Friday, November 20, 2015

saturated self / multiphrenia / "social ghosts" / the inner choir

“With the development of radio and film, one’s opinions, emotions, facial expressions, mannerisms, styles of relating, and the like were no longer confined to the immediate audience, but were multiplied manifold.....  Television has generated an exponential increase in self-multiplication. This is true not only in terms of the increased size of television audiences and the number of hours to which they are exposed to social facsimiles, but in the extent to which self-multiplication transcends time – that is, in which one’s identity is sustained in the culture’s history. Because television channels are plentiful, popular shows are typically rebroadcast in succeeding years.The patient viewer can still resonate with Groucho Marx on You Ben Your Life or Jackie Gleason and Audrey Meadows on The Honeymooners..... 

“People can choose the actors they wish to identify with or the stories that will bring fantasies to life. Increasingly, this also means that in terms of producing a sense of social connection, any given actor may transcend his or her own death; viewers can continue their private relationships with Marilyn Monroe and James Dean long after the physical demise of the performers. With television, a personage may continue a robust life over eternity.”

“We appear to each other as single identities, unified, of whole cloth. However, with social saturation, each of us comes to harbor a vast population of hidden potentials – to be a blues singer, a gypsy, an aristocrat, a criminal. All the selves lie latent, and under the right conditions may spring to life.... The populating of the self not only opens relationships to new ranges of possibility, but one’s subjective life also becomes more fully laminated. Each of the selves we acquire from others can contribute to inner dialogues, private discussions we have with ourselves about all manner of persons, events, and issues. These internal voices, these vestiges of relationships both real and imagined, have been given different names: invisible guests by Mary Watkins, social imagery by Eric Klinger, and social ghosts by Mary Gergen, who found in her research that virtually all the young people she sampled could discuss many such experiences with ease. 


 “This syndrome may be termed multiphrenia, generally referring to the splitting of the individual into a multiplicity of self-investments. This condition is partly an outcome of self-population, but partly a result of the populated self’s efforts to exploit the potentials of the technologies of relationship. In this sense, there is a cyclical spiraling toward a state of multiphrenia..... It would be a mistake to view this multiphrenic condition as a form of illness, for it is often suffused with a sense of expansiveness and adventure. Someday there may indeed be nothing to distinguish multiphrenia from simply “normal living.”

"A multiphrenic condition emerges in which one swims in ever-shifting, concatenating, and contentious currents of being. One bears the burden of an increasing array of oughts, of self-doubts and irrationalities. The possibility for committed romanticism or strong and single-minded modernism recedes, and the way is opened for the postmodern being"

"Increasingly we emerge as the possessors of many voices. Each self contains a multiplicity of others, singling different melodies, different verses, and with different rhythms. Nor do these many voices necessarily harmonize. At times they join together, at time they fail to listen one to another, and at times they creates a jarring discord.”

"Concepts of truth, honesty, and authenticity now turn strange. Not only do attempts at characterizing the actual person – the workings of the mind, the human spirit, or the biological individual – become suspect. The very concept of an internal core – an intentional, rational agent – also begins to fray.”

"With the demise of rational coherence, a longstanding demarcation of self-identity also recedes from view. For it is the sense of continuity – that I know I am I by virtue of my sense of continuous sameness – that for centuries has served as the chief criterion by which a self is to be identified"

“Under modernism, the individual seemed an isolated, machinelike entity – reliable, predictable, and authentic, propelled by a core mechanism embedded not too deeply within the interior.”

"[Saturation/postmodernism]sets the stage for ersatz being, that is, the capacity for entering immediately into identities or relationships of widely varying forms...  if identities are essentially forms of social construction, then one can be anything at any time so long as the roles, costumes, and settings have been commodiously arranged.... The possibility of ersatz being has also encouraged the development of industries for identity production.... the deterioration of the traditional community is hastened by the emergence of symbolic community. Symbolic communities are linked primarily by the capacity of their members for symbolic exchange – of words, images, information – mostly through electronic means. Physical immediacy and geographic closeness disappear as criteria of community"

all quotes from Kenneth J. Gergen's The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life (1991 - before the internet!) 



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