Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Myspace and Facebook Heterotopias

While reading Foucault’s article on heterotopias, I couldn’t help but think that one of our most prominent heterotopias in the realms and crisis of adolescence and young adulthood today is MySpace and Facebook, these alternate mirrors of ourselves that we believe to accurately replicate who we are in the “real” world and are able to express our “true selves” to the real world. Let’s face it, when we find someone on MySpace or Facebook, we assume things about that person based on what they have listed. We usually can understand what is to be a joke, what is ironic, what is truth, what tenants that person actually sticks to. It is this electronic file that is out of time, but has a site somewhere on the internet. We can visualize a site for it somewhere in that data, and because we cannot touch or see it in except through the florescent glowing of our computers, it begins to not exist in our actual reality, as does the “honeymoon ride.” The pictures we upload to these social networks can follow Foucault’s third principle of heterotopias in that they juxtapose in a single visual space, and a data-based hypertext space, several places and events which are not compatible. Obviously, these again are linked to time as photographs are slices of time people want to remember, or look good in. People can access our profiles in penetrative ways if they so choose on the internet by choosing to find us and entering some search criteria to find us, but we can also limit this data with our own use of privacy settings (fifth principle). Also, this data being put up for grabs is a record of our own personal histories through pictures, wall posts, blog responses, messages, relationship changes, and remains a function for us and others too all the space that will remain after. As materials get shipped out and changed by the loading dock of our own tapping into the internet, and the tapping of our fingers to imprint the codes of what the new information will be, everything gets recorded in time and can be accessed later (sixth principle).

However, I find a strange juxtaposition in the way that these heterotopias of hypertext are simply a mirror of reality, and how in the past few years, that breakdown of the line, the mirror edge, between heterotopias and reality has led to strange implications and psychological understandings. First of all, people find it much easier to be more honest and opinionated over a virtual environment than in person, because without the use of something so uniquely personal such as a human voice, facial expressions, gestures, or handwriting, they become a nameless entity. However, this nameless entity does not become a cyborg, in that gender and desire still exist over these social networks, as people will come onto others, ask others on dates, tell people they’re cute, or more disturbingly, as MySpace has shown us, solicit sex or produce results of rape and child molestation due to fake identities. I guess what I want to ask is, why do we believe these profiles to be true showings of ourselves through irony, humor, or flat out facts, when we know that there is not place for them in a non-digital world? What makes this data true to the human that types it, if that entity, the one that is doing the typing and the thinking, becomes nameless and is totally digitally comprised? Why do we believe what we say or try to resolve over these mediums will actually be addressed or fixed if we do not use human voices or interaction? What truth of digital media keeps us hanging onto these notions of internet truths if we hear of so many problems? Why can’t we write them off as slightly real, but acknowledged unreal, as with most heterotopias?

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