The Fragmented Self

Earlier I wrote about the possibility of there being "different internets", in the same way that there are different versions of the same city. This is about a way of seeing, a way of experiencing and remembering - my mental map of Oxford may not look like your mental map of Oxford, even if we live on the same street; my online experience may not overlap at all with yours (say I'm re-blogging posts on Tumblr and writing longer pieces on my Wordpress-powered site while you're on Pinterest and Google+) even though we're online at the same time, often encountering and interacting with the same basic content. Anyway, a phrase in a comment that someone left - "fragmented internet" - reminded me powerfully of a paper by Tim Cresswell on "The Prosthetic Citizen: New Geographies of Citizenship". In particular it reminded me of this:

[W]e (i.e. inhabitants of western liberal democracies) all have multiple denizenships that are determined by the kinds of regulatory domains we inhabit. When we are in the gym, we are a denizen of the gym regulated by the rules of that private space.

"We live in the world of 'splintered urbanism'", Cresswell writes. And that world now surely comprises the spaces we inhabit online as well as off.

Again we find ourselves faced with the fact of our multiple identities: and maybe there is no one space that is the confluence of all those roles that we inhabit, no one place from which to broadcast a single sense of self. Instead the self becomes an amalgamation of all the "multiple denizenships", all the different profiles and parts, all the maps we know and have made, all the different ways we know a place. A fragmented internet: yes. A fragmented self; and yet the whole is there somewhere, too.