For my final paper, I would like to examine the status of the individual within networked communities, particularly as this pertains to mediated, or published, individuals. I'm interested in the conception of the writer/editor and how this plays into the construction and negotiation of identity. How does the discourse of imagined communities play into the discourse of imagined audiences, and how does this affect how and what we publish of ourselves? What new desires/impulses arise from this new kind of culture?
Toward answering these questions, I would like to combine a treatment of the readings from the Web 2.0: Social Networking unit (particularly Barry Wellman's essay "The Social Affordances of the Internet for Networked Individualism) with a treatment of Howard Rheingold's essay on Smart Mobs. I would like to offer as an arena for this discussion several examples of personal publishing: prominent social networking, Twittr.com, Tumblr.com, profile-based sites, networks based on cultural production like Polyvore.com, and viral internet sensations like NYGirlofmydreams.com. Here, I think Tiziana Terranova's work on free labor in the digital economy will be appropriate.
In my attempt to answer some of the questions I raise above, I would like to offer the coining of a term "micro(auto)biography" to define some of the new behaviors and impulses I see resulting from the increasing informaticization of society. I will attempt to make meaning out of the current trend of consolidating and syncing all online behaviors as a means of "tracking" individuals, which are increasingly moving targets. Why is it desirable to create a veritable digital paper trail? What is the new kind of reading required for this type of publishing? To what extent is the utopian dream of the Internet coming true and in what ways is it growing toward something we cannot begin to imagine? Finally, how is the Internet both a tool (appendage) and an arbiter of meaning in itself?