Art · Culture · Expatria · Women

Self-Referentiality: Internal monologue turned external dialogue

These days everything is about dialogue. If you’re a blogger or writer and you don’t encourage conversation with regards to your work then you will not get very far at all. Dialogue is the key to building communities or, as Seth Godin discusses, tribes of like-minded individuals. Writing a blog post or article without a leading question at the end is a rookie mistake. We are no longer screaming into the cyber void hoping someone will hear us. Now, we are heard via the conversations we’re having with others, like on Twitter.

Case in point: Anastasia Ashman founded the expat+HAREM, the global niche, “a neocultural hub for global citizens, identity adventurers, Turkophiles, intentional travelers + culturati of all stripes.” Each week Anastasia features a guest poster who will discuss issues of being an expat, hybrid identities, and how travelling changes us as people. One of the guest posters was Rose Deniz, whose “Mapping the Hybrid Identity” turned into the phenomenal Dialogue 2010, where 10 virtual strangers around the world got on the phone and discussed our hybrid lifestyles and identities. Since the real-time conversation in February there have been dozens of Dialogue 2010-inspired blog posts and artwork from all the participants, and so our conversation continues.

Self-referentiality has been key in both the expat+HAREM and Dialogue 2010, as it allows each of us to reference back to previous work that relates to the issue currently at hand. Without self-referentiality there is no context for our new thoughts. Self-referentiality allows us to bring our internal monologue into an external dialogue, showing how our thinking has developed, how our pasts have shaped us.

In art and writing we see self-referentiality usually as a reference to another work of art or aspect of our story. In Stephen Kings Dark Tower novels as well as his stories taking place in New England we are constantly reminded of previous stories and events, all of which give context and shape the work we are currently reading. Self-referentiality in this sense also implies a dialogue: One that deepens the levels of meaning in the collective of stories.

Seeing how useful self-referentiality can be, is strange how few musicians use this device in their song construction, and one of the few is Lady Gaga. Self-referentiality was always the staple of blues musicians, who would refer back to previous songs in taking their narratives forward. The idea was that a set of songs was a journey, and how do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been. It’s interesting that a so-called pop star would appropriate this trope, and speaks to Gaga’s awareness of intertextuality as well the bluesy covers she tends to do of her own electronic songs. As I discuss in a recent piece on intertextuality and irony in her song PAPARAZZI, Gaga’s resultant dialogue is not falling on deaf ears: The re-invention of her self through costumes, varied performances and ironic music videos has inspired a dialogue among other Gagaists who then re-invent her music along with themselves.

I mention Lady Gaga’s self-referentialness because she is an uber-phenomenon, one whose cultural significance is only now starting to be discussed, and because like us at the expat+HAREM and my Dialogue 2010 sisters, we are all using our selves and previous work as reference points to further dialogue globally. Self-referentiality comes hand in hand with self-awareness, and is a way we can show ourselves and others how we’ve reached a particular conclusion about our life, identity or the world.

Without referencing and acknowledging our internal monologues, how can we have a meaningful dialogue with others?

©Sezin Koehler 2010, image via Citizens Project.

8 thoughts on “Self-Referentiality: Internal monologue turned external dialogue

  1. Hi all, This post got lost somewhere…I wanted to direct you to this post about Junto, a new collaboration platform, and discussion of open collaboration. This is a great group of futurists — which even if we’ve never taken on that term before, I believe we should — take a look: Junto: an intelligent version of ChatRoulette, the people’s TED talks

    1. Hi Anastasia!

      Many apologies, I guess I’ve got my spam settings pretty high so your post went into quarantine. 😉

      I love Junto! I had a mosey around the site and read about the inspiration behind it: brilliant! I haven’t explored getting involved yet, mainly because I’m having a hard time keeping up with my basic Twitter and Facebook + emails at the moment, but I am sure there will be a lull soon (here’s hoping!) and I can look more into what they are doing.

      Futurists! That is a phenomenal way to frame the work so many people, including you, are doing. Another way to describe the global niche, no?

      Thanks you for not giving up in spite of the Spam Warriors and letting us know about this amazing new development in cyberland. This is such a cool place to hang out. 🙂

  2. Sezin and all — you might like to know about the Junto project (read a good intro here), which is described as an intelligent version of ChatRoulette…a video conferencing option to talk to people all over about the ideas that matter to us to create a ‘collective intelligence’.

  3. Sezin, The little devil I mention in my response to Rose’s comment, Theodore Bryant’s Mr. Hyde hasn’t allowed me much “outside” space. Until my discovery of the power of open ended blog posts thanks to the ongoing dialogue at Anastasia Ashman’s expat+HAREM I was oblivious to the draw that such open endings have on readers. All my life I’ve been questioning, searching for answers, but I’ve not felt very comfortable sharing my interior dialogue much in print. I always felt I needed to find the answer before I could set my thoughts about a subject free, before I’d want to see them black on white. But there’s never one answer, or if there is, it’s only true for a moment, and the questioning never stops. Coming out, sharing the personal thought process Online, in a blog format might alleviate the burden of wanting to discover answers, or “the (momentary) truth” on ones own.

    Your post is most compelling. To liken Lady Gaga’s songs to those of Blues artists is a thought so fresh, so insightful, it makes me want to hug you {{{{Sezin}}}}

  4. it’s the evolution of our own thinking –in tandem with the contributions of others — that give blogging so much potential. Tracing how the ideas appeared and changed over time. Also, as for referencing our internal monologues in conversation with others, I’d think the convos that mean the most to us address the things we talk to ourselves about, but bring new perspectives and solutions, as well as support.

  5. Hmmn, Sezin, you’ve got me thinking about internal monologues now, especially this week, which has been revealing in terms of recognizing what voices I listen to and honor and what voices I try to silence. More than mono, plural voices in my own internal thought process support + resist my ideas. Examining those thoughts, listening, being patient with them, gives me the context you are talking about. Maybe as a result of multiplicity, it facilitates dialogues with many different people in different fields and with varied interests. I’ll be thinking more about self-referentiality and how it helps connects with other more as a result of this post.

    1. @Rose – Thank you so much for commenting, and I’m so glad that this will get you into self-referential mode. I love what you say about multiplicity, and I agree that without these many voices inside we wouldn’t be able to find the links to things that seem unrelated. Like us and Lady Gaga. 🙂

      @Rose & Judith – You both bring up a great point about the pitfalls of internal monologues: Those pesky voices of derision and scorn that pop up and are the culprits for writer’s block. I didn’t even think about that as I wrote this piece, even though I often suffer from the “little Devil” too. Part of the struggle as a wordsmith is figuring out which voices are here to help us and which are a result of trauma or negativity that wants to hold us back. But without the internal dialogue, we can’t identify them can we?

      @Judith – I went through the same thing with writing, always feeling like if I wrote something it had to have a conclusive ending. In the last year, since linking up with the expat+HAREM I see such a change in my writing style and I find that pieces flow out of me much more easily now that the writing is open-ended, promoting discussion and growth rather than just presenting something I “know” or a static event that already happened. And re: Gaga/blues, you made me smile, thank you my dear. 🙂 There is so much more I have to say about her and I don’t know if I will have the patience to hold those ideas in… Sending you a virtual *HUG*

      @Anastasia – Exactly! The perception that nothing is happening in a void is so much stronger now than a few years ago, and our ability to connect with people who are also growing as writers and thinkers is so much greater since blogging has taken on this new tone. Like you’ve written about psychic independence, some of our most valuable connections and points of growth can be with people we’ve never even met in person or who live very far away from us. I’ve been meaning to install a “Related posts” plugin for ages and your comments remind me that it’s about time to do this. Thank you!


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