Lecture 21: Extending your Extended-Self

Student Presentation:

  • Forming connections:
    • Marshall McLuhan “The Medium of the Message”
      • What does tis mean in terms of the self
  • Dematerializations:
    • Possessions in digital world are dematerialized: lack of physical, tangible, material characteristics or qualities
    • Walter Benjamin’s “Unpacking my Library”
      • “Benjamin loved him books not so much for the words they contained as for the inadmissible blen of content, craft, and wear-and-tear that told the story of each book’s fateful journey to its place in his library.” (Belk, 479)
      • McLuhan’s medium over messages speaks to this notions
    • Attachment to physical possessions vs. Digital
  • Discussions Questions: how would you compare your attachment to virtual possessions vs. Physical material possessions? Do you think you’re just as likely to get attached to immaterial and intangible possessions


  • Vili Lehdonvirta: “there is no such thing as completely immaterial consumption” (Belk, 470)
  • Virtual Shopping:
    • The Sims: “designed in a way that makes it a hard to have fun unless you but a lot of stuff” (Belk, 480)
    • Motives for purchasing virtual goods are similar to those of purchasing material goods
      • Gain status and prestige
      • Solve real or imagined problems
      • Express individual or group virtual identity
      • Become more attractive
      • Explore luxuries unable to afford in real life
    • Branded virtual
  • What Do Virtual Possessions Lack:
    • Uncertainty about control and ownership of digital goods
  • Re-embodiment:
    • “not only have our possessions lost the former constraint of their physical bodies, so have we.” (Belk, 481)
  • What is re-embodiment?
    • Re-embodiment is the idea of creating a new self, mostly through the use of avatar, that is not limited by one’s physical body
  • Eladhari: Level of Immersion:
    • Avatar: at this level the person in interacting with the avatar
      • Avatars act as an extension of are selves, regardless of a biological extension of ourselves
    • The other one people have no identification that there interacting with a digital artifact
  • Discussion question:
    • If avatars are extensions of ourselves, is it possible to take on the role of someone else’s avatar, is this a good idea or no?
      • We don’t think that taking over someone’s avatar online is respectful as it is an invasion of the way in which someone upholds themselves online and someone else caring that on is a new interpretation of the online avatar
  • Avatars vs Dissociative Identity Disorders:
    • Avatars:
      • Multiple avatars as extensions of the self
      • Fun experimentation but it may also be more serious
    • Dissociative identity disorder:
      • Is a mental disorder that allows one to experience very different acts of the self
  • Sharing:
    • The way that people share online is different from the way we share in person
    • The concept of sharing is not a new one, the meaning through is changing
    • Re-wording is a term coined by Kozinets and Kedzior as the way that “The internet and many digital devices
  • Fear of Missing Out and Disinhibition:
    • A lack of feeling secure online is leading social media users to feel FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
  • What is FOMO?
    • The need to be constantly interacting online through social media whether as a participant or observer
  • Confessions:
    • Confessions are a practice that has been around for a long time
    • Revelations of theological beliefs in both examples (mentioned in the reading) suggest that the religious traditions of confessions continue to influence the nature of online admissions as well” (Birk,
  • Co-Construction of Self:
    • Physically alone in real world -> virtually social in digital world
    • When other people give insight or feedback on an idea or image we’ve posted, they’re helping construct our individual and extended sense of self which is called the collaborative self
    • Comments add digital patina to the photos, ultimately giving it more value
    • Affirmation seeking through followers or friends online
      • Girls (purchase pals) in a fitting room trying on dresses and posting pictures of them with the dresses, invites secondary purchase pals (online) to offer their opinions on whether or not they should buy the dresses
    • Affirmation of self is also an affirmation of the aggregate self made of friends or lovers
  • Distributed Memory:
    • From photos, furniture, souvenirs to the digital world
    • Always documenting out lives in an effort, Belk claims to improve our memories
    • Personal autobiographical memory
      • Self, social, directive
    • Extra:
      • We have thrown so much of are selves on line that Belk believes that artificial intelligence is the next step
      • In the episode from the black mirror, she lost her fiancé, and so this robot tried to reconnect his digital self
  • Updates:
    • Digital culture:
      • More storage than ever before
      • So you don’t really place them in your digital memory as much
    • Narratives of the self:
      • Share what we do when we wake up to when we go to sleep
        • Who we present are selves in are everyday life becomes who we are, taking photos
    • Digital cues to sense of past:
      • From “taking” to “making”
  • Discussion Questions:
    • Do you think this new digital era is improving our memories and the formation of our sense of self?
      • It is just different
      • We are missing a big part of the self, if we say that we do mundane things for the sake of gratification
        • Are we sharing these things to form a sense of self, or self-esteem and gratification
        • While you do create yourself based on other peoples input, i am not sure if we do these things for these purposes for memories, for archival
        • People are posting for validation
        • You are trying to get other peoples feedback on your sense of self within every aspect of our lives unconsciously
        • Were do we draw the line between this is who is am, or i am who others tell me to be, based off of my social presence and the feedback i am given with regards to validation.
        • This can become damaging to ones sense of self, as others can harmfully influence ones view of them self,
          • However this may help you to gain a sense of self as you may not be in tune with the views of others and thus you may view yourself more genuine compared to others
          • You find out why you do certain things, why you post certain things, and why you don’t?
        • Some people just post to feel good about themselves, obviously one should not base who they are off of the comments they are given but maybe as a boots to ones self-esteem
      • The digital era is improving the ways in which one can express themselves and show different ways, and the ways in which people can approach knowing who they are
  • Future Research:
    • Collecting:
      • Less about the individual object itself and more about the whole of the collection and the links
    • Gift-giving:
      • “it’s the thought that counts”
      • Collective sense of identity
    • Dematerialization:
    • Virtual Brand Communities:
      • Larger, co-constructed communities on digital media which allow individual to expand themselves in a social sense


Discuses the Self:

  • What makes you, you?
    • Memory: its the collective experience, which make up who you are
      • Memetic recollection
      • Physical proof – materials that feel like extensions of ourselves
    • Beliefs
      • Ideologies,
  • The Extended Self:
    • Certain possessions, tools and social objects contribute to the extension of our self
      • “tell me what you like and I’ll tell you what you are” (John Ruskin 1819-1900)
  • Original Extended Self Formulation:
    • The self is not constituted by any one thing but is actually a cohesive assemblage, with various categories linked in varying degrees to each other
    • Major categories of self,
  • How might the digital revolution change this formulation?
    • Creating a avatar in world of war craft
      • Do they have any attachment or some investment into are lives
  • Key Terms:
    • Dematerialization
    • Born digital goods
    • Re-embodiment
    • Sharing
    • Co-construction of self
    • Distributed memory

Group Activity:


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