Monday, December 13, 2010

Subjective Identity: Falsification of Self and the Over Consuming Capitalists

Kenneth Malate
Professor Wexler
English 313
13 December 2010

Subjective Identity: Falsification of Self and the Over Consuming Capitalists

In the late 90’s when the public saw the boom of the internet, a medium that would later be the most useful and known tool in the world, many saw the immense possibilities that came with it. Some saw the potential for faster communication through out the world with the lightning fast e-mail system. Some saw the outstanding money-making possibilities that it provided due to better product advertisement. Almost unanimously though, what no one saw coming was the destructive power that it would conjure up with all the negative aspects that it brought alongside the positive perks. In the process of making “our lives easier” the internet has also damaged the ultimate idea of our identity. It also developed a money grubbing capitalist society corrupt and almost overwhelmingly overbearing with it’s over advertising in almost every way possible.

When speaking about the internet today, most think about e-mails, online shopping, and for some, even pornography and the mass consumption of that product comes to mind. With today’s generation though, the internet is mostly synonymous with the idea of online social networking websites. With the boom of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and even online dating websites such as and E-Harmony the possibilities of meeting people and making such connections have gotten so easy that it’s almost ridiculous. Open up any teenager or college student’s computer and you’ll see the gross amount of time they spend on any of these networking sites and you’d be amazed by it. Actually, it’s not just the younger generation, even adults have overly consumed the media at this point that to say social networking sites have become almost a universal language to many. Stumble into any given conversation and it is a guarantee that someone will bring up a topic about any of these given sites. Some of us even know people that are guilty of overly consuming the media and spend ridiculous amounts of time in these things on any given day.

One particular aspect that is ultimately disturbing is the way social networking has changed and evolved what we think of as the idea for “Identity.” Usually when we hear the word we think of the underlying idea that we are known by, that’s what identity is, right? Webster’s dictionary defines identity as “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” What stands out the most in that statement are the words “distinguishing character.” That alone entails the idea that one has to be unique in some way, doesn’t it? Does that mean that in order for the concept of identity to work, one must be in total accordance to the unique aspect of that sentiment? Because quite frankly, that’s somehow not the case in our society today, especially with the boom of the Facebook generation.

Social networking websites has somehow managed to changed the whole aspect of the general “identity” idea in more ways that one. It has transformed it’s very meaning by tweaking the ‘unique’ aspect of it. But looking at it, is it really a changed idea, or is it a matter of simply being honest? According to Habermas, “our ability to make truth claims is dependent on a democratically organized public sphere which approximates an ‘ideal speech situation’. It is a space that mediates between society and the state where the public organizes itself and where ‘public opinion is formed’. (Habermas 199) When you think about it, Facebook, MySpace, all these social networking websites are figuratively, maybe even literally, are comparable to the public spheres in the bourgeoisie era. The websites serves as a place where people can put forth their own public opinions and have others who may or may not share these opinions to speak about it with. Although the original public spheres were ultimately protected from the government and the churches, it doesn’t mean that these spheres don’t hold the same concept dear today. I mean, if one really thinks about it, in a society where there is an increase defiance for laws and increase disdain for religion, maybe our current public sphere isn’t really that much different from theirs.

According to Elias, “The concept of the ‘I’ is a western concept. People in other cultures don’t always share the individualistic sense of uniqueness and self-consciousness that is widespread in western societies. Instead personhood is inseparable from a network of kinship relations and social obligations.”(Elias 216) So what does that say about our identity as individuals? Elias seems to make the conclusion that there really is no such thing as an individual identity. Which relates to the modern social networking identity that we have today. Most of the time, people are so alike with accordance to their peers that it gets pretty tough to decipher one person from the others. There’s a lot of truth in this when it comes to certain groups and peers. For instance, find a group of gothic kids and it’s a guarantee that most of them will almost have identical interests, likes, so on so forth. It’s like the saying, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. It’s a sad justification of what happens when people are grouped into certain sects. They lose their individual identities because of it. That statement slithers nicely into the next theorist in the list. Elias also adds that “what it means to be a person is social and cultural ‘all the way down’. Identities are wholly social constructions and cannot ‘exist’ outside of cultural representations.” (Elias 216) This statement further backs up the notion that people are just individuals that were constructed by their own culture and society and that they really are not individual beings.

Hall suggests that people are “social creatures,” he insists that “though the self is conceived as possessing an inner unified core, this is formed interactively between the inner world and the outside social world.” (Hall 220) Again this goes back to the idea that who we are as people have a great deal to do with our environments and our social constructs. In order to fully understand someone, one must look into that other person’s surrounding. For example, there is a saying that birds of the same feather flock together, and this is true in so many ways. People with the same interests usually stick with each other because of the understanding factor and the easiness of it. Hall suggests another factor that identity is merely a social construct. He says that people’s identities are created by their surroundings and the “significant others” in their lives. Hall talks about how people’s inner cores were not autonomous but were socially constructed through these others. These significant others would have to be close to them as identities are usually developed early on, which is one chances are these others are most likely family members and real close friends. From these people we learn ideologies, languages and certain mannerisms. These traits are learned through praises, punishments, imitations and languages that are given to us from them.

Giddens says that “identity is what we as persons think it is.” (Giddens 217) This statement alone makes a lot of sense since the same gothic kids, I’m sure, believe they are all separate individual beings with their own sense of uniqueness. Going back to this same sentiment though, it is clear that by definition, Giddens follows suit with the belief that individualism is what you make it as people. It leads one to believe that by assuming you are an individual, that actually makes you one. It’s a seemingly boring concept to ponder upon because this is exactly what society views individualism as. From a general perspective, everyone appears to be of individualistic origins, but under a microscope and under great viewing, that actually is not the case.

Perhaps that is one of the biggest downfall that social networking has caused our society. That is, the ability for others to greatly put people under tremendous scrutiny with the societal microscope. Now more than ever, people are being judged word for word, picture for picture, by people they know, and often, by those they don’t. It has sparked a cyber stalking phenomena that seems to be socially accepted by everyone. More and more people are finding ways to creepily find out information about others that they wouldn’t really know if it wasn’t for these social networking websites. An even bigger issue that is hidden beneath all these things is the fact that people seem to know others even before actually meeting them. Meaning, because of the social networking websites and the access that they provide to people, more and more are taking advantage of “getting to know others” before actually meeting them. I for one am guilty of this. In more than one occasion, I’ve “searched” for someone and browsed through their profile just to find out something about them. A task that would have required much more effort if these websites didn’t exist.

The interesting part about cyber stalking is that it isn’t merely a way one street. In order for this to happen, both individuals has to be at fault. By that I mean one has to do the actual stalking and searching and constant looking, while the person being stalked has to openly and acceptingly put up personal informations about themselves. Because really, some of these people just simply ask for that kind of thing. It would be a lot harder for cyber stalkers to do this is people just kept their lives a lot more private. Instead, they choose to publicly post revealing and embarrassing photographs, put up statuses that give out way too much info than they really should, and of course, the biggest stalker helper there is, the Places option. This new tool pinpoints exactly where they are at any given moment, with the user’s consent of course, and most of the time, they do give their consents. That in itself bother’s me the most, because for someone to care about their own privacy, giving your location for anyone to see seems like the most idiotic thing a person could do.

Another distinguishing fault that social networking exposed within our society is the phenomena of the subjective identity. More and more now it seems like people feel the need to cater to societal changes by adjusting who they are as individuals. It’s an ironic thought that in today’s society, being an “individual” entails falling and fitting into a certain mold that society tells you to be. There is no longer a hold on self pride that doesn’t include validation from others.

One thing that social networking did for the masses is that it has been a tool that lets people create and re-create their natural born identity. Although that seems to confront the idea of the social identity, the truth is that it actually goes hand in hand. The alternating self is always in a constant fluctuation based on who is around the subject or person. Giddens said that “identity is not something that we have, nor an entity or a thing to which we can point. It is not something that we possess. Rather, identity is a mode of thinking about ourselves. It is a project. It is our creation. It is something always in process, a moving towards rather than an arrival.” (Giddens 217) Giddens theory is probably the best one as it ties in all the others together. It proves what the others are essentially talking about. It ties in the idea of an ever changing identity that Hall and Elias talks about. It covers the basic idea with the cultural and societal construct swaying people and molding them to be another way. Essentially, Giddens talks about how people’s identities are created in an ongoing fashion. He says that identities are projects that people actually work on their selves and their outside images in a constant basis. He states that people are changing in an ongoing fashion and that it is in constant transformation. Essentially an identity is not something that is a status but in fact a place that is to be reached as a goal. For example, these goals can be to change one’s self with accordance to how our society and our surroundings wants to see us. We are in their light and they want us to appear, or even, we want to appear in the mold that they want us in so we constantly change ourselves and progress towards that ideological mold. This is best seen through the social networking sight, Facebook. People are always obsessing over their profiles and other stuff on their Facebook because they always want to appear a certain way to others. Case in point, people put so much effort into fiing up their “Profiles”, which holds private information about themselves that many look at in order to gain a better understanding about them. People put so much emphasis on these tools because they know they are being judged on a different basis than they would if they were all to meet in real life. Another thing that people try to control are the pictures that they put up. Pictures are a big thing with social networking sites as they often serve as the “first impressions factor” for many people. Meaning that those who are seeing these pictures are witnessing images that the user wanted them to see. Sort of like a job interview, they are seeing the person that the interviewee wanted them to see. They are seeing their representatives so to speak. Users have the ability to choose how they want to appear to the public. They can choose to post up good, bad, even naughty images. But this one is for certain, any image that is posted in one’s profile is thought out thoroughly, no one ever puts up images of things that they thought were just “ok looking”, of course not. Another thing that is widely used to determine ones identity is essentially by following their status updates. I personally believe that this one is the most telling when it comes to figuring a person out. Much like Twitter, status updates are short ideas or thoughts that are typed into a box and sent out in a mass consumption way for the whole world to see. What sets status updates and tweets apart is that these are thoughts off the top of people’s heads. They are like ideas that are released into the public without any real filters so what you see is someone’s actual legitimate thought that was released in real time. So in a sense, you are given a view into what is ultimately going on in a person’s head. It is quite shocking and scary to think about since you know that whatever you put out into the internet is automatically consumed by the people you know, and those you don’t. Which is why I personally am a proponent of beefing up people’s privacies.

Lastly, one other issue that is constantly on is the idea that business and corporations are the biggest benefactors of social networking websites. Lash states the postmodern culture as “figural” and says that “it puts stress on the visual, draws from everyday life and that it immerses the subject with their desire for the culture and object.” (Lash 202) This in itself is a statement to how far our culture has gone from the days of advertising only on the radio and newspapers to the now widespread advertising power that the new wave of social networking sites have provided to the new culture we are currently under going. For instance, twitter has become a way for businesses to easily get the word out to their followers. The same goes for Facebook since anyone now has the chance to get the word out of what’s in and what’s out. Another benefactor of course are the artists and their record companies who would otherwise not have the fan base or the word of mouth needed to spread the word about their artists. Twitter is a big boost to many artists as it is the best place to tell their fans and followers of the new things that they are working on and the new music they are coming out with. MySpace was very influential to this movement as they hosted many new artists who garnered a ton of fans because of the easiness to spread the word. The biggest artist from the MySpace generation perhaps is someone like Justin Bieber who started as someone that played in his mom house to perhaps the biggest artist we have today, sadly.

The biggest factor in this new postmodern culture and consumerism is that both big and small businesses now have the abilities to compete in a level playing field. Before, big businesses always had the upper hand in advertising battles since they could easily pay places to advertise their products. Now with the help of social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, it has become much more easier to get the word out to customers and it made the competition a leveled playing field.

Social networking websites may have had an upper hand on our current cultural standpoint but truthfully that may not have been a good thing. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace created a society with false identities and an overly corrupt advertising frenzy. It has created false individuals with mistaken and/or lacking identities that walk around portraying themselves as someone they are not. These “unique” individuals that fit the mold of what society told them to be are embarrassments to the whole concept of the individual self that society and America was founded on.

Works Cited
Elias. "Personhood as a Cultural Production" Cultural Studies: Theory & Practice. By Chris Barker. 3rd ed. London, UK: SAGE Publications LTD, 2008. 216. Print.
Giddens, Anthony. "Social Identities" Cultural Studies: Theory & Practice. By Chris Barker. 3rd ed. London, UK: SAGE Publications LTD, 2008. 216-220. Print.
Habermas, Jurgen. "The Public Sphere" Cultural Studies: Theory & Practice. By Chris Barker. 3rd ed. London, UK: SAGE Publications LTD, 2008. 199. Print.
Hall, Stuart. "The Postmodern Subject" Cultural Studies: Theory & Practice. By Chris Barker. 3rd ed. London, UK: SAGE Publications LTD, 2008. 220. Print.
Lash, Scott. "Postmodernism and the Collapse of Cultural Boundaries" Cultural Studies: Theory & Practice. By Chris Barker. 3rd ed. London, UK: SAGE Publications LTD, 2008. 201-202. Print.

Monday, December 6, 2010

MySpace Group

I was part of the MySpace/ Social networking group and we tackled the many issues that are faced in the social networking realm today. These issues include the justification of subjectivity and identity, postmodernism, consumerism and social interaction. Being that its a topic that was loosely all over the place, many of us decided to choose a particular route and focus on those. I decided to put forth all of my effort in finding relevant information on the subject of Subjectivity and Identity (which will be prevalent in my final essay). I decided to focus on strong examples that would best help in making the identity part of the project flow smoothly. It was my intent to find questions that would best work for the project, although the questions that were used in the actual game itself weren’t mine, but Jeanette’s.

Along with doing research for the identity part, during the actual presentation itself we decided to spread the duties around and since Evelyn came up with the first examples for identity and since we weren’t sure that the time allotted would actually be enough, we decided that it would be best if one of us read instead of two, so Evelyn read the identity part and I read the questions for the game. All in all, it was a project that wouldn’t have been possible without the help from every single member of the group.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seinfeld Said it Best

Seinfeld. When one thinks of life skills, people and relationship alike, usually we think of looking into other form of medias as our main resources. I guess that also includes Seinfeld into that mix. Seinfeld is an interesting sitcom as it portrays life in a lighter fashion, like many shows of this matter. Although what sets Seinfeld apart is not its subjectivity matter but it's time setting. It is one of the very first sitcom to talk about the things it did (homosexuality, sex, etc.) openly.
In one of the episodes it talks about meeting the "perfect man." Of course, in this episode we are introduce to the pseudo-macho type with the good looks, and wit. Oh and yeah, he's gay. Of course. The interesting aspect is the way they went about his homosexuality.

In particular to acting, Saussure said that "the meaning is the outcome not of the intentions of actors per se but of the language itself." Which makes sense because throughout the scenes with this certain situation he was never really called out as being gay but he did and said things that made it seem to the viewers as if he was really and truly gay. From little things like "playing for the other team", which are baseball analogies that are used to describe those who sway the other way, to reference about shopping and other things.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bruising the Male Ego

Since the beginning of time it has been the set rule, even widely understood, that men are suppose to always, and I mean ALWAYS ask the girl out. It's just how it's done. Along with that, it's also the norm to let the man pay. Right? ehhh. Maybe.

As of late, a new trend has sprouted from seemingly out of nowhere. Women are asking men out. Women are paying for the bill. WHHHAAAT?! Call it female empowerment, or simply "them" taking matters into their own hands, but I for one am a proponent of this. It takes off the pressure. The pressure that says men should do all the work. SOooooo, I'm fine with that!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Response Paper: Life as We Know It

Kenneth Malate
Professor Wexler
English 313
Response Paper
Admittedly, this was one of the harder essays I’ve ever had to write in my life. Not because of the paper itself, but because I for one am a connoisseur of the romantic comedy genre. I felt that by analyzing a movie from this genre would somehow persuade my mind to look at these movies in a different light. That wasn’t exactly the case. In fact, it seemed like every single movie that I’ve seen seems to make a lot more sense now, not only aesthetically, but also in a deeper sense of the movie making experience.
I was initially only interested in one movie. The movie was recently released. It is a film by Greg Berlanti called “Life as We Know It.” In the film the main protagonists, Holly and Messer, were chosen to be the caring adoptive parents of a little baby girl named Sophie after a tragic accident took the lives of her parents, who also happened to be the best friends of Holly and Messer. Here’s the catch, Holly and Messer and completely different people, emotionally and philosophically. In fact, they almost hate each other, especially after botching a blind date they were set up on just a few years back. This particular movie tackles a few topics we’ve discussed in class.
One of them is from the Romantic Comedy book by Tamar McDonald. According to McDonald, every single “traditional” romantic comedy movie follows a certain pattern. There’s a certain flow to every movie, so he states. He says that romantic comedy’s frameworks are designed as follows, “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, then boy regains girl [happily ever after follows].”(McDonald) Every single movie that attempts to achieve that “feel good” emotion from their audiences attempts this very said style of filmography. This movie is no different than any other. The interesting part though is that this is a classical romantic comedy that tries to mask itself as a non-traditional one. For instance, one would say that in a “typical” movie, you would see the main family as being from the same blood lines and same family structure, but not this movie. The marriage structure is basically non-existent, the child they both take care of is not even theirs, which makes the whole family structure whacked.
In a sense this movie does follow the traditional way most romantic comedies are intended to be. “The radical romantic comedy acknowledges that its characters are in search of meaningful and satisfying relationships; and sometimes to the contrary, that they also seek romance” (McDonald) They have the same thematic style of boy meets, loses and regains girl. What’s interesting of course is the movie’s on radical way of drafting out that same exact scenario. By analyzing movies, especially with the luxury of having the knowledge of the classical pattern of movies, it makes movie watching somewhat of a bore since most movies tends to fall into the unintended predictability most romantic comedies suffer through. Again, like every other aspect of this movie, this falls in with that same problem. It seemed like the discourse and the way the movie was served just prolonged the inevitable. The “meeting” was brief and short as it was shown in the beginning and it was quickly done through the introduction and opening credits. The in between of course is always the best part as this is where the main plot and conflict are shown.
Another topic that was discussed in class that was tackled in this movie is this the idea of the “title one has.” For instance, what makes someone a “mother.” Does it have to be something that is biological? In the movie, Holly technically gets custody of Sophie when her parents passed away and she ultimately becomes her “mother.”
Life as We Know It tackles two main ideas discussed in our class meetings. One is the idea of what a romantic comedy is against what a radical romantic comedy is. The other is Derrida’s relational definition of objects as they are seen with conjunction to the materials they are being compared with. Life as We Know It makes for a great movie considering it’s elemental components and dynamic story plot that makes it sort of a classic staple for a not-so-radical radical romantic comedy.

Life As We Know It. Dir. Greg Berlanti. Perf. Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel. Warner Bros, 2010. Film
McDonald, Tamar Jeffers. Romantic Comedy: Boy Meets Girl Meets Genre. New York:
Wallflower Press, 2007. Print.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Virgins. Mary Did it, Why Can't Andy?

There seems to be this social understanding that men are suppose to lose their virginity once they reach a certain age. It seems to be a damning factor since for some reason we are expected to lose our virginity once puberty sets in, unlike women, who were suppose to stay "pure" until the right time, whenever that is. I've always wondered why that is the case to begin with? Is it the dominance factor? Are men suppose to make their mark early on in life in order to establish dominance amongst the other men in their area? Is this to establish dominance over women in general? It's quite confusing really. Kimura said "Evidence also suggests that men have lower 'arousal thresholds' than women, who are able to pay greater focused attention to events and more swiftly than men." So that's it?! Men are essentially easier aroused than women are? Thus explains why men are expected to lose it faster! right? It still doesn't make sense..

Friday, September 24, 2010

Newsflash! Sex- Women Like it Too

McDonald discusses three main components of a Romantic Comedy which were the Visual, the Narrative Pattern and the Ideology. In the ideology aspect, we observe that there is always the quintessential character who plays the "ideal" one but of course, as many rom com fans, we later find out that the ideal ones are usually not the right ones for the main characters. That was certainly the case for the movie "10". We see George who was the "Ideal" bachelor. Women, money, the single life. He had a significant other waiting on him, yet he chose to chase Jenny around, who was considered his "ideal" woman. He then finds out she wasn't what he wanted and chooses to go back to Samantha, his girlfriend.
Watching this movie, we see a critical relevance to Jenny's character and the Sexual Revolution of the 60's. It's an interesting concept because socially, it is more understandable that the men are the ones sleeping around and craving the sexual relations. But in this movie, the woman's side is analyzed as we learn that women are just like men. This is further solidified by Kinsey who said, "women were already doing it and also quite enjoying it"