Thesis Shaw

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    Who are you? The Effects of Social Network Sites on the Construct of Personal Identity:

    The Meta-Patterns View

    by

    Zachary Shaw

    submitted to the

    Department of Philosophy

    in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of

    Bachelor of Arts

    March 28, 2016

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    Table of Contents

    Acknowledgements ......................................................................................................................... 4

    Dedication ....................................................................................................................................... 5

    Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... 6

    Informational Background .............................................................................................................. 7

    Social Network Sites ..................................................................................................................... 12

    Theories of Personal Identity ........................................................................................................ 16

    Effects of SNSs on Identity Construction from the Meta-Patterns View ..................................... 33

    Turkles Long-Term Analysis of SNSs and Personal Identity ..................................................... 40

    Conclusion: The Futility of Turkles Call for Arms and the Nature of Self-Identity ................... 45

    Works Cited .................................................................................................................................. 50

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    Acknowledgements

    Thank you to everyone who has directly or indirectly affected my life. You are the

    reason that I was able to complete this work. Thank you to my advisor Professor Harman for

    guiding me through my independent work and telling me stories about the Princeton of old.

    Thank you to all of my professors and teachers throughout my entire education for teaching me

    with enthusiasm and patience. You have taught me your subjects, how to learn, and how to live.

    Specifically, thank you to Mr. D. for your inspiration and continued support. Thank you to all of

    my coaches throughout the years in baseball, basketball, soccer, and primarily volleyball.

    Without your mentorship and expertise I would not have been able to attend Princeton, and I

    would not have been able to focus and manage my time effectively enough to complete this

    work. Specifically, thank you to Coach Shweisky. I have learned more because of you than

    anyone else in these four years. Thank you to all of the cadre members in the Army ROTC

    program. What little common sense and discipline I have is due to your training and mentorship.

    You are the reason why I have so much time to write this acknowledgments section and am

    turning my thesis in on time. Thank you to my friends from high school, Princeton, and

    anywhere else along the way. Only with your continuous support through the good and the bad

    have I been able to get to this point in my life and accomplish this task. Finally and most

    importantly, thank you to my family. You have taught me right and wrong and the gray area

    inbetween and embedded in me the motivation and positive, growth mindset that I value most

    about myself. And you have loved me unconditionally. Without this sense, mindset, and love, I

    would not have been able to get close to the point of accomplishing this task.

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    Dedication

    This work is dedicated to my mom, who has taught me the value of face-to-face

    communication and human relationships.

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    Abstract

    The development of [Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)] has

    not only brought enormous benefits and opportunities but also greatly outpaced our

    understanding of its conceptual nature and implications, while raising problems whose

    complexity and global dimensions are rapidly expanding, evolving and becoming

    increasingly serious. Our technological tree has been growing its far-reaching branches

    much more widely, rapidly and chaotically than its conceptual, ethical and cultural roots.

    The lack of balance is obvious and a matter of daily experience in the life of millions of

    citizens dealing with information-related issues. The risk is that, like a tree with weak

    roots, further and healthier growth at the top might be impaired by a fragile foundation at

    the bottom. As a consequence, any advanced information society faces the pressing task

    of equipping itself with a viable philosophy and ethics of information. It is high time we

    start digging deeper, top-down, in order to expand and reinforce our conceptual

    understanding of our information age, of its nature, its less visible implications and its

    impact on human and environmental welfare, and thus give ourselves a chance to

    anticipate difficulties, identify opportunities and resolve problems, conflicts and

    dilemmas. (Floridi 5)

    In this paper, I will show how the use of social network sites (SNSs) has affected and will

    continue to affect our personal identities, and how only one modern theory of personal identity,

    what I will call the meta-patterns view, can adequately account for these effects. From those

    investigations, I will argue against the futility of Turkles normative argument against social

    network site use and conclude that our personal identities are nothing more than attempts to

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    recognize patterns of ever-changing information. In order to reach a point where we can

    understand how our personal identities have changed, we need to understand the most prevalent

    philosophical theories of personal identity, and the development of SNSs what they are, how

    we use them, and what role they play in our lives. But even before that, we must understand that

    SNSs are a broader symptom of a larger technological phenomenon mainly what Luciano

    Floridi calls the re-ontologizing of the nature of the infosphere (Floridi 6) in common

    English, the onset of the information age. Only with this background can we effectively

    understand how SNSs fit into our lives, and only with this understanding can we determine how

    these SNSs have affected our concept of personal identity according to the meta-patterns view.

    Informational Background

    Since the dawn of history, we have had ways to record information.1 With each

    compounding technological development, we have found ways to more concisely and more

    quickly represent more and more of our histories. For much of human existence, information

    systems served only as ways to remember our history recording systems. From hieroglyphs to

    Linear B, writing was a large step forward for mankind. As that writing moved from cave walls

    to papyrus and paper, our records became mobile. Letters were written not to record our

    histories, but to communicate with others. In these first two stages, information occurred, was

    written down, was managed (by physically taking that information somewhere else) and then

    was used. The next development for information systems was the ability to process information

    with purely mechanical machines like Charles Babbages difference machine. With some given

    information, we could now deduce other information (without human computation) and then use

    that new information. Around the same time as Babbages invention came ways to communicate

    1 By definition, pre-history is the time before we had records of human development.

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    over space the telegraph, Morse code, the telephone, and the radio. Now information would

    occur, and could be processed, managed, and transported relatively efficiently to anywhere in the

    world. Next, with the development of computers starting in 1940, we could process information

    relatively efficiently a single machine could perform many operations on our information by

    processing the information in bits. Alan Turing developed the ability to constantly input

    computable data and output processed information (Barker-Plummer). This further shortened the

    gap between processing and managing, as the limiting factor became the throughput of a given

    machine. Next came the increasing speed of computation with Moores Law that computers

    will double processing capacity2 every 18-24 months. With these developments, what Floridi

    calls the information life cycle information occurring, being processed and managed, and

    then being used was becoming shorter and shorter (Floridi 3).

    More recently, the Internet has been developed. It synchronizes the processing and

    managing capabilities of information systems into one easy-to-use system. As a result, there is

    an unprecedented ability to create and use information. Instead of using a computer to make a

    computation and then calling a friend to tell them about it, you can make that computation on

    your computer and immediately post the results and the proof of the solution on a webpage

    which everyone with a computer in the world can more or less permanently see, including your

    friend. The abilities to process and manage information are becoming increasingly intertwin