Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Imagined Restrictions On My Writing, Or, How I Unconsciously Regulate Myself Based on the Economy of the Imagination

I could write the weirdest things. I could say such strange things. Wouldn't it be easy to be incredibly bizarre and offensive? Wouldn't it be fun to write outrageous things? And even as I begin to write these lines I am struck with a truth: I can't write those things.

To drift into those worlds of incredibly violent or sexual writing is just too much. How did McCarthy write Blood Meridian? How do you learn to so vividly depict violence and horror, sexuality and depravity? How do you do that?

I ask these questions because I think I recently stumbled on a concept that helps me deal with this fact a little bit. That concept is captured in a phrase I have been tossing around: 'the economy of the imagination'. I stumbled upon this term on October 23rd when I wrote my post 'On Privacy: The Obstruction of Visibility as the Regulation of the Evidence Required for Imaginative Simulations'. Sometimes I fear that my writing is too abstract. But anyways, in that post I was trying to answer some questions about privacy and how it worked. What is it that we are trying to accomplish when we speak of having privacy, whether it be bodily privacy or mental privacy. What is this 'privacy'? I ended up concluding that privacy was not so much about hiding ourselves physically or mentally, but is rather about preventing people from having the evidence that they need to imagine us in situations that we consider embarrassing or compromising. I gave some examples about retroactive embarrassment, where someone finds out something about us at a later date and we still feel embarrassed even though they didn't witness the actual embarrassing event. They simply acquired the evidence they required to imagine us in that situation at a later date. Privacy. What a funny thing.

But anyways, when I talk about 'the economy of the imagination' what I am talking about is how privacy is really about controlling the amount and quality of the information that people have to think about us. This depends on a couple of assumptions: 1. that social relations are facilitated primarily by how people exist in our minds (i.e. people exist mainly in our heads). 2. that this can be considered a form of imagination (i.e. people exist in our heads because we imagine them in certain ways). 3. That we not only imagine other people, but we also imagine how other people imagine us. 4. That identity and self-perception is inseparable from the people that we interact with (i.e. we would not have a sense of self unless we had interactions that gave us an outside perspective to imagine ourselves from).

The economy of the imagination is therefore the way that information circulates that allows individuals to imagine others, imagine themselves, and imagine others imagining themselves.

Lol. I am imagining this swirling diagram in my mind right now. A diagram that somehow explains this. How to create a picture to capture this? All I'm saying is that if people exist in our heads, and we exist in other people's heads, then we must exist in the imagined heads of the people that we know. Perhaps I can demonstrate this with brackets.

(My Mind [Other People's Imagined Minds {My Sense of Myself as Existing Within Imagined Other Minds} Other People's Imagined Minds] My Mind)

See, this is hard for me to talk about. Or, it is hard for me to abstract, I should say. So let me ground this in concrete terms.

Why can't I write weird and bizarre violent or sexual things on a public forum? Why can't I say whatever the fuck I want? Why does the use of a cuss word feel like an affront to this internet world? What is up with that?

What I'm suggesting is that what holds me back from writing weird things is my knowledge that this writing will give other people certain ways of imagining my mind. But because other people exist only in my mind (at least right now, obviously, since I write this alone in my room, so no one could be here to judge me), it follows that my writing is being restricted not by people actually imagining me, but by me imagining how other people will imagine me. The economy of the imagination functions of the availability of information. Evidence of thought is the capital that allows the economy of the imagination to function.

So, in conclusion, I unconsciously regulate my writing, I avoid saying anything too weird, because I am worried about the evidence that I am introducing into the economy of the imagination that functions in my relationships. i don't want to give anyone any evidence to think of me as too weird.

But guess what, this is a really weird post. These are really weird things to write, I think. So I am overcoming myself. I don't care about this economy of the imagination. But if I were to remain unconscious of its functioning, if I were to have not reflected on this issue, I would simply feel shy and concerned about revealing too much of myself. But once I identify that the problem is my imagining of how other people will imagine me, I am liberated. I no longer feel the pressure of other minds, because I realize that it would simply be my own mind putting pressure on me as other minds.

This is like when I used to stand in line and someone would giggle behind me. I would think, 'oh boy, what are they laughing at me for?' But then I thought one day, 'wait a second, they could be laughing about anything. it is just me being insecure and projecting these things onto these people'. How I imagine other people imagining me is up to me. I won't bring simulation theory into this yet. But I hope that this idea of the economy of the imagination will mature. Because to me it makes sense, and it goes somewhere in explaining how it is that social relations work. And social relations are, of course, my biggest concern. Over and out, pompadour jones.

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