Modification or Abstraction

"Issue": 006

Beyond my own neuroticism. Our collective awareness of the relationship between production and consumption in digital spaces is steadily increasing.


In a productize way, I’ve been thinking about what the awareness that our identity is constantly consumed around the web does to our sense of self. I explored this in an essay I wrote around last Thanksgiving, you can read here.

What I did not explore explicitly in that essay is how we have manipulated ourselves visually due to this realization of consumption. It is not that this is excruciatingly different than any other time in history. The minute we become aware of another's gaze, there is a conscious effort to control how we present. But the technological progress of altering one’s physical self for digital performance draws larger questions for me. I believe this is best materialized through the popularity of GANs used for photo editing. Enhancing my lips or altering my eye shape, etc. Perhaps this is the digital equivalent to highlighting / contouring. Maybe it is something much more intricate that requires a deeper critique.

Another answer to this increased awareness that leads to the performative nature of social, is why I am building Eternal.

I believe a better answer than going deeper into performance/photo manipulation is abstracting the nature of self online into digital identities. Maybe it is self-fulfilling prophecy, but as I’ve gone deeper with building avatars for digital expression. I have felt a discomfort of posting photos of myself online. This is why I’m a floating hand everywhere but Facebook. Why I’ve been turning my Instagram into my new visual Tumblr. Pulling screenshots around the web to share what I like and why. The list of my behavioral changes online goes on.

At the core of this pull between modification/abstraction is the same human desire. To be seen and interacted with, as we see ourselves.

My fear with modification - by fueling our dissatisfaction/insecurities with who we are we create a flywheel where we become ever more aware of our imperfections thus feel more and more compelled to digitally reconstruct our physicality. What does this do in the relationship of production/consumption online?

My fear with abstraction - by being able to inhabit a digital identity not physically tied to our sense of self, do we actually decrease our ability to react within the limits of ourselves (I hope that makes sense, it makes sense to me at 2:30am). What I believe we avoid is this false bridge between online and offline. Because the form we have abstracted into cannot exist offline, it rids us of surface level expectations.

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Thanks for reading.