Introduction to Essays

This series of essays originated in my doctoral research, undertaken at Goldsmiths College, London (2000-6).

Each essay has a different emphasis but together they shape a reading of the contemporary body as performing the self through series of narcissistic gestures, both blissfully consumptive and desperately anxious.

The shift from a mechanised, analogue world into a digitised, virtual one is both profound and traumatic. To understand and meet the challenges we face going forward into this brave new immaterial realm, it is I contest, essential to know the path that brought us here. It is also necessary to be aware of the impact that virtuality has on our processes of self-identification. Virtuality changes things. It fundamentally changes our relation to the world. That is not to say that it is all bad but it is to say that awareness of our past and present allows us to actively shape our futures.

Losing oneself in the contemplation of our own image, whether you are Kim Kardashian or Narcissus, can be dangerous. Losing touch with corporeality even more so. However, by drawing popular culture and looking at the pleasures we obtain in frequently extreme manifestations of our drives, in art, literature and cinema, it is possible to navigate a course through these technologically infested waters and create a new and expanded understanding of our millennial selves.

Finally, sovereignty means being in control of the ‘Off’ switch. If we want to shape our futures and understand who we are in the face of ‘artificial intelligence’ then knowing when to press it will be crucial.