Reading Response #8


In Mukerji’s article, “Me? A Digital Humanist?” she discusses the different ways and environments the human identity is shaped by materials. Mukerji also suggests that the way we see and use free will and retain/recall memories also greatly affects human identity. She sees digital culture as an illusion of agency, meaning that creativity is only as great as the immersive environments allow. Mukerji believes that ‘immersive environments’ are exercises of governing power as related to Louis XIV at the gardens of Versailles.


Mukerji is quick to begin discussing governing structures first. Mukerji argues that governing structures give “material means for pursuing agency” (42) to people to exercise their power. By saying this Mukerji is showing that the physical and material aspects are still constraining. In this way, Digital Media produces power because is presents immersive environments, which are constraining to its users by creating physical barriers and contextual barriers. Mukerji gives examples of this as she relates back to the labyrinth and memory palace. Mukerji argues all of this to show a sort of ‘unfreedom’ through this historical and cultural system of governance.


Mukerji continues her discussion with relating her argument to the governing forms used in Versailles, given by Louis XIV. Such systems were used to the power of Louis XIV of that of an earlier Roman ruler through the form of governance, that is a connection with the divine or higher power. The structure showed Louis XIV’s divine rule, and the servitude position of the nobility. By memory, the structure was to be akin to the “land of gods and heroes,” to be a representative of ‘tradition’ (45) created in memory, so to speak of itself. The labyrinthine/maze style of the garden itself restructured the identities of the nobility, showing their place well below and under the all-powerful, divine rule of Louis XIV.


Next, Mukrji talks about Facebook in a way that was so unique. I had never thought about these concepts before when considering my time on Facebook. She uses this to discuss how digital media allows for space for users to control the creation of their self-identity. Mukerji identifies facebook as a memory palace which is designed and created ultimately to “attach(ing) identity to online activity…” (47) Mukerji discusses that the basis of Facebook is to ‘get to know’ other users through pictures, posts, shares, likes, etc. where users ‘invent themselves’ through what they choose to put, and to not put onto their Facebook account. Mukerji suggests that the ‘power’ of Facebook comes from its immersive kind of environment, allowing the user to create, but within the confines of the space given, limited.


At first, I was most confused when she talked about governing structures. I saw it first only as strictly and literally government related. However, the example of Louis XIV and Facebook actually were such good examples that I was able to understand because I saw the similarity of the two. However, I am still a bit confused completely about how the example of Louis XIV connects to the larger topic. Is it talking about digital media as a whole? I am also confused about the video gam example and tieing that into PTSD? I just don’t see how this relates entirely to the topic and seemed to be a little off-the-wall so to speak.


I would like the class to consider the social media aspect like facebook. Like I said, I have never considered it to be a controlled environment, it seems so free and open to create the perception of yourself. How does that affect us? What digital media had this kind of affect before social media?