Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mind, Self, and Facebook: A Postmodern Sociology Part. 4

Now that we have loosened our grip on modernity and have begun to utilize the postmodern tools of interaction, we can re-appropriate modern social theory. Bjorklund’s method of analyzing autobiographies is a good model to start with. Bjorklund noted:
We discern the individual voices of the autobiographers, but we also discover the culture speaking through the self. These self-narratives, however, have even more to offer when we also recognize them as rhetorical accomplishments. Autobiographers use vocabularies of the self, not only to make sense of their lives but also to present a praiseworthy self to their audiences. (Bjorklund 158,159)
Similar to postmodern theorists, Bjorklund privileges the localized nature of autobiographies to draw conclusions about the larger society. Her study analyzed 110 autobiographies from 1800 to 1980. Her analysis explores “their use of shared cultural ideas about the self as well as the social situational constraints of impression management.” (Bjorklund 1998, Xi) Facebook, like autobiographies, are an “amalgam of cultural ideas, scruples, art, imagination, rhetoric, and self-presentation.” (Bjorklund, x) Both keep a record of how people interpret their own lives. Bjorklund extracts how the self is developed by analyzing how each author, over different time periods, dealt with the literary constraints of modesty, honesty, and the need to be interesting. She then looked at how the author’s emphasis on components of the self (passion, reason, and will) differed over the four time periods. A third way that Bjorklund interpreted the self through autobiographies was by analyzing how the authors spoke about their relationships with others.
            The micro-autobiographies, written in Facebook, are not the same as traditional autobiographies, but they are expressions of individuals sharing their lives, reflecting on their identity, and anticipating the response of their audience. These similarities make it possible for us to appropriate Bjorklund’s modern sociological methods for the study of postmodern study. Although many sociologists conduct research in ways that are similar to postmodern styles of research there is still confusion or fear of the unknown, changing dynamics of society. This postmodern turn is a cultural shift that sociologist must confront. Once they are able to move away from the sacred texts of modernity they will be able to embrace the new postmodern technologies. By moving towards the postmodern, they will be able to gain better understanding of how the postmodern self is developing. They will be able to conduct better postmodern research and critique. When sociologists stop longing for the comfort of modernity they can join the excitement of the new era with its new possibilities. Instead of nostalgic research that stands in condemnation of the postmodern self, they can join the dialogue and help shape the free flow of information, political power, social networking, media, and discourse that may lead to a better stage of society. Once sociology accepts the transition out of modernity, it can adapt the grand narratives of modernity and re-appropriate them to study the development of the postmodern self.

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