Remix Identity: From Theatrical to Digital, Constructions of Self
Role-playing has a long history in rituals and theater. MySpace, YouTube, Second Life and an array of other digital technologies have beckoned in the age of mass digital role-playing. Personal identity is “remixed” in these digital spaces, in the sense that it is “superimposed” behind a screen name, digital characterization or avatar. A dual-image is present, similar to the dual-image of the actor and the character being performed on stage, but in the digital realm, there is a fine line between the user’s authentic identity, as opposed to their character/imagined sense of self. Digital spaces are, of course, full of deception, but on the level of personal identity, they also encourage profound self-deception. One notices a narcissism and obsession with self-performance in the users of Facebook. How is it that digitization can so heavily influence a subject’s self-identification? Is personal identity being commodified in these digital spaces (considering MySpace’s estimated worth is somewhere between 1.5 and 12 billion dollars)? Or is digitization an opportunity for a more creative, freer construction of self? I will ague the latter in this paper that begins with a postmodern/social-constuctionist (or constructivist) conception of identity, and proceeds to link it to the aesthetic practice of remixing or repurposing content in the material world. Additionally, this paper explores how remixing (a term usually associated with music and sometimes visual art) has a correlate in the act of superimposing “the roles we play” over our authentic feelings of who we think we are. My hope is, that by actively imagining, constructing and promoting the remix of identity in digital space, digitization will become a more positive force of identity construction in our lives (rather than a bastion of obsessive compulsions, deceptions and ultimately, unfulfilled desires).
Keywords: Identity, Digital, Digital Media, Remix, Remixing, Repurposing, Sociology, Self, DJ, Postmodern, Postomodernism, Postmodernity, Art
Assoc. Prof. Jamie O'Neil
Assistant Professor, Digital Media Arts, Communication Studies Department, Canisius College