Saturday, March 21, 2009

On Self-Promotion

The brilliant writer Larry Gross wrote this to me recently as a result of a couple of e-mails I sent to him on art mashups and self-promotion in Hollywood:

"The French philosopher, (recently deceased) Jacques Derrida, in a very complex discourse on Rousseau in an early book called OF GRAMMATOLOGY theorized about writing as a "supplement" to identity. What is more and more true in our culture, is that these technologies are becoming essential supplements to identity. They are devices compensating for something missing in our existences, of which, I would argue we are unaware of to begin with--there's nothing wrong with any of this--except for our radical not-being-conscious of it. All cultural practices are supplements in Derrida's sense, and to some degree always have been--this is a transposition of a very old idea of Freud's, that "higher" cultural activities attempt to satisfy needs, impulses cravings that aren't being satisfied on a more immediate experiential-instinctual level--ANYWAY--there are a million issues here--- the distinction between self-presentation and self-invention being one juicy issue, the distinction between some presumably a "real" self, and a self as a brand. And of course in this war of all against all for people's attention, there is the question, what do we want to get people's attention FOR beyond the statistical accomplishment of having gotten it.

If one wanted to be heedlessly optimistic one would celebrate the way in which everyone becomes the screenwriter-film-maker of one's own life in this world of audio-visual technologies replicating and expanding at such insane speed. Stephen Mallarme's visionary hypothesis in the 1870's, "The entire world is exists in order to be part of a book" which pointed in the direction of results that Joyce and Proust would later achieve--now seems to be part of the currency of everyday cultural discourse. BUT there are seem to be a lot of unintended consequences (not to mention causes) for this that are not quite so constructive.

And beyond that, it doesn't seem that very many of us are conscious of what it is we're doing."

I think he hits on many interesting points, not the least of which is our own lack of awareness of what we are doing, even as we take advantage of the multitude of self-marketing methods now available to us. Are our attempts to achieve fame simply fulfilling the need to extend our identity? Do we think this accomplishment will increase our chances for success with the various ventures we pursue even as the lines between business and personal identity blur? What is the balance between self-invention and self-presentation? I've tweeted about the large numbers of social media aficionados who seem intent only on promoting themselves or their products and it's unclear to me in many cases why they even have a need to attract thousands of followers. Finally what is the "real" value of these activities, or have we become so abstracted from what is useful to existence that self-promotion is simply a kneejerk reaction when communication is easy?

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