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Summary of “Virtually Me”

In “Virtually Me”, Smith and Watson build upon concepts from their book to provide a toolbox that attends to the way users create themselves online.

The authors define the self as a marker of reflexivity, both online and offline. The self is constructed by the user, and represents the user – but it is not an analogue to the user. The relationship between the online self and the offline self is complicated because the online self is fundamentally collaborative; it exists as part of a collectivity, and is co-constructed by a network consisting of any online material chosen by the user. The ability to incorporate multiple types of media in life narratives result in new possibilities for this constructed sense of “self”.

This shift begs for a reconsideration of the way we perceive autobiography; to that end, Smith and Watson provide a set of 15 Tools:

Archive & Database: The storing of information that has been gathered either purposefully or incidentally by an online site.

Audiences: Online sites depend on traffic, and therefore must attract an audience. The methods used to compel users to visit depend on the sites function.

Automediality: The manner in which subjectivity is constructed online through visual/textual combinations.

Avatars: The possibility of reconfiguring oneself into an image or virtual embodiment of the user.

Branding: Imagining the self as a brand or commodity to be sold, entailing a management of the user’s reputation online.

Confessions Online: Certain sites invite confessional disclosures; anonymity can allow the user the comfort to relate their life in greater intimacy.

Ethics: Online behaviours pose a number of moral dilemmas such as surveillance and copyright issues.

Global Circuits: The availability of the Internet to the world; the technology is not evenly distributed.

Identity Online: A malleable self-presentation that is constructed virtually through avatars and subject positions.

Memory: The technologies for saving, storing, and sharing information. This differs from the psychological act of memory-retrieval.

Paratexts & Parasites: The ancillary components of a site (templates, advertisements) that function in reaction to visitors.

Self: Computation or Quantified: A type of self-monitoring that quantifies a user by a variety of criteria such as weight or location.

User Authored Sites / Protocol-Driven Sites: The former term refers personal websites, while the latter refers to sites driven by algorithm.

Temporality: Online presentation has no distinguishable beginning or end; it is ever-changing in that narratives can be rearranged and amended at any time.

About brianmccle

uwaterloo - MA rhetoric&communication

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