Halftone Image of Crowd

Digital Echolocation
 

Fabián de la Parra Rodríguez

The current digital era has inevitably transformed the ways in which we interact with others and the ways in which we understand ourselves. It has transformed our social identity and the social landscape upon which that identity is developed. As social creatures, our interactions define how we exist and how we coexist with others. The present Coronavirus pandemic has displaced our social interactions onto online platforms almost entirely. In order to explore the effects of this displacement, the invitation sent out to the participants of Group 5 of the Feeling Digital Workshop was to explore our virtual territory in whatever way we saw fit. I decided to create a map of the virtual territory I was inhabiting at the time through an exercise that I found comparable to the ways in which bats understand their surroundings: echo locution. As a result of this comparison, the title for this experiment was decided to be “Digital Echolocation”. It consists of 3 takes that were recorded through Zoom to observe the ways in which my digital territory transformed and changed as I walked through the apartment. The three takes were edited together along with observations on the result of this experiment.

            As I walk through the apartment, I read the poem “Alone” by Maya Angelou. The video explains that this decision was taken to express the observation that internet and social media users are firstly alone in their virtual territory. It is a space in which we seek entertainment, information, and company; nevertheless, it is a space we inhabit alone. Consequently, people can be in a shared physical space while being isolated in their own virtual space. People can also be physically isolated while seeking company through their online interactions. In the video, I also comment on the association that many have of their cell phones or other devices with the sentiment of being home. People feel out of home when they cannot find their personal communication devices. Another observation is made pointing out the tendency that people have to associate the quality of their internet connection with the quality of themselves. People will often apologize for having a bad connection, as if this were something that they deliberately made happen.

            Finally, in the video I also make a connection to the realm of desires and the virtual territory. The internet is a space that is filled with desirable content in order to seduce its users into continuous interactions. I cite an article by Alessandra Lemma (2015) that discusses the evolution of psychoanalysis through technological interactions. As the virtual has evolved and developed, the scope and content of the users’ desires have evolved and expanded as well. The conclusion to which I arrived following my experiment is that virtual territory refers to the frontier between how we wish to present ourselves and the ways in which these desires are frustrated by circumstances that are beyond our control.

References

Lemma, A. (2015). Psychoanalysis in times of technoculture: Some reflections on the fate of the body in virtual space. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 96(3), 569-582.