Friday, July 6, 2007

Who Am I?

One of the most interesting features of postmodernity is also one its most ironic. At the core of the postmodern paradigm is the essential "I", the subjective I of Renee Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum", or I think therefore I am. Identity is one of the key concern of postmoderns. The irony comes in when we look at where we receive our identity messages from in the postmodern world. We see we are no closer to getting a clear picture.

Dr Ted Turneau points out that in dealing with the sheer volume of messages in our media mad world, we seldom stop to consider the very implications that the messages are mediated . Perhaps 80 percent of the information we receive is tainted by commercial interest. It is not unbiased, and is predominantly destabilising to identity to encourage consumption.

Semiologists such as Umberto Eco have pointed to a second characteristic which makes postmodern identity so unstable.The postmodern paradigm tends toward an identification with the Quixotic. We are more at home with objects and icons of the past. We understand the codes and meaning structures of of past generations better than we do our own codes and meanings. Like the term postmodern we are defined not by what we are but by what we are not. I commend to your reading Eco's Travels in Hyperreality. To this add a propensity to think with ones feelings and we find a recipe for creative anacronism and the odd emoticon.

In the same way that a fish would be the worst thing to ask to describe water because it is surrounded by it the whole time, so we seem to be the worst at describing what characterises postmodern identity. It becomes confused in the retroactive images collected by our past lives. We seem to live in an unreal world where 1950 style theme diners are juxtaposed with media outlets where every possible future is for sale.

I believe that this is one of the reasons why Foucault chose to examine humanity through the lens of the institution. In this area humanity is some what reduced to its bare essentials, its the contemplative in his cell, where there are clear, albeit complex power relationships.

Postmodernism is fundamentally skeptical of any traditional authority base. According to Turneau the difficult postmodern philosophy will have to answer ultimately is that relativity implies relation and therefore there must be based on some objective truth. In other words, Where do I speak from? Where do I launch my rebellion against the established order from?

I believe that Foucault's concept of discourses provide perhaps the most promising opportunity to gain fresh insight, particularly when discussed as counterpoints to traditional approaches, due to discourses fluidity, but with the implication of a stable base.

No comments: