[Update] Exploring Digital Narcissisms

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Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture
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Reconstruction 13.3: Exploring Digital Narcissisms

For Freud, narcissism is the investment of libidinal energy redirected away from objects and toward the ego, whereas Lacan tells us it is a failure arising from the mirror stage precipitating a fruitless and perpetual search for the perfected image of the self. A "healthy" narcissism entails an optimal level of self-regard and esteem, whereas an "unhealthy" narcissism can lead to emotionally destructive consequences. In this way, the operative "borderline" between healthy ego formation and reactive defense of a fragile ego construct may, in fact, be more pronounced of an issue in the online environment where this struggle may find itself trans-or superimposed.

One of the major shifts in web 2.0 has been the facilitation of more participatory content via social networking sites (SNSs) and news site fora, etc. User-generated communication, be it synchronous or asynchronous in nature, has allowed for more opportunities in the area of self-expression in the digital Umwelt. A raft of studies and popular books in the last few years have indicated a tentative connection between SNSs and an enabling function for narcissistic self-display, aggressive behaviour, and the desire to maximize social capital, particularly as endemic to the social software architecture that allows for promotionalism and self-boosterism online. In some cases, there is an argument to the effect that such online behaviours follow trends reminiscent of the clinical definition of narcissistic personality disorder such as possessing poor object relations, the social dependency versus extreme autonomic reliance paradox, aggressive and cathartic exchanges in the online venue, the fostering of shallow connections and tributary relations; and other ambient factors such as the marketization of the online ego-identity construct, the "arithmomania" of collection fetishism present in the quantifying of connections as social capital, and other issues that may arise in the tension between the Internet-mediated self and the environment in which it operates. On the more optimistic end of the debate, SNSs as a "liberation technology" are a source of facilitating niche-building, information flow, personal expression, and healthy ego development rather than pathological auto-scopophilia.

We invite scholarly essays to explore the dynamism that may exist in the rise of social media with respect to changes in narcissistic behaviours and ego formation. How has the digital milieu shaped, or been shaped by, narcissisms? How does the online ego problematize the classic definitions of narcissism, in addition to making any diagnostic pronouncements on the basis of digital communication? Scholars are encouraged to draw from the literature on narcissism(s), including more classic formulations (Freudian and Lacanian), object relations (Kernberg et al) and self psychology (Kohut et al) schools of thought.
Suggested topics may include, but are not limited to,

Cyberpsychology and online ego-construction
Digital Ego-play and self-esteem
Object relations
The web as externalized id or mass subconscious manifestation
Cyberpragmatic analysis of interpersonal communication
Psychoanalysis of digital behaviour
Civilization and its (digital) discontents.
Approval-seeking mechanisms
The sociological and psychological understanding of liking, ranking, and tagging

Please submit complete essays between now and Aug 1 to Kane Faucher (kfauche@uwo.ca). Inquiries of all kinds are also welcome.

"Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture (ISSN: 1547-4348) is an innovative cultural studies journal dedicated to fostering an intellectual community composed of scholars and their audience, granting them all the ability to share thoughts and opinions on the most important and influential work in contemporary interdisciplinary studies. Reconstruction publishes one open issue and three themed issues quarterly. Reconstruction is indexed in the MLA International Bibliography."

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