I was fascinated by the way the patterns could be endlessly changed - all of them beautiful and to my child eye magical.
And yet all were made by the same few pieces of coloured glass and mirrors. And the light.
I was reminded of that toy when I read 'Digital Authenticity' by Vicky Beeching which addresses the question 'who are you online and offline?' She challenges the idea that
'authenticity in the digital age means being exactly the same online as offline'and that this can be a basis for digital ethics.
Her challenge is based on the premiss that humans are complex who operate in a variety of ways according to context. She is naturally introvert, as I am, yet appears extrovert in public and on-line roles, as I think I sometimes may. The stranger in the supermarket sees one aspect of a person - their spouse another. Different settings or mediums bring out different aspects of the self. She refers to 'Kaleidoscope Identity' and suggest that
'Rather than aiming at the false hope of a one dimensional self who never fluctuates, we should embrace the kaleidoscopic colours of a self that flourishes differently in different settings.
This isn’t disingenuous – it’s a mirror of the many things God’s made that are whole and unified, yet find beauty in changing expression.'She is not advocating creating a false persona in the digital world, but rather recognizing that the medium affects how a person is perceived and how that person uses different aspects of their whole self.
An interesting discussion has developed in the comments on Vicky's post. The one I found most helpful is written by Digitalnun who thinks that 'being the same online as offline' is about operating the same values and making the same moral choices online as offline. This does seem to me to be a way to be authentic in the digital world, but it raises other ethical problems. What if the moral choices a person makes are destructive rather than life-enhancing? Evil rather than good? Should there be limits to what behaviour is allowed on line and who (if anyone) should control that? What do you think?
Photo Credit: George Thomas on Flickr, CC Licence