Confessional technologies of the self: From Seneca to social media

Norm Friesen, First Monday, Jun 01, 2017
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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Norm Friesen argues that personal self-expression on the web is a continuation of a tradition of externalized identity that dates from centuries in the past. "It is not difficult to regard Facebook — a social media site with over one billion registered users — as a powerful, interpellating, confessional technology of the self," he writes. We can see the link between Facebook's injunction to answer the question "what's on your mind?" and the confessional catechism. But it's also a practice of personal discipline. As Foucault says, "technologies of the self" are “reflected and voluntary practices by which men not only fix rules of conduct for themselves but seek to transform themselves, to change themselves in their particular being, and to make their life an oeuvre.” Which, arguably, is what I'm doing with this website.
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