructs the software to load a script that takes the raw values of each parameter and places them into temporary holding places called variables. Depending on how the blog software was developed, the raw values might be translated into properties of an entry object, such as:

    $entry->entry_title[7] = $_REQUEST[‘entry_title’];

    or it may be translated into an array, such as:

    $entry[‘entry_title’] = $_REQUEST[‘entry_title’];[8]

    This temporary holding place allows the programmer to condition data before it is stored in the database.

    After collecting the relevant entry data from the query string, the script passes the information to its database engine. Though database engines vary from software to software, the format generally looks like the following:

    INSERT into entry (entry_author, entry_title, entry_body, entry_authoredon) values(1,’Welcome to my blog,’’This is the first entry of my blog. Awesome!,’’ 2010-06-16 20:20:19’);

    The text may also go through a further transformation, replacing HTML Entities, such as apostrophes, quotation marks, and special characters with their ASCII code equivalents. For example, an apostrophe is replaced with ' or an é with ‚. At the end of the process, the original entry looks something like this when stored in the database file:

     

    Figure 2: Database File Readout
    Figure 2: Database File Readout

     

    This is, of course, very different from the original text; though it does contain human-readable text, it is completely divorced from context.

    The reverse process occurs when preparing the blog entry that a site visitor will see. Generally, when a visitor requests a blog entry, a script will request the entry from the database by its specific identification number (entryid in the above examples) through an SQL statement:

    $query = “SELECT * from entries, categories, users where entries.entryid = 13 and categories.categoryid=entries.categoryid
    and users.userid = entries.userid”
    $mysql_data = mysql_query($query,$db);

    The script then stores the returned entry data as an object or array, as in the following example:

    $entry_array = mysql_fetch_array($mysql_data);
    $entry_title = $entry_array[‘entry_title’];
    $entry_body = $entry_array[‘entry_body’];
    $entry_authoredon = $entry_array[‘entry_authoredon’];
    $entry_author = $entry_array[‘users_name’];
    $entry_category = $entry_array[‘category_name’];

    Finally, the script creates HTML-based text using the site’s configured templates:

    <table width=”100%” cellspacing=”0” cellpadding=”0” border=”0”>
    <tr valign=”top”>
    <td width=”70%”>
    <p>
    <? echo $entry_body; ?>
    </p>
    </td>
    <td width=”30%”>
    <p>
    <? echo $entry_title; ?>, authored on <? echo date(“F d, Y”,$entry_authoredon); ?> by <? echo $entry_author ?>. Posted to the <? echo $entry_category ?> category.
    </p>
    </td>
    </tr>
    </table>

    and displays it to the site visitor. In the above example, the visitor would see something like this:

     

    This is the first entry of my blog. Awesome! Welcome to my blog, authored on June 16, 2010 by Darren.  Posted to the Blog category.

     

    Language has become code exactly as Hayles suggested it would, and goes through several stages of encoding and decoding between its author’s creation and its viewing by the site user. At each stage of encoding, the text is divorced from its context, disassembled and reassembled anew. The presence of the blogger is divorced from the text itself in the time it takes to save the entry to its viewing by a reader. Sokari, founder and principle writer on blog Black Looks, writes that “because of the medium, this presentation can never be complete. So many signifiers of ourselves are missing, the visual, our body language, our personal lives, anxieties, pleasures, family, friends, hobbies, work and the reality of our daily lives.”
    (http://www.blacklooks.org/2006/10/blogging_from_the_borders_-_my_blog_and_i/)

    Lacan conceived of the floating signifier to describe how words within a sentence could move between sign and signifier, at least until the sentence is completed. Since language is in a constant state of flux in the blog, always shifting between text and binary, and the blogger can change the text at any time (with no literate record of its change), the division between sign and signifier is much more tenuous.

    Hayles uses the flickering signifier to discuss why there has been a shift from a focus on presence / absence to pattern / randomness, because the issue of presence/absence does not serve to “yield much leverage” when “the avatar both is and is not present” (1999, 27). In his MA thesis, Interactions through the Screen (2004), Marcelo A. Vieta uses Haraway and Hayles to discuss the posthuman self, saying “critically sensitive individuals can usurp the cyborg and posthuman narratives in order to reconstruct our subjectivity and, thus, our sense of self” (26-31). The blogger is at once present and not present because the avatar of her identity is persistent through her blog entries. She simultaneously takes on the subjective roles of author and reader, flickering back and forth between the "Social I" and the "Ideal I."

    The Lacanian process of identity formation is denied resolution and the blogger is left to chase the tail of her identity’s constantly shifting subject position. A process not dissimilar from Jacques Lacan’s mirror stage theory of identity formation is encountered by the blogger as she blogs; however, unlike the Lacanian subject, her identity is in a constant state of construction and deconstruction, flickering between the ideal and social “I” reflected back at them. Lacanian identity is troubled by the posthuman body, which lacks presence/absence, and it is unable to resolve its identity.

    References

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    boyd, d. (2006). “A blogger’s blog: Exploring the definition of a medium. Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture. 6(4). Retrieved from http://reconstruction.eserver.org/064/boyd.shtml

    boyd, d. (2005, June). Broken metaphors: Blogging as liminal practice. Paper presented at Media Ecology Association (MEA) Conference, New York, NY. Retrieved from http://www.danah.org/papers/MEABrokenMetaphors.pdf

    Genette, G. (1987). Paratexts: Thresholds of interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Hayles, N. K. (1999). How we became posthuman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Halyes, N. K. (1993). Virtual bodies and flickering signifiers. October, 66, 66-91. Retrieved from http://www.english.ucla.edu/faculty/hayles/Flick.html

    Herring, S. C. et al. (2005, July). Women and children last: The discursive construction of weblogs. In L. Gurak et al. (Eds.), Into the blogosphere: Rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs. Online.

    Huffaker, D. A., & Calvert, S. L. (2005). Gender, identity, and language use in teenage blogs. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(2). Retrieved from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue2/huffaker.html

    Jenn. (2006, June 27). Why I blog reappropriate. Retrieved October 8, 2007 from http://www.reappropriate.com/?p=448 (no longer available)

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    Endnotes

    [1] Olson writes that the term is “not a single problem but rather a wide range of loosely connected questions” of personhood, persistence, evidence, and population.

    [2] Alternately called “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” and “A Cyborg Manifesto.” Although Haraway does address the culturally familiar concept of ‘cyborg,’ the term as used in her manifesto is a more generic one, geared towards describing an individual that crosses the border between organic and mechanical. She expands her theory to point to physical/information, and finally signal/noise as further borders to blur.

    [3] A parallel to this occurs in the blog; though the blogger often writes in the first person, there is often much third person inserted into the blog itself; the blog is sometimes named after the blogger—as in darrenbarefoot.com—or contains a line after each entry with the blogger’s name (or pseudonym) inserted into it, such as “Posted by Dutch,” which is added to every post at Sweet Juniper.

    [4] Until the death of her father, that is. On December 13, 2006, Kennedy shifted her identity from Mrs. Kennedy to Eden Marriott Kennedy. When her father died in May of 2007, she started blogging about her trip back home and her experience with her family.

    [5] It is notable that Whitehead does not define what he means by ‘superject’ until almost 30 pages later. A superject is “the atomic creature exercising its function of objective immortality.” (71)

    [6] Serfaty discusses the role of the body in the online experience in her chapter, “Male and Female Cyberbodies.” Her analysis, however, is focused on the untangling of gender in the online space, and the role of the physical body in the online diary.

    [7] Generally, whether stored as an object property or array, entry data will be given identifiers that match their database identifiers. This isn’t a requirement by any means, but rather an issue of convenience for the programmer, especially when working with objects.

    [8] The examples given are pseudo-code, and not drawn directly from any particular blog software in order to save space. Blog software draws on complex programming structures, which draw on several different internal functions to save entries.