Augmented Intimacy Pt. 1: How Desires Drive Our Online Identity

The term 'the Digital Turn' is no news. On the contrary, it might sound obsolete as a concept if we consider that today even the idea of a Post-Digital or Post-Internet Era appears outdated. It is worth mentioning that we refer to 'post-' as not to the process of overcoming technological possibilities offered by the web but rather a normalisation and incorporation of its dynamics. To some extent, there’s no more a neat distinction between real and virtual dimension since everyday life is imbued with the Internet scent. The Internet multiplied and moved offline. In other words, we live by having the digital realm as a constant structure to reckon with, taking it for granted.

This current and ever-increasing condition could be faced and lived on different levels of consciousness. The uneasiness this alleged de-humanised world might lead to has also prompted negative reactions, fueled by the visions of dystopian or even apocalyptic scenarios. Among others, the philosopher and cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han claims that the permanent exposure provided by the online dimension has hugely changed people and their way of thinking - and not always for the better. Phantom selves, immersed into a perpetual present and only available through screens, have replaced the physicality of our conversational partners. This mediation - he says - cannibalises privacy, intimacy and analytical ability, enhancing flimsy transparency at the expense of opacity that, instead, would be the ideal state for a more substantial experience of living in our reality by dispensing a broader spectrum of depths. According to him, opacity is a disposition that would counteract the inexhaustible consumption of web contents, encouraging a more conscious approach and proactive understanding of what is disseminated within the web, and not only. It appears as opposite to the instantaneously accessible waterfall of information merely instilled and neither attentively nor sensitively selected by users. Therefore, a more significant potential would reside in blurriness than in transparency.

Among the main drives of technology development and its applications are need, progress, and desire. And one can also be seen as the consequence of the other. We constantly need to evolve, so to achieve growth by fulfilling a vacancy. And desire is in fact, nothing more than the aspiration for something that is lacking.

So, it seems there’s no wrong in observing that most of our actions performed online are actually moved by the wish of connection and proximity. They are triggered by the desire to establish relationships, to define one's own identity - sometimes more freely than in the IRL -, to be visible and perhaps accepted or included, to foster resonance and form communities, to fill the gap of distance, to share emotions and communicate vulnerabilities.

The condition of becoming transparent, therefore, might take on a new connotation. It doesn’t necessarily make humans passive and helpless entities but rather offers an opportunity to be open and responsive towards an all-encompassing contact with the world out there. Being transparent could stand for being touched, traversed by life itself, and decide what to adopt or absorb and what to disregard - intervening within a dimension that appears intangible, by considering it as a realm where new mechanisms can be activated and spread constitutes a fertile prospect of this unclouded condition. That craving for humanity that within the digital dimension is sometimes blamed to be lost in favour of dispersion-oriented practices and estrangement effects, might actually be perceived as augmented and also read as a manifestation of a relational lack.

At the same time, it is not advisable neglecting the political and economic strategies ruling over our daily immersion in the places-nonplaces of the web and being blind to the contradictions and unquestionably urgent implications brought out by Net abuse. Gaining more and more awareness of what agenda technology serves is an irrefutable necessity, even when we tacitly agree on its potentially harmful implications simply by accepting terms and conditions that aren’t always completely clear.

It is true that, within the digital, our research and inputs are under surveillance.Our preferences and choices seem to be oriented by someone else and destined to profit for capitalistic purposes. It is hard to deny that our virtual identities have sometimes escaped our perception. The magnetic force of the unlimited possibilities that the web seems to guarantee threatens our consciousness, and commodification has relocated our intimacy. But when we flow in the uncanny elsewhere of endless data streams and computation, we remain authored of ourselves. We are not soulless and ghostly entities floating unconsciously in the magmatic environment of false algorithmic promises and virtual illusions, but humans yearning to communicate with one another.

Written by
Giulia Ottavia Frattini
Giulia Ottavia is a writer and researcher passionate about digitalisation and its cultural implications regarding art and society. The mutual hybridisation between physicality and virtuality is her primary source of inspiration, and language represents the raw material of her practice. Poetry is the medium through which she explores the fluidity of living.

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