Discourses of Disreality

an exploration of the identity in cyberspace

Ruiyan Xu '01

To write by fragments: the fragments are then so many stones on the perimeter of a circle: I spread myself around: my whole little universe in crumbs; at the center, what? -Roland Barthes.

In this project I attempt to explore the role of identity in cyberspace using an autobiographical, multi-linear form in a hypertextual environment.

Western culture is obsessed with the concept of the ego.

According to Donna Haraway, we seek to be in possession, to have "ownership of [the] self -- [a] core identity." In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the a child's initiation into adulthood is the moment he recognizes himself in the mirror and his identity becomes destabilized. From Polonius' infamous utterance of "to thy own self be true" to the cliched aphorism of "finding your self", the construction and possession of an individual identity which consciously or unconsciously concerns all of us.

But is the self whole and able to be possessed at once? Jack E. Steele claims that

We are all multiple .. we all have things we've forgotten, areas we don't remember. Different parts do different things. In different circumstances we're different people.

In the following project, I attempt to show the fragmentation of self in cyberspace as a result of two conditions:

1. Cyberspace as a medium - the computer screen as a projection of the self's identity. Like an avatar in Neal Stephenson's SnowCrash, our selves in cyberspace can be manipulated into what we perceive and what we want others to perceive.

In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art. -- Roland Barthes

2. The hypertextuality of cyberspace in which multi-linear narratives flourish. This allows for the subject in question to take diverging and converging tracts without complete disassociation.

All this must be considered as if spoken by a character in a novel--or rather by several characters. For the image-repertoire, fatal substance of the novel, and the labyrinth of levels in which anyone who speaks about himself gets lost -- the image-repertoire is taken over by several masks (personae), distributed according to the depth of the stage (and yet no one--personne, as we say in French is behind them).
--Roland Barthes

To follow me through the twists and turns of a labyrinth of myself:

....step this way....

back to the cyberspace overview