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In his essay on Navigable Spaces, Lev Manovich discussed the ways in which new media provides spaces with which netizens can engage.  Manovich detailed two roles for netizens, the Flâneur, or the “Data Dandy,” and the Explorer.  Derek Gregory, in his work on Drone warfare, suggests that there is another way that we might interact with new media, as Hunter-Killers.  I think that this role is much more useful when describing the ways that netizens navigate the internet than the more lighthearted roles discussed by Manovich.

 

Gregory describes the Hunter-Killer role in relation to drone pilots who navigate foreign spaces looking for targets.  A similar description (perhaps less violent, a “hunter-gather”) would apply to many of the ways that we engage with the internet.  The role of the hunter-gather incorporates activities such as Internet browsing for information or shopping.  We also act like hunter-gathers the role in social media sites such as dating applications.  Grindr, for example, has been described by the creator as a “market place,” which leads to the problematic positioning of its users as either products or shoppers of said products. Footnote The problems caused by commodifying and objectifying oneself in order to fulfill the gaze of a hunter-gather are many.  One author described the objectification of Gindr users as “a bargain basement plunge, pandering to basic instincts.” Footnote  The hunter-gather role has an inverse, that of the objectified user.  Frighteningly, this inverse fits many of the actions of self-presentation that occur online.

 

When we present ourselves on social media we are fighting for the attention of the imagined hunter-gather.  Our methods of self-presentation may not appear to be drastically different than the ways that we might fulfill certain roles in order to be social being outside of digital media.  However, there is a far different dynamic between the hunter-gather and the objectified user than between two social agents in the public realm.  Once completed, an objectified user’s self-presentation is static, a textual or visual statement is fixed and remains fixed for the hunter-gather’s gaze.  Furthermore, an objectified user’s self presentation is placed among the presentations of various other users, such that they are forced into a comparison.  These two characteristics of the hunter-gather/objectified user dynamic can have such troubling results as those detailed by the author cited above.

 

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  1. […] published are then presented as a commodified object amongst other such objects.  I have argued previously that this commodification of self-presentation encourages user to competitively create content that […]

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