For our final performance, my group created an online chat room about sex robots in which each of us took on anonymous personas. We participated in the chat from separate locations, and only one member (the one who created the chat room) knew who each of us were. This was both a fun and frustrating process. First of all, it made me realize the inefficiency of technology. I thought that creating my screen name and logging in to the chat would take but a few minutes. I was wrong. I had to have at least three people help me create an account, download the correct program, and figure out how to connect to the chat. Technology was not working for me. Because I have a Mac, I had to download a specific type of AIM, which then didn't seem to work with other members. So I downloaded the original kind. Then I forgot my password. Once I got my account up and running, another member hit a road block. I thought technology was supposed to make things easier??? Any who, once we were all logged in and the chat began, this is when the real fun picked up. I had gone into the chat without any real idea of who I was going to be. I was trying to visualize each character as they were presented to me, and then imagine which group member was behind that character. The screen names give no information whatsoever, and neither does the conversation. Though I was able to pick up on some of the "real" behind the "fake," I wanted to know why people chose certain personas...how different they were trying to be..?
We then posted the chat on Serendip for the rest of our class to see. The day of our performance, we had our classmates read the chat and guess which persona belonged to each member. Some people were quick to guess, others spent their time rearranging different possibilities to figure out which one fit best. It was interesting to see the types of guesses people made, and how most of the time they were incorrect. When we finally put the correct answers on the board, there were a lot of surprised and confused faces in the class. We asked, "why did you make your decisions the way you did?" Some said it was because of the tone of certain characters, the word choice gave it away. Some thought because a student acts a specific way in class, they'd try harder to be something different online. In this discussion, I was noticing a certain conundrum with online chatting, that can be expanded to relate to our connection with technology as a whole --is it possible to really separate oneself (in the attempt to become another) from one's true self? I realized in my own experience with this project that I had tried to talk, act, "appear" different; I had tried to be someone that I am not (I imagined myself as a 13 year old boy from Kansas sitting alone, bored at his computer screen, the internet being the only place where he finds the feeling of power and connection that he lacks in reality...). However, I came to find that this separation is a lot more difficult than one actually thinks. I struggled to talk like a 13 year old boy, to change my thoughts to be more in line with that character...A lot of the time people assume chatting online allows someone to "be someone they aren't," however perhaps this anonymity actually allows one to take on their most original, most authentic self. It's kind of like that phrase, "a drunken mind speaks a sober heart." Perhaps in this case, one could say..."a cybernetic mind speaks an existential heart."