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.