The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life

The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life

The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life

The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life

Excerpt

I have chosen this moment--30,000 feet above the earth, hurtling at 600 miles per hour on a plane bound for Israel--to begin this introduction. My complete dependency on these technological surrounds echoes the conditions of central concern in my work. I am also writing on a laptop computer, and when I arrive this tiny machine will allow me to instantly reach colleagues, friends, and family throughout the world. Should I require additional information for my talk at the conference I will attend, I will have immediate access to thousands of data sources. I will also be able to pick up the phone and within seconds reach my children, all of whom could answer on their cell phones as they drive to work. In my hotel I will be able to switch on the television and find possibly 30 channels, in several languages, including two round-the-clock news broadcasts in English. And in the coming days I shall meet with 300 other scholars from around the world to talk about the very circumstances that permit us to congregate: modernity and globalization.

We rapidly assimilate new technologies into our lives; we welcome and embrace them. But too seldom do we ask questions about the ways they have changed our lives--sometimes irrevocably. Tonight I will be sleeping halfway around the globe from my home. What does that do to my sense of self? Who now are my neighbors? Where are my allegiances? What is my culture? As I expand into the world, either literally or on the Internet, what happens to my values, my integrity, or my sense of coherence? How are my bonds with family and friends altered when . . .

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