Thursday, July 26, 2007

On Dissimulation

I'm not sure that honesty is always the best policy when it comes to giving advice about online behavior. Many social critics complain about teens lying about their ages, but like transgression, there can be positive social value to dissimulation. Why give your correct age to marketers, when accurate personal information has become a commodity with quantifiable value to rapacious others?

When it comes to good digital parenting, I think teaching your children to misrepresent their online identities can be important. For example, I list my birthdate as 1910 in all my online profiles. Thus, I only receive a very few targeted solicitations, and the ones that I do get are pretty amusing, given a hale and hearty lifestyle.

As I've argued elsewhere, misrepresenting your identity isn't necessarily a bad thing. In the past, I've certainly done it in print with my own college yearbook entry, and I don't consider it a moral failing on my part. (Of course, misrepresenting myself on my c.v. would be quite another matter.)

Teaching your children to have a sense of humor is a life-long survival skill, and parody and hoaxes have a legitimate function as social critiques. Fellow copyright critic and university academic Kembrew McLeod even lists his "pranks" on the navigation of his home page.

One anecdote from the pre-digital era: I consider myself a good civic-minded American, but I've never been particularly patriotic. Of course, after the whole "Freedom Fries" hysteria, I surrounded myself with French national symbols, but that's probably as close as I've come to any genuine sentiments about any flag.

But when I married designer and animator Mel Horan during the presidential administration of the senior Bush, we thought it would be funny to dress up as political conservatives and pose in front of a U.S. flag with earnest expressions. Friends who knew us got the joke, but family members were probably somewhat mystified.

We wanted it to be subtle enough that newspapers would actually run the pictures, which they did, so we were grateful when now eminent photographer Miles Coolidge agreed to do it. (Click the proof sheet to enlarge.)

I hope that one day my own children commemorate life events so memorably. Creating their own mythology with some well-placed fictions is certainly one way to do it.

(For more on the brand identity of national flags, see this website.)

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Blogger bob c said...

you guys have humor down,good for you. I supose what the future sees of our lives has been a concern since before the Pharohs carved their version of history in stone. But of course, as we know, one can be chisled out. This may be harder if not imposable in the digital age we are now in. Who would have thought digital history would wind up being mmore permanent than stone.

5:14 AM  
Blogger Lupton said...

I love your Flag wedding pictures. You should have an anniversary party for some significant year (is silver 25?), and do a new version, creating a series. Good friends of ours were asked to pose many many years ago as the Holy Family for a now-established photographer; these are art shots, not jokes, but they have a special quality. When my twin sister Ellen was in art school, she and I did some interesting photo shoots as well, including a mock-up of a famous French painting of, as I recall, Diane Poitier and her maid.

6:39 AM  

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