“There is a need for identity politics that encourage the production of alternative discourses of the self for more inclusive practices of imagining.”

I wrote a short piece discussing the digital self from the perspective of potentiality and the becoming of the self for the M/C Journal issue on ‘automediality‘. I draw on a previous study (with Annamari Huovinen) on plus-sized fashion bloggers and examine blogging as automedial self-construction, where automedia entails both the media about the maker (the subject) and the process of mediating the self.

“Blogging as automedia is not only a way of making visible that which occupies the margins, it also actively contributes to diversifying identification points in the public sphere that are not limited to the digital, but have implications regarding the production of social realities, regardless of the mode in which these are experienced.”

I reflect on the possibilities and restrictions embedded in the shared imagination feeding into identification processes in the current media landscape, and discuss the parameters for imagining the self in the wider context of contemporary consumer society and for constructing the self in the digital narration that transforms the potentiality of the self into existence. Identity is one of the enduring interests in digital media research and has been approached from multiple perspectives variably emphasising such themes as authenticity, resistance, anonymity, and such. In this short piece, I employ the less common relational approach to being, developed by Kenneth Gergen, which emphasises relational being.

More specifically, I examine the self in relation to the market and the contemporary consumer society to explore the relational tensions shaping identity construction of marginalised individuals. With the help of the notion of social imaginary I look at relations of inclusion and exclusion as forces that position individuals and impose a consumer subjectivity even when identity projects are resistant in nature, aiming for greater inclusion, visibility, and social acceptance.
“The fatshion blog as a form of automedia is driven by the desire for change in the social circumstances where self-construction can take place, toward the future potential of the self, by diversifying acceptable subject positions and constructing novel identification points for fat women. The means are limited, however, and despite the explicit agenda of promoting body positivity, the collective aspirations are rooted in consumption and realised in the realm of fashion and the market.”
The question, therefore, is whether resistance outside the market is possible, or whether the desire for inclusion, the ‘aspiration for normalcy’, necessitate market participation and the adoption of consumer subjectivity. I argue the social imaginaries that feed into identity construction and offer pathways to normalcy and acceptance cannot be seen as simply enabling, but instead construct fields of constrained possibility (Harju, 2017) thereby imposing limitations to the kind of acceptable identity positions marginalised individuals can seek.
I therefore reflect on the parameters of imagining the self, the relational tensions present in the automedial construction of the self, in the becoming of the self in the contemporary consumer society where “consumer subjectivity offers normative intelligibility in the various expressions of identity, providing tools for the becoming of an included subject…”
However, “it raises the question of whether resistant identity can occur outside the market and outside the logic of consumption when it seeks social inclusion.”
Blogging as automedia makes visible that which occupies the margins and narrates the potentiality of the self into being. It also contributes to adding diversity to the range of identification points in the public sphere, to discourses of the self, that are not limited to the digital but have implications regarding the production of social realities, regardless of the mode in which these are experienced.

You can read the article A Relational Approach to the Digital Self: Plus-Sized Bloggers and the Double-Edged Sword of Marked-Compromised Identity in the M/C Journal issue focusing on the theme of ‘automediality‘.

Blogs, Digital culture, Gender, identity, Media

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