The scattering of physical features is similar to how digital identities resemble a kaleidoscope – lots of colorful parts pieced together to create different patterns. We are constantly juggling multiple on-line identities which when built together illustrate who “we are.” It’s not hard to take a trip down the digital rabbit hole and become lost in a sort of Wonderland, a marvelous “imaginary” place where we experience a bit of an identity crisis. Imagery reminiscent of this theme has been popping up throughout the fashion world, be it in this Agent Provocateur military spread, this Dazed and Confused Beth Ditto cover, or as Diane Von Furstenburg’s signature lip toss. It’s like Alice in Wonderland where Alice grows too big and then too small and in a conflicted state exclaims, “I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then,” as she struggles to answer the question, “Who in the world am I?”
There are so many digital outlets for expression – video, photo, social networks, blogs, microblogs, mobile apps – that it becomes impossibly difficult to manage where our digital identities within these fields stand alone and where they merge and create hybrid channel identities. We ask ourselves, should I only tweet stories relevant to my work or career? Should my Facebook be just for friends or coworkers as well? I have three different blogs, so how do I distribute appropriate content and still manage to be “me?” At what point do I overwhelm my networks with repetition and duplication of thoughts?
One must ask where these identities overlap and weave together to write the story of who we are. And we’re not the only ones confused. Magazines are asking the same questions. Trying to find their place amidst a world that’s already started without them, they try to add digital value to their identities in an effort to temp users to pay for content. A few visual parallels of this are apparent in Bjork’s recent Interview cover, this Beautiful Decay photo collage by Bryan Schnelle, Katya Ford’s inspirational photography and this New York Times illustration by Fred Tomaselli.
This investigation brings to light the question of how this splicing translates into our own expressive habits. Thinking about how our personal fashion and style is affected by our many influences, how do these digital personas add up into one fashion statement, one outfit? Or, does one just wake up and wonder, who am I today and which influence do I want to bring into the physical world? This Barbara Kruger piece entitled, You’re Not Yourself, illustrates this concept quite clearly, as does this Valium advertisement, where discomfort and instability are acknowledged in the decision making process.
As bilinguals, we look to the familiar, the iconic and seemingly unchangeable to make sense of the new and foreign. Acculturating into digital, we must examine physical pieces of ourselves in order to understand how to adapt in our ever-evolving world.
Compiled by: Kelsey-Lee LeGassick