Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Who am I? A question of identity

Who am I, is a question that can be said to be getting more difficult to answer in this day and age. Identities are shaped in part based on how a person wants to shape it. The case of Frida Kahlo provides an excellent example of how self identity can be constructed to a degree by how a person chooses. Although Frida was the daughter of a German immigrant and a person of Spanish descent she still largely identified herself as a Mexican. President Obama of the United States is another example as he was the son of an African immigrant and a White woman, he chooses to identify with the African-American racial group. With the advent of the Second Media Age the ability to shape identities as a person chooses to do so, has grown in ways that might have been unthinkable even 100 years ago. No longer does a person’s identity have to be ground solely on the basis of racial classification or ethnicity, but the manner in which a person chooses their identity has grown far beyond that.

The American Heritage Student Dictionary defines culture as “The arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought at a particular time.” As Krug said, self, culture, and technology not only reflect but create each other. The technological advances of the internet have led to massive changes in American culture. Terms like tweet and google which refer to internet functions have entered the vocabulary. People spend hours working on their internet profiles and searching for work on the internet. The internet is used now for banking, social networking, shopping, music, movies, school, researching, news, maps, and many more things that were formerly handled offline. The culture of this country has grown with the changes brought on by the internet, as the culture of the internet has grown to mirror the culture of America. These changes in culture and technology have as could be expected lead to a change in a how a person views their self and constructs it.

The modern self though is not purely shaped by one’s own desires. Particularly in this time outside forces and events beyond one’s control helps to shape a person’s identity. It can be argued that the modern self in the Western World is more constrained and manipulated than at any time in human history. In modern America, people are bombarded by advertising and images from advertisers who are trying to build brand loyalty from consumers of ever younger ages. The internet allows advertisers to directly tailor advertising messages to us based on the sites we have visited. In the year 2000 only ten media conglomerates controlled more than two-thirds of the annual worldwide revenue of the entire communications industry. (Steger, 2003, p.76) These media conglomerates play a vast role in what we watch and even how we think. As Krug said what we think of as choice is actually just wearing the clothes differently, as conformity in thought seems to grow more by the day. Not having the right thoughts or not being politically correct can be disastrous in many careers.

The quotes by Morgano and Barr given for this assignment are closely interrelated. The internet as a form of communication is more open than any form of mass communication available. The internet provides a platform for people to stay in touch with friends and family, but also gives them the opportunity to meet other people that it would otherwise be mostly impossible to connect with without the net. Consequently some people feel free when on the internet talking about their selves and speaking with others. They can construct their identity in a way that may be fact or fiction for all to see on the internet. But, as Morgano mentioned some employers have used internet sites to see how potential employees really are when those people let their guards down. The internet lets these employers see these people in a way how they generally never would be able to. And with people posting information about their selves, an employer can see if a person is truthful, lying, or hiding information that they might not want a potential employer to know. Social networking sites have thus become one of the best ways to do a background check on someone and find out partially who a person really is.

Identity as an issue is an issue that will continue to change in the years ahead. Technology has brought great changes to how we view and can view ourselves. The ways in manipulating identities and changing them will continue to shift as technology and culture changes.

Barker, Chris. 2008. Cultural Studies Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Steger, Manfred. 2003. Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press

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