More on Flourishing

Since so much of our culture is digitized now, we can grab clippings of it and spread it all over our identities the way we used to decorate our notebooks with stickers in grade school. Movies, music, books, periodicals, friends, and everything else. Everything that has a digital referent or avatar in the pervasive digital layer of our lives is game for this appropriation.

I just ran across a short post on honesty in playlists.

The what-I’m-listening-to thing always strikes me as aspirational rather than documentary. It’s really not “what I’m listening to” but rather “what I would be listening to if I were actually as cool as I want you to think I am.”

And my first thought was: but where, in any other part of our lives, are we that “honest”?

Don’t we all tweak our appearances in many ways — both conscious and unconscious — to improve the image we present to the world? Granted, some of us do it more than others. But everybody does it. Even people who say they’re *not* like this actually are … to choose to be style-free is a statement just as strong as being style-conscious, because it’s done in a social context too, either to impress your other style-free, logo-hating friends, or to define yourself over-against the pop-culture mainstream.

Now, of course it would be dishonest to list favorite movies and books and music that you neither consume nor even really like. But my guess is a very small minority do that.

Our decorations have always been aspirational. Always. From idealizing the hunt with wall cave wall drawings to hanging pictures of beautiful still-life scenes of stuff you can’t afford in middle-class homes in the Renaissance, all the way to choosing which books to put on the eye-level shelves in your apartment, or making a cool playlist of music for a party. We never expose *everything* in our lives, we always select subsets that tell others particular things about us.

The digital world isn’t going to be any different.

(See earlier post on Flourishing.)

Author: Andrew Hinton

I use information to architect better places for humans. More at

2 thoughts on “More on Flourishing”

  1. It strikes me that those who “choose to be style-free” have the advantage of laziness working on their side. The only “what I’m listening to” list I use is the “Current iTunes Song” feature built into iChat, where what I’m listening to is… what I’m listening to.

    Granted I could still manipulate that by not turning the feature on when I don’t want folks to know I’m listening to Christmas carols in March, but that requires effort.

    This approach even works on blogs. A few years ago I had an iTunes plugin/php script thingie that would export my last-listened-to iTunes playlist and ftp it to my server so it could update my site, but it was sloooow, so I took it down. Probably not even compatible with iTunes now, but it was fun.

  2. lol. the way we re-factor ourselves for digital consumption is something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the past months, but I’ve given play-list honesty particular thought – especially as I’ve recently switched off the LastFM Scrobbler when I realised it was capturing the lullabies on rotation I was playing for my little boy 🙂

    I can’t decide if I’m being dishonest and trying to maintain the pretense of listening to adult music, or honest… afterall, I’m playing them for him not me. identity.vexed.

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