Saturday, May 05, 2007

Performing life trivia. Lately I have been feeling very ambivalent about how much of my intellectual and romantic life is lived online through various services that enable you to catalogue the minutiae of your lived experience. I have always been of the opinion that small, unnoticed things can be wonderful, and I've always looked for ways to share that stuff with other people. You can see this on my Flickr, which I think of as a kind of moblog (particularly as I can email the photos straight to Flickr from my phone wherever I am at the time - hence the several stupid drunk pics up there right now), and in Short Mel Service, the weird online analogue of the non sequitur text messages with which I like to delight and (more probably) puzzle my friends.

Short Mel Service is a weird thing. As you may recall, last year I was searching for a way to send text messages from my mobile phone simultaneously to other mobile phones, turning the receiving phones into portable RSS aggregators. At the time I couldn't see any way to make this happen, so I started Short Mel Service as a compromise and an experiment. It is tedious to enter the text messages in manually, but I find it important because my phone has already died and needed to be reformatted once, losing all my text messages, and I like the idea that I am creating an archive. This idea has been buzztagged "life caching".

Oh dear, did I just create another irritating buzzword? Buzztagging (n) - the contemporary phenomenon in which sociologists and marketers identify (often tendentiously) a pattern of attitudes and/or behaviours and give it a catchy name to 'package' it for lifestyle journalism.

Anyway. Lately, annoyingly, I realise that the very thing I want does exist. And it is called Twitter. I have started up a Twitter account, but they are having problems with the mobile side of things in Australia. If you are a Twitterer, please add me as a friend.

This brings me to the weird sociality of the various online forums I inhabit. I have a Blogger blogroll, a collection of Bloglines feeds which is more extensive than the blogroll, a MySpazz friends list, a Flickr friends list, a Mess+Noise friends list, and now a Twitter friends list. There was once a LiveJournal and MSN account, but I don't really use those any more. They all have their strengths and individual purposes in my mind - Blogger is for long format thinking, Bloglines for information gathering, M+N for immediate interactivity, Flickr for aesthetics, MySpazz for networking, and now Twitter to take the place of the M+N thread I use most often, which is damningly entitled "Stuff no-one gives a shit about". I also use Gmail chat in place of MSN.

Because most of these interfaces have comments and messaging, the ability to keep me informed about the activities of people I know, and chatting, I am spoiled for choice. At first it was exciting, but more and more it is becoming more as though the technology is working through me than me working through the technology. I am worried about the extent to which I perform my 'life trivia', and what that means about my privacy; not the legal idea of privacy as an avoidance of stalking or unwanted surveillance, but a more abstract idea of privacy as a hiatus from the need for conscious self-performance. I have also become far less productive in my work, although I am much more hooked into information flows than I was even a year ago, and I sell this zeitgeist-engagement to potential employers as a reason they should hire me.

Case in point: I feel too intellectually and socially exhausted to blog much (only one post in all of April!), although I am always thinking of things I'd like to think through and write about. There is no way I will ever be joining Second Life, because I feel that I already live my first life through technology - the thought of creating an entirely new 'me' is exhausting and terrifying.

Also, my romantic and erotic life is now increasingly mediated and technologised in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I used to maintain an embarrassing emoblog on which I wrote about dudes I was crushing on (a topic which has also been discussed here), but lately I have found the ebbs and flows of my moods, my hopes and desires are moving too quickly to ponder at length on a blog; or at least, they are never at their most intense when I am sitting here able to blog about them. Instead I am flirting and being wistful or anguished through other, more immediate channels. But I felt very crestfallen when I read this article about those annoying 'technosexuals'. I realised how self-centred and almost masturbatory such a lifestyle can be. I felt ashamed of myself.

This post should not be taken as proof that the technologies I've talked about are meaningless and lacking in 'true' affect. I know that Reuben in particular likes to police the 'IRL' distinction. The thing is that I wouldn't be engaging with these technologies if I didn't get real meaning or satisfaction from them. Let me tell you a little story, which also appears in the comments of Mel Gregg's blog.

Yesterday I was sitting in my cubicle at work (I have a new job, incidentally, the most lucrative, CV-tastic and fun job I've ever had) and I heard from a certain someone who is in another country right now. He said that he had been thinking of me, and that it frustrated him to be in a public internet cafe with the sort of thoughts he was thinking. He said it would be helpful if I sent him some photos of myself. I directed him to my Flickr. Fuck I'm a fucking doofus!

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