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Technology & Identity

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on 7 March 2014

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Transcript of Technology & Identity

These questions are few among many concerning the future of the world as it progresses into a more digitally user friendly world

Technology & Identity
In many developed countries technology is inescapable. It is there before you go to bed, when you wake up, as you make your daily cup of Joe, on your way to work, and so on.

It is everywhere.

It seems hard to think that someone could survive without it. With as much as it surrounds us, it even seems to be becoming a part of us; not even just a part of us, but who we are, our identity. More and more people are utilizing technology for social interactions. The use of social networking sites and chat rooms allows a person to have interactions free from any unwanted negative criticism. The blind interactions allow a person to express any and all thoughts and opinions they have.
The beginning of Sherry Thomas’ article concerning the idea that reality and virtual reality are slowly but surely approaching one another, summarizes the foundation of where this idea came from. She writes:

In social psychologist Kenneth Gergen’s 1991 tome, The Saturated Self, he warned of an Orwellian world where technology might saturate human beings to the point of “multiphrenia,” a fragmented version of the self that is pulled in so many directions the individual would be lost. “I am linked, therefore I am,” he famously said, playing on Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” Little did Gergen know how dead-on his prediction would be... our society sits here more than 20 years later with our tablets and cell phones and electronic gadgets—seduced by the lure of the blue light glow—we have never been more linked, more connected, and more bound to a virtual reality that many of us can no longer live without (Par. 1-2 ).

Many social media websites, chat rooms, blogs, virtual gaming communities, give a person a fresh palette to create an identity that is unparalleled to real-life. Some sites let users create what is known as an avatar. Others allow users to post only what they would like others to see, creating an ideal life for that person.
Chat room conversations allow users to answer or dodge any posed conversation. There may come a point where a person can become so engulfed in their virtual self and believe that how they present themselves in the virtual world is who they really are .
In Thomas’ article she interviews psychologist Dr. Ali Jazayeri, who comments on the danger that a person could potentially lose themselves in their virtual reality, disconnecting from themselves and the rest of the world (Thomas par. 8).
This is one aspect of how engaging in a virtual world can affect daily life. Some benefits of virtual reality are those that allow people to tear down barriers that would otherwise prohibit them from expressing their true selves.
The anonymity of the virtual world is appealing to many. There are people who are uncomfortable with whom they are . Their interests, desires, outward appearance and a different websites have allowed these people to be free of criticism. There is an extreme exponential growth of these communities and the like . Ward and Sonneborn provide the statistics for the growing number of internet users, especially those communicating via social media:
According to statistics compiled by Internet World Stats (2008), the number of Internet users grew from 16 million in December 1995 to over 1.4 billion in March 2008. The same source shows a projected number of Internet users of over 1.6 billion by 2010, a remarkable 100-fold growth in only 15 years… [A] striking indicator of interactivity is the proliferation of applications that provide users with a multitude of ways to project themselves and their ideas to the rest of the connected world… [including] popular social networking tools, such as Facebook, MySpace, Youtube, and Flickr [and] more highly focused applications… (Ward and Sonneborn par. 33 ).
This video is one of many examples that shows how with every passing year, the amount of technology introduced for everyday use is becoming saturated within daily lives.
There comes a point in time where two related, yet very different topics, approach a blurriness of the line that separates them . More and more the line between virtual reality and real life is becoming increasingly blurry. In-person communication is becoming second choice to virtual communication. People are presenting themselves in a virtual environment more and more.
The article
Creative Expression in Virtual Worlds: Imitation, Imagination, and Individualized Collaboration
, it differentiates between the communication of reality and virtual reality, saying:

Unlike face-to-face group activities in real world settings, in which the ambient conditions are largely the same for all participants, virtual worlds have properties that make it possible, in principle, for individuals to personalize their experience even while interacting with others… (Ward and Sonneborn 33).

The merging of technology and identity allows humans to more easily become or express who they feel they truly are. Has technology become so integrated in our lives that we are losing ourselves in a virtual world? What really makes the virtual world more appealing for social interactions? Does the medium in which a person communicates have an effect on social and personal relationships?

Our World: 2020
Ward and Sonneborn propose that the use of social media sites gives people an opportunity to easily share their locked up creativity, expressing imaginations. There are many online outlets for a person’s individuality to roam free. Connecting with others who share the same interest gives those who may otherwise identify themselves as introverted, to virtually become an extrovert . Just as in real-life how a person picks and chooses, for the most part, who they allow into their lives, in an online world a user does just that . They create the environment they feel comfortable in. They have complete control of what is seen and who sees it. They can be who they feel they truly are; they can expose their hidden identity. Becoming increasingly active in a virtual community allows a person to be present with their ideas. Some argue the presence of self in online environments and how it affects relationships.
“… The idea that individuals manage the beginning of their encounters differently according to the established availability to the interaction allowed by the media used” (Scarpetta 33).
Scarpetta discusses what is called the “social presence.” She discusses various different situations and how the medium in which the interaction takes place has an effect on communication and relationships developed. She writes, “… [The] resources present in the environment, served… to interactively carry out courses of action in concert… The development of interactions considering what is present in the place where they unfold, exploiting what is considered as relevant to foster them can offer an insight on social presence” (Scarpetta 34).
It seems that in the right conditions, social interaction can proceed virtually unaffected… even in a virtual medium. She concludes her research regarding an experiment done with multiple users playing an online game, saying:
…This study suggest new ideas in the study of social presence in mediated environments…. consider what is the most legitimate modality to display social presence whenever different options are available to the participants. Furthermore, how different tasks establish different relevance of actions performed to exhibit that we are actively collaborating…It will be worth investigating these issues in the future (Scarpetta 55).
Technology’s effect on identity can have massive impact on human life. Perhaps by allowing someone to become lost in a virtual world.
As Dr. Jim Taylor expresses, “There are two… unintended consequence of the use of… [technology]. First, most people have no idea of the dramatic changes that are occurring slowly yet inexorably within them… Second, this shift in identity, from internally derived to externally driven…” (Taylor par. 11).
An opposing viewpoint is that a person can find a way to release their creative imagination. In the proper format of virtual social interaction Scarpetta concluded that under the proper conditions of virtual environment, individuals can collaborate in the same online environment .
Having the freedom to wander cyberspace and be pretty much anything you want always comes with a consequence . Not just creating an avatar or a personal profile, but even something as simple as an e-mail or text message has be significant example of the disconnect between cyberspace and real life.
Works Cited

Identity mask. photograph. n.d. Meet OneAPI, the technology that could make carriers relevant in mobile apps.
. Web. 25 Feb 2014.

Paisley, Brad. "Online." Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 2, Oct 2009. Web. 2 Mar 2014.

Panhwer, Ali. "Future Technology Watch your day in 2020." Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 23, Feb 2011.Web. 25, Feb 2014.

Scarpetta, F. (2008). Practices to Display Social Presence: A Study in a Shared Mediated Environment.PsychNology Journal, 6(1), 27 – 59. February 18, 2014. Web.

Self-Identity handshake. photograph. n.d. Is Technology Stealing Our (Self) Identities?
Opinion Forum
. Web. 25 Feb 2014.

Taylor, Jim. “Technology: Is Technology Stealing Our (Self) Identities?” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 27 July 2011. Web. 18 February 2014.

Technology is taking up most of our time. Almost everything that we do utilizes technology in some way. However these tech gadgets are only part of the concern. The other part is how the use of some of these tech tools, such as the personal computer or cellular phone void face-to-face interactions, and allow people to create a whole other person.
Country singer Brad Paisley performs his song, "Online," which highlights, perhaps even over exaggerates, an example of how a person can create a façade of who they are with the use of technology:
Thomas, Sherry. “A Virtual Life: How Social Media Is Changing Our Perceptions Of Ourselves, Others, and The World.” INSIGHT Magazine. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, April 2013. Web. 18 February 2014.

Ward, Thomas B., and Marcene S. Sonneborn.
"Creative Expression in Virtual Worlds: Imitation, Imagination, and Individualized Collaboration."
Psychology of Popular Media Culture 1 (2011): 32-47. ProQuest. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.
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