Self-representation has become increasingly complex since the onset of the digital age. As technological capability has evolved, so, too, have the modes through which identity can be constructed and self expressed. In many ways, the growing ubiquity of technology has led to a digitized society, one that is always “plugged in” and that is in interminable conversation with itself. These convergences of socialization, of self, and of technology have led to an emergence of new forms of self-representation as well as of forms of aesthetic presentation. Often, emergent forms of aesthetic presentation such as memes, gifs, and “shitposting” are used not only for artistic and expressive purposes but for the purposes of communication and of signification. The emergent genre of Eliterature–a born-digital means of narrative construction–contains a growing number of works designed for self-exploration, construction, deconstruction. Increasingly, aspects of self-identification and of identification are being mediated through these and other developing forms of digital content creation. In this way, new digital forms of aesthetic presentation also become conduits for and agents of self-representation.
While much research in the field of digital humanities (Hayles 2007; Rettberg 2013; Szilak 2018) around Eliterature has attempted to legitimize and canonize the medium, only slight research (Page 2008; Walker Rettberg) has delved into exploring the affordances Eliterature provides to self-representation and to self-expressive forms. Also, while digital art seems to be making a concerted effort in recent years (Mencia 2012; Saum 2015-2018; Vavarella 2017) to explore the intersection of the self and the digital, especially with increasing public and market interest in digital and graphic design, little research to date has attempted to apply an art historical framework to this development despite it displaying ideals associated with the ideologies of art movements such as Dada and Fluxus. Essentially no research in the digital humanities has attempted to analyse digital culture or emergent forms of digital content creation like Eliterature, memes, gifs, or “shitposting” as contemporary expressions of Dada or Fluxus sentiments.
This research recognizes that self-representation is complex and cannot be attributed to any singular set of factors. Digital intervention has only further complicated construction and expression of identity. In digital spaces, one can truly be a legion, “containing multitudes” in ways Whitman probably never anticipated. That said, this research asserts that an exploration of the combined digital and aesthetic mediums that complicate the negotiation and expression of self can offer insight into the shifting ideology surround identity in the twenty-first century. More, this researcher believes that a focused exploration of this shifting ideology of self and how it is represented through aesthetic forms may reveal a reemergence of Dada ideals that would provide further insight into the complexity of self-representation. In order to express the findings of this research in an interactive way that mirrors participative qualities in online spaces as well as to more fully illustrate the digital and aesthetic processes being used to convey self, a dual creative approach has been adopted. The findings of this research will be represented through two mediums: 1) an interactive work of Eliterature and 2) an interactive installation during Kean University’s 2019 Research Days. This dualistic representation is meant to further convey the multiplicity and varying levels of self-representation in the digital age as well as invite personal interaction with these processes often viewed as being, somewhat ironically, far-removed from the self.