Picture: Azundris; black/white cyberlox  
Title: Identity
by Azundris 2011/09/25
There is no 'from.'
Not in the sense that one is immersed in, influenced by a single defining culture anymore, save maybe that of the 'net.
We are jet-setters, internetters;
we've all moved for work and for love, time and again.

My culture is cosmopolitan.
My friends are online.
My home is the internet.

This is also why you cannot place my accent, ever.
Jedi and leathermen, I give to you:
The Internet Accent.

How old you reckon she is?
How am I supposed to know? This is Hollywood, everybody's had work done.

Of course once "from" becomes meaningless, so does age — if there is a single culture all your interlocutors are drawn from, you can plot a timeline through this culture. If they're a given age, you can guess at what shows, what music they were exposed to, even what the laws were, what the public opinion on homosexuals or women's rights were. Once people are multicultural however, all bets are off. Someone might start building a home in their early twenties, or party all night and lie in late in their thirties. Nowadays, age may be a relevant topic if one wants children, and that's about it.

a/s/l — age, sex, location.

While this question is considered crude on IRC, it's interesting to note the difference between "location" (or, Where are you?) vs Where are you from?
While this is probably pragmatic — Where are you? is not a pertinent question in face-to-face conversation —, I'm fascinated with the shift in perspective. Maybe the next step after, Where are you coming from? and Where are you now? will be, Where are you going?
The future: the undiscovered country.

My job is what I do, not who I am

With two of the most popular opening lines (Where are you from? and, if your interlocutor is particularly inept, How old are you?) gone, vocation (What do you do (for a living)?) seems to become all the more important. Or at least it does if you're desperately clinging to a model of categorizing people that is quickly slipping away into irrelevance.

One way out of this is to let people self-categorize, rather than trying to box them in. This can be most fascinating, because it lets people not only choose their own position or ID in a model, it lets them pick the scale itself on which they see themselves (butch/femme? Or andro/fem? etc.). Just the continuum they pick will reveal interesting information about them.
Interestingly, the moment one leaves the mainstream, there is a lot of vocabulary to answer What do you identify as? Goths, lesbians, the BDSM community all have extensive, often multi-dimensional continuums to self-describe. Geeks have their own humourous take in the GeekCode° of pre-homepage days.

So, then.

My current tagline is gothic cyborg.
Sure, that will give rise to a question or two, but when people are trying to make conversation and learn about each other, that's no bad thing.

So, what does it mean?

Goth you probably know — it tends to imply a subculture, a lot of black, a certain style of music, artistic sensibilities.
(Of course technically, I'm a cybergoth° with residue from at least a handful of other sub-types°, but that's a conversation to have with other goths; for anybody else, the ballpark figure is more appropriate.)
It is also somewhat incidental to the fact that I am a cyborg.

A cyborg°?

Why, yes. Eastern Standard Tribe°. I've moved around a lot. I keep in touch online with half of my friends — sure, some of you do some of this, but I've done this with more friends, and for much longer, counted both in years and in online availability per day — unless you too are a cyborg°.
I have internet in my pocket. I feel like part of me is missing when I cannot instantly conjure information supplementing the current conversation, talk, or TV show. My machines never go offline. (When I fly, there always is a machine somewhere that remains logged into a dozen chat rooms, sorts my mail, and so on.) My phone's data plan is of paramount importance; my voice plan is negligible. When my current gig is consulting, my benefactors get my expertise, and a free helping of my friends' — and vice versa.1 Sleep, sex, air travel — outside of that, I am always connected. I'm always on. The internet makes me something more, and in my humble way, I give back.

Consequently while I am one of the most laid back people you'll likely meet, I'm very just so about my machines: if they are an extension of my brain, and I wish to "keep my house in order", this is a necessary consequence.2
It also follows that I prefer open source software — the thought that "part of my brain" is inaccessible to and hidden from me must needs be abhorrent.

If my machines are, if the net is part of my brain,
then going offline is living with brain damage.

Perhaps the easiest way to tell someone isn't a cyborg is when they consider their online life as separate, separable from "real life."
Perhaps a definition of "real life" is that you can't take or leave it. If you are a cyborg, being online also meets that definition.
Would I survive if I never got to go online again? Probably. In the same way I'd survive if I never got to take a shower again — it'd probably work out somehow, but I'd feel icky and irritable, and people would start to avoid me.

So then.

Where are you from?
I'm from the internet.
The answer of a new generation.





1   One of the seeds for this text is a talk on Donna Haraway°'s Cyborg-feminism at 24C3. This talk was not without its problems, without a doubt at least partially owing to the sometimes grandiose language of the underlying works, but it started a dialog between Kris and me that a netless Monday finally grounded into a number of articles. While not an exact translation, this paragraph owes a debt to Kris' original phrasing° of this particular aspect.
2   Of course, there are cases to be made for technology not just augmenting the brain, but the senses°.




2011/09/25 1.00 init
2011/10/30 1.01 edited for clarity
2013/03/02 1.02 Tech in the borders of 1970° referenced