The Cross-Media Self


Yesterday when I added Andy Piper as a friend on Facebook, I flippantly said “now we’re friends everywhere” – since I knew him on Second Life, on Facebook, on twitter, on flickr, on his blog, and through his comments on my blog.

He paused for a while, then replied with a wide ASCII grin:

“friends *everywhere*? 😎 see” 

I clicked the link, and my jaw literally dropped in astonishment at the number of tracks Andy makes across the web.  How the HECK can any one person do so much?!?!

Right now I feel pretty overwhelmed by the number of social media spaces I seem to exist in: 3 blogs, 3 or 4 roleplaying forums, a fan forum, a zine, flickr, linkedin, twitter, facebook, Second Life (plus an alt), 2 youtube accounts, gmail, work mail, skype, google chat. People keep inviting me to new things but I just don’t have the time!  And each one of these has channels or groups or threads – I am in 63 flickr groups, 19 facebook groups, subscribe to numerous blog feeds, several podcasts and a number of youtube channels.  I’m part of 2 high traffic email lists (Association of Internet Researchers and Second Life Education), and about 10 low to medium traffic ones.

My solution at handling them all is to concentrate on two or three at a time.  The amount of reading and writing and uploading and downloading and viewing and clicking I do every day is becoming ridiculous.  I am a terrible commenter on friend’s blogs, I only blog once every day or two, I barely post to email groups, and I only keep up with urgent emails.  If I tried to fully engage in everything I wouldn’t ever get any work done!
Andy wrote a post about his experiences called The Quicksand of Web 2.0, in which he debates some of the pros and cons of different applications and talks about addiction and his “off switch”.

Its all left me wondering about the kind of identity play we engage in across all of these different spaces we inhabit, and the type of narrative constructions other people are making about us as they make connections between our multiple cross-media selves.

And is it possible for people who read your work across these spaces to suddenly get turned off by a bad case of TMI (too much information)?  Or as one of my literary colleagues is wont to say, “that person just has too much narrative going on.”

But not you Andy 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Cross-Media Self

  1. Well that’s a heck of a lot of coverage 🙂 An excellent post, and not just because I feature in it so heavily!!

    I gave a talk about social software recently, and one of the sections I ended up pulling out was about online identity. You’re right – our online selves, particularly in the new environment of social site and virtual worlds, are really an aggregation of identities. I’m pretty much relying on onXiam at this point to remember just who I am, and where!
    (NB for those who think I’m a total loser for having so many accounts, there are people with far more. So there!)

    So if we flip back to my post in January, before I had found onXiam, Twitter, Facebook, and various others… I made the point that increasingly the useful work or “narrative” is partitioned between particular types of sites. Increasingly those are basically blogs and profiles (my personal blog and Facebook, MySpace having dropped from the position now that FB is going so much stronger); ambient presence and microblogging (Twitter); bookmarks i.e. a trail of interests and reading around the web; location (Dopplr and Plazes); events (Upcoming and Dopplr); media (Last.FM, Flickr). I think that is still true, but the balance on particular sites has shifted.

    I’ve said to people who have heard me speak recently that “entropy will happen”. I think that’s true, and I think it is ongoing.

  2. I’m thinking that Facebook is the best place so far for the narrative pieces of identity to converge – but it relies on all those pieces streaming in of course. Its a lot less work for me to check somebody’s facebook and see a complete-ish picture of them than to try and follow all the individual threads.
    I’m trying to theorise it a bit – there seems to be two layers happening here – the macro level big picture of somebody on FB, and then the micro details for people if they want to click further. I am pretty sure Bernstein talked about the macro/micro flow of discourse… (more thoughts to come)

  3. Pingback: Digital Leviathan « wonderwebby

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