by Günseli Yalcinkaya
Let’s imagine a venn diagram depicting LARP on one side and Life on the other. Squint your eyes and the structure begins to resemble a closed loop without beginning or end. An ouroboros constantly devouring itself and being reborn from the inside. This is the meme I see when I scroll through the feed this morning. It looks like the internet feels: a feedback loop, cycles progressing through cycles, in an ever-evolving dialogue between fantasy and reality. An altered state of mind, or altered egos, perhaps?
Now, what if we take a step back and see the diagram as something more complex. There’s the individual self (the player) and the previously known social microcosm (society) and the real gameplay (RPG). Interlapping these ‘worlds’ are the following categories: reality, hyper-reality and simulation. At the intersection of all three is the word ‘bleed’.
It looks like the internet feels: a feedback loop, cycles progressing through cycles, in an ever-evolving dialogue between fantasy and reality. An altered state of mind, or altered egos, perhaps?
In live-action roleplay, the term bleed describes the moment when the game ruptures the surface we know as life. This transference can happen for a number of reasons, and can have long-lasting effects on the player akin to undergoing a psychedelic ritual or divination. For us digital natives, who’ve grown up alongside social media, the experience of logging online is no different. These days, presenting a virtual ego on social media is almost a given. We LARP our own realities like avatars in a video game, expertly crafting our personal lore, while our IRL selves lag awkwardly behind us. In their ‘ALTERED EGOS’ collection, Telekom Electronic Beats and A Better Mistake ask the question: How does identity play out in the digital space? Is anyone ever truly themselves online? Well it depends what you mean by ‘self’ – but that’s another story.
Everyone is a digital clone on the internet. Filters and FaceTune warp our seen reality; UI-friendly trends are primed for virality with transmissions sent directly from the Cloud. We tap, we scroll, we tap, we scroll, window shopping for building blocks to mod our ever-evolving digital personas. That Girl, Side Girl, Clean Girl, Babygirl, the list goes on. Personal narratives morph and mutate in an all-encompassing recursive spiral. We are like the chimera from Ancient mythology, a wildly imaginative and hybrid creature, a patchwork of altered egos, breathing out pixels like flames. This is what the internet feels like: a Choose Your Own Adventure, an eternal scroll, a turbofolklore, and a machine whose algorithm guides our behaviour like an invisible hand.
By now, it’s clear that we are the makers of our own mythologies. In our hypermediated digital landscape, we are main characters, side characters, NPCs navigating our way through the infinite scroll.
As we inch closer to the machine, we adopt its characteristics – let’s call this the online condition. Others call this technomorphism: the idea that we are evolving to resemble machines in our characteristics and habits. To coexist with such hard-wired coding – it seems inevitable – means that we must learn certain strategies for survival. We must become shapeshifters, unclassifiable creatures engaged in multiplicities, slipping in and out of digital skins, multifaceted identities that transition effortlessly from identity to identity – text to image to video to emoji.
These meta-games are both a condition of, and a response to, the merging of culture and technology. On one hand, global narratives are collapsing, splitting, fragmenting, which means we must build our own. On the other hand, our lives are so digitally mediated that our online identities feel more real than reality itself: we play a role that in turn shapes the player. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, goes the viral New York Times cartoon, so let’s rejoice in our relative anonymity and peruse the cybernetic meadow. There’s a feast of pills and cores at our disposal. I think about Alice falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland with a miniature bottle that reads ‘DRINK ME’.
In 1888, Helena Blavatsky said that anything that performs as reality is perceived as reality. This year, Shumon Basar wrote about our obsessive reliance on narrative, meta-narrative and myth in ‘The Laws of Lorecore’: “Where do I end and where does my lore begin?” By now, it’s clear that we are the makers of our own mythologies. In our hypermediated digital landscape, we are main characters, side characters, NPCs navigating our way through the infinite scroll. Amid accelerating technological advancements, through chatbots, deepfakes and AI-powered data sets, this identity creation will begin to resemble magic. There will be more tools at our disposal, allowing us to transmutate at will, opening up a psychedelic array of possibilities beyond our comprehension.
Telekom Electronic Beats and A Better Mistake capsule collection will be available 12.10 at Superconscious Berlin.
Artwork by Obby & Jappari for Telekom Electronic Beats x A Better Mistake
Images: Shubostar by Marvin Jockschat, Desiree by Guillem López Nicolau for Telekom Electronic Beats
Published October 02, 2023.