Thursday, January 7, 2010

You're our narcissus: new media, abundance and taking pleasure in ourselves.

I watched this Douglas Rushkoff video on "How the Web Ate the Economy, and Why This Is Good for Everyone". Rushkoff says that although the majority of economic principles currently being used in business are based on ideas of scarcity (e.g. the monetary system) he reckons that in this the digital age we should be thinking in terms of abundance. It makes complete sense to me. Recently, I have been actively affirming my belief in abundance over fears of scarcity, fears which permeate the whole of our culture - in recession and out. I have been saying to myself: "my income is constantly increasing, my income is constantly increasing", I have been indulging in gifts for myself and others, and it's working. But this whole abundance way of thinking thing has urged me to write on one of the most abundant and interesting phenomenons of recent times - New media. New media interests me:
  • because we are so obsessed with documentation that the impact of the live moment becomes secondary to the retrospective life it accumulates online
  • because technology for documentation has evolved quicker than an etiquette for its use
  • because I'm interested in the ethics of photography
  • because new media blurs the line between professional skill and thoughtless playfulness
  • because social events are now the fodder for photographer's careers
  • because people of all walks of life can access this sometimes affordable technology
  • and because people all over the world are taking photos of themselves.
People taking photos of themselves and posting these photos online. It fascinates me. I have always been an enthusiast of the dress up self-photoshoot. I even included it in my RAG recommends this year:

The ultimate in controversy for those on one's social networking sites who like to debate the 'authenticity' of your self-portraits! Someone once told me "Sorry, but photos lie". Liars! Damn lyin' photos! It cannot be argued however, that thee best relief for rainy unemployed days, night-time, drunken-time, boring afternoons, and the best remedy for general restlessness is dress-up photoshoots. All one needs is clothes (a basket of especially considered clothes works best) and some form of camera. Mostly it's a bit of fun, but there have been times when things get arty, and I've seen how malleable my body and my identity is… lies? No darling, it's theeatahr! That is, theatre.
(Emily on Dress-up Photo shoots, Rag, issue 4)

What is narcissism really? Is it callous, is it self-involved, is it self-obsessed, is it morally incorrect, is it shameful, is it dangerous? The Greek myth is much more than a beautiful boy's deadly desire for himself, it's more than a moral lesson. In the tarot cards, Narcissus is represented by the Page of Cups, the emergence of the capacity to feel. Narcissus stabs himself to death and as his blood dribbles down to the earth, up springs a white narcissus. The death of Narcissus is a necessary stage in developing a capacity for loving others, his death being appropriately self-sacrificial. Each Page in the Tarot deck is embryotic, the most fragile of beginnings which can be easily exploited, abused, misunderstood, ignored, destroyed, as can our sense of self-love and our slow wisdom for the importance of such love: "We can easily call Narcissus callous and selfish, because he has eyes for no other than himself. But he must begin with himself before he can see anyone else".
(The Mythic Tarot, by Liz Greene and Juliet Sharman-Burke)

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