i hope you get cancer™

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Hyperreality

I'm no expert on Baudrillard, but the question of what is 'real' online has smacked me in the face twice in recent months. Last year I joined a site, began posting on discussion boards and was greeted with a whirlwind of suspicion, and accusations that I was fake, that mine was a fictitious identity dreamed up by an existing member. This despite the fact that I was one of a minority of members who used their real name, and posted a photograph of themselves along with their details. It sparked a long discussion on the site, and in fact it was only when I met other site members in person several months later that my identity was accepted. Then this week I posted what I regarded as an ironic comment on some of the cliches of online dating. It did not relate to real people. Yet - by contrast to the previous example - this was taken at face value and thus caused some offence. So, among other things, I have decided firstly to remove the offending post, and secondly to restrict my online scribblings to matters other than the personal. Actually in writing this I now understand that the medium, in this case, is not the message, so much as the fact that people take from one's comments what they like. They interpret messages based upon their own meaning frameworks, worldviews and prejudices. What is referred to in media theory as the 'uses and gratifications' conceptualisation of the audience. But questions remain: is the internet more prone to misinterpretation than other media? To what extent is it in fact misintepretation, or are audience interpretations as valid as the author's intent?