Living at the dawn of a digital twenty-first century, people living in Western societies spend an increasing amount of time interacting with a terminal and interacting with others at the terminal. Because the self emerges out of interaction with others (humans and non-humans), this increasingly pervasive and mandatory interaction with terminals prompts a ‘terminal self’—a nexus of social and psychological orientations that are adjusted to the terminal logic.
In order to trace the terminal self’s profile, the book examines how five unique ‘default settings’ of the terminal incite particular adjustments in users that transform their perceptions of reality, their experiences of self, and their relations with others. Combining traditional interactionist theory, Goffman’s dramaturgy, and the French hypermodern approach, using examples from everyday life and popular culture, the book examines these adjustments, their manifestations, consequences, and resonance with broader trends of a hypermodern society organized by the ‘digital apparatus.’
Suggesting that these adjustments infantilize users, the author proposes strategies to confront three interrelated risks faced by the terminal self and society. These risks pertain to users’ subjectivity and need for recognition, to their declining abilities in face-to-face interactions, and to their dwindling abilities to retain control over terminal technologies.
An accessibly written examination of the transformation of the self in the digital age, The Terminal Self will appeal to scholars of sociology, social psychology, and cultural studies with interests in digital cultures, new technologies, social interaction, and conceptions of identity.
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Simon Gottschalk is Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and associate at the International Research Center on Hypermodern Individuals and Society. He served as editor of Symbolic Interaction from 2003 to 2007, and as president of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. Co-author of The Senses in Self, Culture and Society (Routledge 2011) and author of Inter-Face-Work: Symbolic Interaction in the Digital Age, he has published numerous articles and book chapters that develop a critical interactionist perspective on phenomena as varied as youth cultures, hypermodernism, ethnography, food, environmental identity, mass media, mental disorders, and virtual interactions.