Patrice Riemens on Wed, 26 Feb 2014 23:46:00 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium, Part One, Section 6,

Part One, Section 6, # 1.

Public and Private, Ontology and Identity

Is what is private also public? According to Facebook, everything private
should tend towards becoming as public as possible. Public meaning of
course  managed by, published on, and made available through Facebook, a
private enterprise. But the social networks to which an individual belong
are not the same as her or his 'behavioural networks' (that of people sHe
meets often, without them being 'friends', like parents, ofsprings,
siblings, neighbours, etc. They do not correspond either with his/her
on-line networks. Danah Boyd's writings in the matter are particularly
clear [25]. The fundamental issue always remains the same: that of the
personal ontology being created within a collective context. This is how
Mark Zuckerberg thinks about it:

"You have one identity," he emphasized three times in a single interview
with David Kirkpatrick in his book, 'The Facebook Effect.' "The days of
you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for
the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly."
He adds: "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of

We at Ippolita have always taken as a premise that identity is the place
of difference, and this for biological, psychological, and cultural
reasons we have already expounded [27]. With his moralism, Zuckergerg
gives the impression he is about to cleave through the Gordian knot of
mendacity, by asserting the necessity to have one identity, and one only,
clear, and precise, so as not to lie to oneself and to others. Zuckerberg
would like us to believe that he aims to reconstitute our identities,
shattered in thousands fragments in our relentlessly competitive modern
lives, and that he wants to give us back our lost (mythical) integrity. So
he pushes us to elaborate a personal profile, reconciling, as in a
succesful advertisement of ourselves: a hard working, hard playing
personna, an affectionate familly man/woman, a luscious sexual subject, a
spiritual and friendly me, a social and charitable character, and so
forth. Facebok as the byword for specialised mass self-marketing.

Abolishing identity is admittedly impossible. Just as it is impossible to
abolish power. And we may be glad about that: it is what makes evolution,
change, and communication possible. Identity needs to be managed,
multiplied, altered, re-created - just like power needs to be. To
communicate means to talk-write from out a specific place, that is to
assume an identity, or to built up a knowledge-power. Writing is based on
language, which is based on identity, which in its turn is based on power.
Whichever are the means we use in order to communicate, we are already
entangled in the negotiation of identities, both personal and collective.

But social life, as practised today, flawed and pefectible as it may be,
implies the possibility to circulate, at will, different versions of
ourselves, resulting in different identities for others to repercuss,
leading us to adjust ourselves to new social relationships. We are not
'the same person' to each and everyone. So the question is not about being
able to access various level of depths within a single individual profile,
but to be really different according to the prevailing situation. Despite
this apparent incoherence, this is abolutely necessary and positive for
us, in order to be in accordance with our own integrety. As we shall see
later on in detail, it is important to spread out the knowledge-power, by
strengthening the bonds with our loved ones, by establishing connexions
where there were none before, by cutting off the dead wood. What
definitely should not be done is to solidify the knowledge-power into a
static identity by accumulating data whose association leads to a
segmentation that is only commercially relevant, and has the
personalisation of advertisements for sole purpose.

In daily (real) life, we do not behave the same way in the presence of our
parents as we do when we are with our children. We don't talk with our
children about our prefessional problems, unless we want, for some reason,
to make them feel they bear some responsability for them. And if we would
talk about the same with our friends, we still would do that in a
different manner. We are not going to parties together with our parents,
and certainly not with the postman, even though we (used to -transl.) see
him every morning. We don't have sex with our boss either (or at least,
not everybody does). So why should sHe be our 'friend' on Facebook, for
Chrissake, or, worse still, share the information which we reserve to our
partner? Yet, the affection that bonds us to the members of our own family
is no less the affection we feel towards our friends. And we spend most
probably more time at work than enjoying our love life. This is simply
because we have are faced with different types of relationships, within
different social networks, each demanding a different identity.

(to be continued)

[25] For a scholarly presentation, see Danah M. Boyd & Nicole B. Harison,
Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship, Journal of
Computer-Mediated Communications, (13), 1, October 2008, pp 210-30. The
site is also worth a visit.
[26] See David Kirckpatrick, The Facebook Effect, Simon & Schuster, 2009
[27] For a radical appraoch on identity as place of difference, see Rosi
Braidotti: Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming,
Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002.

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
( - Dutch site)
( - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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