Friday, May 28, 2010

Freud and Jing-mei

Well, here's a bit on Freud, as promised yesterday when I gave psychology and research background on online identity (I'd still love comments!)

I want to try and explain how I view Freud's ideals in light of immigrant identity and literature. Jing-mei is probably the main character in the The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, which is a collection of short narratives from the lives of mothers who immigrated to the US from China and their American daughters. Identity is really interesting in this book. In "Ethnicity and the American Short Story," Rocio Davis states that the American daughters in this book, including Jing-mei, show an "incapacity for self-definition and the inability to make sense of their lives."

Doesn't sound like they have any identity at all, does it? But Davis does not define these characters as people unable to ever come to terms with themselves. By the end of the book, Jing-mei is able to forge her own "personal identity," and is only them capable of finding unity with her ethnic past.

Now, about Freud. Here is a pretty concise definition of his id/ego/superego.

Jing-mei's id, or most fundamental desire, might not be wholly worthwhile to discuss. Because id desires instant gratification, maybe you could say that Jing-mei's refusal to play the piano because she could see no momentary gain is id. Jing-mei's ego, or the plans that cause her to act without only instant gratification in mind, could be just the fact that she involves herself in American cultural practices--these are "plans" to be accepted by others. Her superego comes into play when she resumes her mother's place at the mah-jong table, even though she feels insufficient. She also wants her father to tell her her mother's stories in Chinese. She sees beyond instant gratification, and she sees beyond plans.

The point: Jing-mei is split into parts. She has multiple identities, and demonstrates the mutliple divisions of the mind that Freud theorized on. But at the end of the book, it is through these multiple identities that Jing-mei comes to forge one singular identity. She is an American who didn't understand her mother, but she is also part of a Chinese family. Together, these multi-faceted faces make up who she is.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Little on Psychology

Ok, so here's a post to build upon my last two previous posts about how it is possible for multiple identities in the online world to find a semblance to a singular identity.

In response to my very helpful commenters, let me first say that I am not ignoring multiple identities on the internet. In the book "Born Digital," the authors state that the digital age allows a teen--and people in general--a greater opportunity for "experimentation and reinvention of identities" (20). However, while a digital native "can create multiple identities online with ease, she is more bound to a single identity than ever before" (34).

Why is that? If we are able to create multiple identities, why is a single identity not only possible, but almost certain? Isn't that impossible?

No, it's not impossible. It's a paradox. People are used to showing themselves in different lights based on different situations, or contexts. But with the internet, these different contexts can be linked together. Today, an onlooker is just able to SEE more of one person's multiple identities, which, in turn, helps them SEE a singular identity that perhaps would not have been possible without the digital age.

In my previous posts, I was fairly sure that this kind of meshing into one identity was desirable, maybe even intentional--maybe not for everyone, but for some. Now, with some of the more in-depth research I've done, the most I can say is this kind of singular identity formation is possible. And here's where the psychology comes in:

Patricia Wallace: She wrote a book called Psychology of the Internet, where she explicates the implications of the "ease with which people can experiment with identity on the net". In other words, yes, multiple identities are formed. BUT, Wallace did seem to think that people do not inherently use multiple identities just for fun--there was an end result of identity exploration. After all,
"MANY of these new identities may simply add a bit of polish or mystery to the self we already know in real life, and these experimental enhancements may lead to very positive consequences. Playing a person who is a little more outgoing and confident on a MUD, for example, could affect the individual's offline behavior, and there is much anecdotal evidence to support this."

To me, this quote does two things: 1) Acknowledges the existence of multiple/different identities, while also positing that most people do not use extremely different identities, and 2) States that in the face of multiple identity, tensions, a singular identity can be reached--one that is very much tied to reality.

Calvert: In a study on gender and identity on the internet, Sandra Calvert, a psychologyist with Georgetown, quoted Grotevant who stated that identity involved a "continuity...of self images." She also quotes Erikson, an American psychologyist, who stated that people tend to find and form a "unitary" sense of identity over time. These psychologist do not ignore the tension that multiple identities on the internet imply. Rather, they simply state that the multiple identity process is a very meaningful one because, over time, the aggregate of identities can be viewed as one singular identity.

Tomorrow, I want to maybe look a little at Freud. I don't know very much about his theories, exact for his famous id/ego/superego posits. But do the aggregate of these entities lead to a singular identity as well?

Now, I here's the last thing I want to say on the matter for today: I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer. Perhaps the book Born Digital says it best:
"Some sociological theories suggest that young people have multiple selves; others argue that these multiple forms of representation come together into a more or less unitary self-constuct. The common thread among the many competing theories of identity is that people tend to have multiple self-representations...that together FORM A WHOLE."

The "whole" is what I'm interested in. I've learned it is not a "coherent" whole...but maybe it's a whole nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Do You Have Identity Integrity? Just Kidding...

To make up for my ridiculously long post yesterday (which I'm hoping that some of my classmates will still heartfelt thanks in advance) today I'm going to keep it short and sweet. Today I was hunting around because I realized that I really need more research/sources that prove that digital natives desire to reconcile multiple identities into one singular identity online. I found a Harvard intern blog about digital natives that claims that interconnected mediums of social media, like facebook, blogs, flickr, and other services like Friend Connect, prove that digital natives want to have "one coherent identity." But the article "Does Social Media Produce Groupthink" argues that "social networks like Twitter and Facebook have consumed our lives" leading to only "herd mentality." I wouldn't say this is the reconciling of identity at's more like the loss of coherent identity.

Ok, so I want personal experience from my fellow classmates. Do you present yourself as the same person in all of your social networking sites? Do you conciously/sub-conciously present yourself in different lights through different mediums? I'm not asking for confessions here, and I'm withholding judgment. Who's to say what's right and what's wrong?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Finally Figured Out Identity

All right, to recap: I want to prove that the native/immigrant metaphor is pertinent to describing the digital age. However, this does NOT just occur because people can be easily split into two categories: people who "speak the language", and those who don't. Rather, this metaphor is valid because the children of digital immigrants--the "natives"--are capable of functioning within a singular identity(see this post for an explanation). This is also referred to as a "persistent" identity (see "Anonymity and Online Identity," courtesy of my classmate Neal). The children of everyday immigrants are capable of functioning both as Americans and as multicultural children.

Ok, now did you notice what I did in the paragraph above? I'm comparing digital natives and the children of real immigrants. I'm saying they are the same. BUT digital natives can have SINGULAR identities between spaces, while children of immigrants are capable of having a MULTIcultural identity.

HUH?!?! How is that similar?

So, here's the paradox, and here's how I think the two fit together. Both digital natives and the children of immigrants are capable of reconciling multiple identities in order to form one singular identity as a whole.

Sound plausible? Make sense?

Ok, so here's what I've been struggling with for awhile, and here's what I need feedback on: who really cares? So I found a couple of uncommon parallels for the digital native metaphor. So I'm manipulating the metaphor and applying it in a way that usually isn't looked at. So what?

And here's where literature comes in. The Joy Luck Club is about the relationships between mothers from China who raise daughters in the US. Um, perfect for what I'm talking about, right? A mother in the book says that she has two faces: American and Chinese, and "If you show the one, you must always sacrifice the other." So here, you can definitely see the multiple identity phenomenon, but there is no hope for reconciliation. BUT at the end of the book, June, a daughter, says that she used to fear "mutating" into something Chinese. But she doesn't just mutate into something Chinese, something different than what she was. Instead, she finds a part of herself that is Chinese--her family--and then reconciles that identity into her whole identity. A multiple identity is able to become a singular.

BUT... is this valid? Can I say that we, as humans, desire to reconcile multiple identities into one singular whole? This is what we write about in literature. This is what immigrant children do. And this is what digital natives do. Is that enough of a "So what?" Is this idea just too out there?

What do you guys think? Do human beings, creatures of multiple identities, inherently desire to reconcile those identities into one complete whole? Is this some abstract reason why immigrant children see themselves as strongly ethnic, yet also American? Is this one unspoken-of reason why the native/immigrant metaphor works for the digital world?

Real question I'm asking: Am I making any sense here?

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Thesis, Some Snarls

Ok, the problem I've been having lately with this paper for my ENGL 295 class... the one about immigrant and native identity, and how that relates to digital media, and how that relates to literature... is simply that I feel completely overwhelmed. There is TOO MUCH to talk about. I always try and tackle too much, and perhaps sometimes that my ideas come out as much less powerful than if I'd just stuck with one thing. Have you, my fellow classmates, run into the same problem with this second paper?

That being said, I'm going to scratch looking at language, interactions, and identity (see Friday's post) and just stick with identity. I want to argue that the immigrant/native paradigm is very accurate for the digital world because new media allows the "native" children of immigrants to choose how they will construct their identity, which often incorporates their parents' immigrant identity into a new multi-cultural identity. See "Children of Immigrants Form Ethnic Identity at Early Age", as well as some of the articles on the side of that page. Some digital "natives" really are tech savvy, but many others don't have all skills in all areas. They incorporate their immigrant parents' identity. I also want to talk about how the immigrant metaphor was a handy metaphor to describe the digital age, because we are used to coming in contact with it in literature. The Joy Luck Club is a good example of immigrant "choice" and the mixture of identity.

So, problem: is this "too much"? Another problem: this goes a little contrary to my thesis for my first paper (see here for a description). That's ok, right?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Who's Who?

Ok, so thanks to my ENGL 295 classmate Becca, I looked at an excellent article that touched on three ways to look at how adolescent bloggers define themselves: identity, language, and interactions with others. These kids are going to be my "Native" population. Now, today I looked a little at identity. In this article, bloggers often mesh online identity with offline identity. They can pretty much choose to be whoever they want on the internet, but most bloggers choose to stick with presenting the person they are in real life. So, there is a singular identity between the two places.

However, with my handy-dandy newly installed diigo toolbar, I was able to see "Alix's" (some random guy) sticky note. Alix thought that "the internet, and the new communication capabilities, help a person identify who they are. It encourages the creation of different and sometimes multiple identities." So there's another theory about what new technology does for identity.

There's also a third theory floating around among us. Two more classmates, Ben and Allison, shared the article Does Social Media Produce Groupthink? which asserts that the digital age hurts individual identity, and people instead tend to form group identity.

So what do you guys think? How does social networking/the internet affect identity? Does something like a blog promote a singular identity, while social networks like facebook lead to group identity? Does it depend on the person? Have you guys found any research on identity in whatever wonderful things you are studying?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

About Real-Live Immigration

Ok, so today I've been reading a little bit in the book Born Digital: Understanding The First Generation of Digital Natives. This book argues that digital natives do NOT consider themselves to have an "online" identity and an "offline" identity: instead, identity is something that can be blurred from one "space" to another "space". Digital natives also have a wide network of casual connections to other humans. And digital natives consider information to be malleable. Digital technology allows them to easily manipulate the things around them.

Ok, all of this information is really interesting and all that, but now read this article. This article in the NY Times talks about the generation gap in the immigration debate (and now I'm talking about immigrants from other countries...not digital). It argues that younger generations are much more accepting of immigrants than older generations. WAIT A SEC: BRAINWAVE. What if it is the digital age that has taught digital natives to actually identity with real live immigrants? I mean, look at the parallels! Comfort with fluid identity, human connections with a wider variety of people, inherent desire to manipulate the world around them... Digital natives thrive in a multicultural world because technology has taught them to! Interesting!

I'm still working on what it means that a group of kids labelled as digital "natives" are ACTUALLY more prone to accept real-world "immigrants"... Any thoughts on why the reversal of the metaphor is significant?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants

So, this blog is being set up for my ENGL 295 class at BYU. We've talked in class about how important it is so get your academic ideas out in the digital world. I've been thinking this is a really good idea. I like the idea of having a blog where I can sort of "publish" my academic ideas (is that a bit nerdy? I don't really care). I mean, how frustrating was it last semester when I wrote that very good paper about The Eternal Feminine archetype in Western Literature and I really had no record of my thought processes, besides a few scattered Word documents on my laptop? So, that's the story of this here blog, and I hope this here blog proves to be worthwhile (as well as the fulfillment of an assignment for Dr. Burton).

What I'm working on now is a research paper about the Digital Native/Digital Immigrant metaphor that is being applied to new media, social networking, and really technology in general. I did a previous paper studying what I labeled as the "Immigrant Dichotomy" in two American short stories. The first story I analyzed was Abraham Cahan's "A Sweat-Shop Romance," written in 1895. Basically, this story is not meant to present immigrants as a flat social group, but rather presents two types of immigrants: those who deal with American society based on an Americanized social identity, and those who deal with society based on an ethnic identity. The culmination of the story is when a character basically chooses that she will live her life based on her ethnic identity, and therefore gains more self-respect. The second story I studied was Jhumpa Lahiri's "This Blessed House," where the immigrant dichotomy is embodied in a married couple. In the end, the husband bows to his wife's desire to deal with society based on an Americanized social identity, but the story leaves you with the idea that the marriage is empty, and really quite devoid of inherent respect. The implication of this is that perhaps modern American society should deal with allowing immigrants the choice and the opportunity to incorporate their ethnic identity into their dealings with society.

Now that my class is focusing on new media and the digital age, I really want to superimpose the Native/Immigrant dichotomy onto new technology. Actually, this has already been done for me, because this metaphor is widely used to describe kids who perhaps grow up with a sort of "inherent" knowledge about digital media, and their parents, who have to learn the language of technology, and therefore are immigrants. Now, I think the thesis I am going to be working on is that the digital native/immigrant dichotomy is really quite misleading or even incorrect in describing how people deal with technology. Here's why:

1. Immigrants used to be the ones who would define their newly "Native" children. Now, Native children tend to define their parents' status as an "Immigrant." Why? This is inconsistent with how the metaphor has been treated.

2. Natives usually do not easily "speak the language" of digital media. Some types of technology they may have a good grip on, but many times they lack skills in many areas. In this way, perhaps we are all Digital Immigrants: we incorporate parts of the New society, but also tend to shun the things we don't necessarily understand. It's like Chicano Spanish: immigrants use the English they like, but cling to Spanish. Some people seen as "Natives" will use the technology that they like...but they don't necessarily "know" everything.

3. Overarching question: is comparaing digital media to something like language a valid metaphor? Do we learn these kinds of skills in the same way that people learn languages? Is saying that digital immigrants will always have a digital "accent" comparable to how other immigrants retain some of their social identity? Maybe not.