w/e 8 October 2017

Personal coding, acting workshops, and my identity.

I spent the first three days of this week working on my re-write of this website, a lengthy process that I’m enjoying. A while back I spent a long time making a couple of chunks of it into code that, in theory, is reusable by other people (Django Ditto and Spectator). Trying to make them more robust and useful to more people means they took longer than if I was making them solely for my own use. So it’s refreshing to be working on the rest of the code which I don’t expect anyone else to use. Relatively, this is going more quickly. However, integrating those two “reusable” apps into my new site is a bit of a pain at times leading to a bunch of duplicate code and now-me swearing at past-me for making things more difficult through some kind of… egotistic altruism?

Another day was mostly spent on poking at some new things for my mum’s website. I can do the StackOverflow stumble through hacking WordPress to my will but trying to force particular features into a WP site through a custom plugin and theme feels like a dirty struggle at times. Especially after the control one has when writing a site from the ground up in Django (or Rails or whatever). Of course, WP has saved loads of time and sanity elsewhere, in the broad, basic strokes and with the nice admin UI.

Thursday I was thinking and writing about a character in a play in preparation for this weekend, some of which I’ve spent in workshops with some Salon Collective folks poking at ideas. (When using the word “workshop” in this context I can’t help but think of Alexei Sayle’s disdain for anyone using it outside of the context of light engineering. But hey ho.) I’m not going to be specific about what we were working on as it’s not my project, so I’d feel odd discussing the details in public.

I’ve hardly done any acting stuff this year and spending time doing this was a lovely change from internet-typing alone. At the start we had to think about our own “identities”. Which I found difficult… I’m a white, heterosexual, cis, middle-aged, middle-class, able-bodied, southern English man, which doesn’t feel like a specific enough group to feel any kind of “belonging”. It doesn’t have much sense of being different to what so much of society regards as the default (not that there should be a default of course).

I realised that, as much as anything, part of my identity is bound up in being “an internet person”: I’ve spent and shared a lot of my life online; I was online reasonably early, when it felt more “special”; and many of my friends are also in this group for the same reasons. And I now often feel frustrated because this identity isn’t what it once was. Partly this is because almost everyone’s online now so the “specialness” one clings to in this regard is more tenuous and desperate. The vanity of small differences. And partly it’s because while I once saw the internet as a broadly optimistic and equalising thing (like so many people did, and also because of my own more youthful optimism and/or naivety) now I’m more cynical and bitter about it all. The internet is more of an extension of the real world — with all its good and bad — rather than a separate and special little place where everything would always be brilliant.

Despite that, it still seems as close as I get to “my identity”, so there we go. I am at least in part, an internet person.