An Ongoing Self

One of the paradoxes that has emerged so far in our study on this unit is that identity implies both sameness and difference. Identity is both something unique to each of us that we assume persists over time as well as something which ties us to collectives (national, cultural, train-spotting).

I was reflecting over this as I watched ‘Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years’ on YouTube. This has been something of a ‘viral’ video with over 7 million views since it was first posted in August 2006.

And then I started to look at some of the comments posted about the video on the YouTube site:

amnesiac618: ” it’s so terribly sad”

pammypoopers: ” I dont know who this is, or what just happened.. but that was just baout the coolest thing I’ve ever heard someone do!! This is so random!! Kudos, man.
Change is scary. But we grow from it. Thats life.”

oblivious911: ” Hey!,i counted every frame you missed 8 days you are the worst human being on earth and have no life..
lol j/k man good work wish i had that patience and all you jerks out there go find something better to do than sit around and make fun of people you dont know”

Andy1245711: “How hard is it to take pics everyday for 6 years and upload the lot onto the computer? If he had to scan them one by one it would be dedication but this is crap.”

Noah is showing both his uniqueness over time and, in distributing his video on a particular platform, claiming a particular group identity (/fication) at the same time. But what of the comments? How important are they? What do they tell us about the group?

As I read a blog post, web page, or watch a video, I do have that voice in my head holding a running commentary on what it is I’m taking in and how I’m processing it. Now the fact that I can transfer that voice directly to the web by ‘commenting’ (either in text form, a video response, a feedback counter, etc.) has an influence on the groups formed by this virtual community and my own presentation of self. (The marketing depts. are just getting to grips with this concept of conversational marketing through the ‘user-web’.) As such, it has an impact on identity processes.

Here’s a clever video exploring the nature of this ‘conversation through comments’.