Projection: The Screen, The Other, What We See and What’s Behind

I’m posting some old writings, mostly untouch (for better or worse). Here’s one on projection that i wrote up when thinking about the screening effect of technology in online dating. The “chemistry” moment that comes with meeting a person in real life contrasts sharply with the excitement of the anticipation….

Projection is a term used by psychologists to describe the phenomenon by which we produce and project an image of our own creation onto the another (person). We’re so familiar with the concept that its become part our vernacular: “Shut up, you’re projecting.” Indeed. In the therapeutic community, we transfer associations onto others in such a manner that the reality of the encounter or interaction we’re in is skewed by the fact that in our mind’s eye the other person has become somebody else. Our associations may or may not involve our parental units. In either case, it’s assumed that projection is contrary to healthy communication.

Projection is a personal function, a flow of force(s) towards another that fails to encounter the other because it forms instead an image. The projection function creates a substitution. We may or may not be aware of the substitution once it has taken place, meaning that it’s possible we will wind up communicating with a projection rather than the other person.

We establish relations online, through the Net, with others all the time. And yet the anonymity of self presentation and the absence of physical presence should call into question the Who with whom we’ve established relations. Indeed, there is no presentation of self online. What there is, is only a tracing. A pixellated remainder of what the person (should they be who they say they are and how they present themselves to be, both of which are highly circumspect and virtually unverifiable) has written or rendered, delayed by the latency that operates behind the screen and through the network. ASCII self is not much of a self, even if intentions are true, sincere, and justifiable.

Like trackers on the hunt, we follow these footsteps and conjure up our projections of the character that walked them. Is he big or small? Is she fat or skinny? Is he rich or wanna-be? Is she of legal age? We find wit in their words and make of them a comedic star. We find wisdom in their words and make of them a self confident buddha. Finally, or eventually, we discover that our chatroom play is only several degrees removed from what we did with cars and trucks and dolls and action figures in the far more interactive and thrilling sandbox of our childhood.

But perhaps therein lies the sheer fun online: in its receptivity to the characters of our past and our imagination, not somebody else’s. It gives us a chance to communicate with ourselves and personalities of our own creation. Perhaps we work things out (for ourselves, not for others). Perhaps, even when communicating live and in real time, we’re really just entertaining our multiple selves. Roll the credits.

One Comment

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