The following is a guest piece by the poet Zac Odin
The current media environment is the noosphere, the world of thoughts. The content is the self. No longer content to extend our nervous systems in order to draw the world in to us, we are now compelled, literally, to send ourselves out into this electric field. This field, the web of electronic interconnections, that used to bring information to us now transports us as information out. But this is not the way 70’s/80’s life-extensionists, cyber-pundits, et al expected. We were supposed to download the conscious self into a ‘hard-drive’ upon death and live forever as data, remember? Instead we externalize and mythologize an abstracted self. It is the degree of abstraction, of incongruity, of bizarreness, and of depth as integrity that becomes important.
The externalized self as content of the noosphere becomes an a myth in and of itself, an art form, painting a deliberate image, removing, neglecting, focusing, etc. If you consider Mcluhan’s notions of hot and cool media in which hot media requires little participation and is information dense and cool media requires a lot of participation in filling in information gaps, the cooler the externalized, abstracted self is, the cooler it is. The more one has to work to understand, the more one is mystified, the deeper that image of self becomes. The self, the mythological self, is a symbol with fractal depths in exactly the same way traditional myths are. That self is then ‘cool’ content.
Thus a skillfully externalized self is an abstraction…huge blocks of color, heavy lines, planes, blurred edges, single images, and so on. In a seeming paradox, the noosphere as environment is also ‘cool’ even though it is literally made up of information. BUT that information requires pattern recognition to make any sense and pattern recognition is a highly involved operation. We move as myths ourselves through the waves of the electronic collective consciousness – mythic heroes in a sea of myth.
If the self is the content of the social-media mediated noosphere then, continuing using McLuhan’s theories, that would suggest that the self is becoming or actually IS obsolete. If artists begin constructing selves or deconstructing selves, etc. then we are in a similar situation to the Romantics in the heart of the Industrial Revolution – celebrating mythic nature while factories and machines rendered it obsolete as an environment (and almost totally). The self is no longer our personal environment, the self is the content of that environment. So what then is the self? What are we potentially ridding ourselves of? ‘Personality’, accretions and detritus of lives lived? Its important to remember that in this case self is not the same as essence.