This is a repost from my blog. On a personal note I would like to thank Jeff for the amount of himself that he poured into this class, and the seriousness with which you, my classmates, treated all of our work, while still having fun (at least I did). I don’t have any logical or philosophical foundations for my claims, it is simply my opinions and the design ramifications that follow.
Last night I attended my last class of 2007. I was very happy about it. Now is the time in my life where I get to do a lot of reflection anyway, I’m writing my statements for PhD programs and I get to take the largely seamless analog whole of my life and interpret it into something discreet and digital and coherent. At least my professional life and research interests.
It’s not the easiest thing to do. I mean I need to show how I’m unique, how my interests fit into the departments I’m applying to, into the program, how I will contribute, how I will be enriched. This is a classic example of the constructedness of identity. The question remains however, am I just showing different facets of myself, or is there no unity to the self?
Is there one true self, who you REALLY are? I would say no. Do you have a soul? I would say yes. How can these ideas coexist?
Happily they sit together, drinking tea.
There is no one true self, there is no way that you WILL be, that you OUGHT to be in the sense that if you don’t become that person you have betrayed your true nature. While I do think it is possible that you may not have lived up to some kind of potential that exists in each of us, there is no preset amount of “greatness” that you could have accomplised. Instead you have a soul, a part of the universe that is uniquely you, but what that soul is to become is up to you. It is constructed by you and co-constructed by your environment, your peers etc.
The fragmentary nature of who we are is OK. You will be someone different with different groups of people. You are not being two faced in the same way as when you say something to one person and then do something else because you lied about it.
How does design fit into this kind of view?
Design should recognize that we are who choose to be. Our constructedness and multi-faceted nature need not be made inorganic or undesirable. Design should realize that we like to try out different roles, and then possibly take them off again. Designs that support the exploration of self, what it means to live, to be, to become can be very powerful and affective. I think games can do this extremely well since we can embody different characters and people as we play. It is part of what makes it so great to play. Games aside though I would like to see additional designed interactive artifacts that support this view of identity. Ultimately I hope we have a way to manage all the data that represents us and doesn’t necessarily try to make it coherent for us, but rather it can let the data self-organize, or we can choose to let it be or make it more recognizable.