Yay! My paper for DAC was accepted! One reviewer loved it, the other was much less enthusiastic but had some really useful comments about bits of the stuff I’m doing that I’m uh, still working on attaining expertise in. Lacan, actually, see, if I’m going to write about how we’re wild about photos of ourselves in mirrors well, you need to talk about the mirror phase*, which I know a bit about but need to work more on. I love reviews that are actually helpful and include references and specific things to work on. And I love having written a full paper and being able to revise it.

Here’s the abstract, which I’ll probably revise some before it’s all finalised, because I don’t think it quite expresses what I’m trying to do, really.

Mirrors and Shadows: The Digital Aestheticisation of Oneself
This paper takes the multitude of photographs of our own reflections and shadows that are published online as a starting point and demonstrates their place in a history filled with myths and stories of reflections, shadows and their simultaneous danger and fascination. I connect this to the self-representation of online diaries and weblogs, and relate it to psycho-analytical discussions of how we use our own mirror images to come to an understanding of our selves, concluding that our contemporary fascination with reflections and shadows is an expression of our newfound subjectivity as individuals able to represent ourselves rather than simply succumb to the generalisations of mass media.

One reviewer didn’t like the title, finding it clumsy. I see the point, but can’t quite think of a better one. For some reason I love “Mirrors and Shadows”, but the rest of it I could see changing.

This was another fun paper to write, though. Like the feral hypertext paper, where I woke up one morning just wanting to put the words “feral” and “hypertext” together. The idea for this paper came when I was in Oslo this spring, and I started writing it as a stream of consciousness kind of a draft of ideas sitting in an Oslo cafÈ. Then I picked it up again in August.

* The mirror phase is this basic idea used in lacanian and other psychoanalytic literary and film theory that we become subjects – that is aware of ourselves as individuals – in the “mirror phase”, by seeing our infant selves in the mirror and realising that that reflection is me. This recognition is always also a misrecognition, because, well, my mirror image isn’t “me”, and this leads to all sorts of theories of how the gaze works in cinema and how so on.

10 thoughts on “paper accepted!

  1. Martin Lessard


    I’m always curious about how digital life
    modified our real life (or seems to modify our life).

    If I understand well your summary, and if you accept me to
    think one step beyond : the Net seems to be the
    first global medium for individuals to represent our selves.
    Where old mass-media was the global medium to represent
    our society or our culture

    By extension – and like mass-media was – the Net is the Message
    (as McLuhan would have said) and its supporting ideology
    might be individulism (I post, therefore I am).

    Despite my use of (funny) clichÈs, and because in Occident this
    isn’t a big deal, Internet allows one to be oneself inside a group
    and this might be appealling (or not) in some other part of the world
    where group overrides individuals identity.

    Your paper seems to explore one way we might express ourself.
    Seems interesting to me to see what might be perceived as narcissism
    (which isn’t accepted as a virtue ao far) is becoming an art
    of manipulating is own private image in the public sphere.

    But maybe I get beyond too much the point…

  2. Jill

    Being able to express oneself as an individual and as part of a group, yes, that might well be some of the allure of blogging and other forms of self-expression on line. I do discuss blogging in the paper, too – I’m going to have to go through it and revise it so I can post it here 🙂

  3. Steve Shimanek

    I’ve spent a good deal of time today thinking about your post about mirrors and shadows. In the days to come I’ll post it in my own space and add a link here. But first I would like to comment with an Emily Dickinson poem that has been popping up in my life a lot lately, and which I think might bear on the question as you framed it in your abstract:

    I’m Nobody! Who are you?
    Are you — Nobody — too?
    Then there’s a pair of us!
    Don’t tell! they’d advertise — you know!

    How dreary -— to be —- Somebody!
    How public — like a Frog -—
    To tell one’s name —- the livelong June -—
    To an admiring Bog!

    (Of course Dickinson didn’t have a blog, nor did she even publish her poetry in her lifetime. The meaning of the word ‘advertise’ was surely not quite the same as it is today either — although the modern meaning was likely not completely unknown either.)

    I look forward to finishing up my thoughts, but it may be next week before I send you a link to my frogblog. (The poem will in some ways be a pretext to a story of human contact and (re)constructing identity in the more developed version…)

  4. Steve Shimanek

    Correction: by post IT I mean my thoughts, not your post.

  5. AndrÈ-S-C

    Miror, mirror, on the wall, whoís the fairest, my avatar or I?

    Lots of interesting ideas in your paper abstract. First thing that comes to mind for me is how this process may flow from representation to manipulation, especially looking at e.g. avatars on DeviantArt (Iím at http://andre-s-c.deviantart.com ) and the interplay between objectivity and subjectivity, also have you looked at Ken Wilburís ëintegralí theory, defining paradigms based on objective, subjective, inter-objective, inter-subjective. Their site http://integralnaked.org ëIntegral Nakedí may have some useful links to resources leaning towards the more ëtrans-personalí/íhuman-potentialí side of psychological theory. Probably not the kind of thing youíd be after but thought Iíd mention it anyway, really enjoying your blog, thanx.

  6. Francois Lachance

    “Shadow” is a term from Jungian psychology. Interesting to see how it might intersect with the Lacanian mirror.

  7. Jane McG

    I know this comment is late to the game, but just in case you spot it…
    Just because you talk about mirrors doesn’t mean you have to work with Lacan’s mirror stage!! Augh!! Resorting to Lacan has ruined many a lovely discourse. It’s a lovely metaphor, poetry, pretty pretty, but we don’t need to indulge in high roccoco psychoanalysis to understanding self-portrait tools of the online space. I’m still working through your paper so I don’t know if you took the reviewer’s advice or not. 🙂

  8. Jill

    Hey, Jane! I’m thinking of revising the paper, doing something with it for a journal, and I’m thinking I’ll just can the bloody Lacan. And yes, it’s a pretty image, but I agree, I think those paragraphs were the death-throws of my loyalty to my lit. profs in that “literature and psychoanalysis” class I did years ago… Love to hear your comments when you’re done reading 🙂

  9. Jane McG

    Hey Jill! Finished the paper and love it…. think I’ll love it even more without the Lacan, heh. You do a really nice job of course of making it work for your overall argument, but it just rings so old world these days (I want to see the literary and cognitive modification critical frameworks that emerge out of today’s more popular analysis methods!) Anyway, your Big Picture observation that digital camera enables a much more confident and playful self-portraiture is a huge and productive insight, and I’m glad you’ve published it. I am smitten with Flickr myself as a game platform these days, so it was lovely to read another kind of throughtful approach to it.

  10. Jill

    Awesome! Thanks, Jane!

    Elin Sjursen’s doing work on Flickr, and hm, she might well be thinking of it in terms of a game… an identity game kind of. Cool idea.

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