Sunday, November 22, 2009

Obligatory Introduction Post

So...first post. Here's a bit about this blog and why I'm doing it.
I chose the title "Life at the Interface" because it reflects several of the things I'm interested in. As a psychological anthropologist, I focus on the interactions between individuals and their cultures. However, the binary between "online" and "offline" life and interaction is also fascinating. At the same time that it's becoming more blurred (for instance, many of us carry around Internet-connected cell phones and laptops as we move about our everyday life, taking our connections everywhere with us, whereas many of us also form friendships and relationships in virtual spaces), it's also becoming more interesting.
Digital media is without a doubt changing a lot of things - how we get our news and information and how we communicate with friends and family, just to name a few. But is it fundamentally changing the way we think, understand the world, socialize, and interact, or is it just providing a new context in which we do the same things? My guess is that it's a little of both.
In my opinion, much of traditional social science needs to re-assess its models of how culture and social interaction work in order to see if they still apply in the digital age. On the flip side, however, many studies of digital media (although by no means all, especially in recent years) have historically focused on the possibilities (whether positive or negative) of the technology, more so than looking at what unique, culturally and socially situated individuals actually do with the technology. Life online allows us, for example, to have multiple identities and to present ourselves however we want (e.g., user names, avatars, etc). However, do most people actually experience it this way?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions...however, these are some of the issues I plan to explore in my research. I'd love to hear from anyone else with thoughts on these things as well!