Facebook: Harlequin Smith
The fictional identity I created for this assignment is serving the function of research and development for an interactive film series which I am developing for my final project at Culture Lab. This fictional identity is called Harlequin, and to properly understand her it is useful to talk about the media ecology of which she is a part. Central to this media ecology is a web based film series called Enchanted. Enchanted follows the story of Anna Sorensen: a gifted marketing specialist on a collision course with her own identity.
Anna is immersed in the world of consumer culture and her identity is inextricably sewn into it. But a deeper part of her is longing for a quality of connection which does not seem to exist in the culture which she, as a viral marketing specialist, is helping to perpetuate. Put esoterically, Anna is a Magician of the 21st Century, but instead of throwing lightning bolts, the spell she helps to cast has the effect of making people believe that the heart of their desire resides in owning the next new product. As long as she remains a victim of her own magic, Anna will continue to be deprived of the quality of connection she now desperately needs.
All of this results in a wild, hedonistic marketing specialist whose only escape from her own identity is self destruction. When her dreams, desires and self loathing do not have room to express themselves in the confines of the culture she inhabits, they spill out into the Net through an alternate person called Harlequin.
Like the Jester, the Harlequin’s role was to shed light on unseen hypocrisies of society and those in power. By making people laugh, they were able to voice criticisms which would otherwise go unexpressed.
For Anna, this online persona is a way of expressing her dissatisfaction with consumer culture and her place in it in a way that allows her to connect with others who she share her longing for something more than the culture at large seems to offer.
As Harlequin, the Internet becomes a playground of possibility: a place where Anna can push the boundaries of her identity and explore parts of herself that do not fit the confines of her real world exoskeleton. Though Harlequin the wilderness inside herself is let loose. Her cynical wit and scything critiques of popular culture is balanced by a genuine compassion toward the people she engages with online. Depending on the quality of connections she forms with other (real people) on the Internet, the relationship between Harlequin and Anna will co-evolve. Anna may become more like Harlequin, sabotaging her own advertising campaigns in radical and creative ways, or Harlequin may become more violent and self destructive as this deep part of her fights to express itself. Seen through the lens of Process Oriented Psychology, this dynamic exchange between is the means by which Anna expands the “Edge” of her primary identity and becomes more like the person she wants to be.
Harlequin is presently active on Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Flavours.Me, and in the comment sections of her favourite and most despised blogs. The implications of this exchange between real people and a fictional character of this nature are important and need careful consideration. The quality of connection between Harlequin and the people with whom she interacts will, if successful, provoke strong reactions in different directions. Some people may develop a sense of kinship and admiration for her creative critique of consumer culture whilst others might feel hurt or enraged. Regardless of the quality of relationship, most people will feel betrayed if they discover she is a purely fictional character: nothing more than counter point in an experimental media ecology. The only way to resolve this problem with integrity seems to be the following:
Anna and her online persona are not fictional characters: they are true expressions of a real person. This means that our lead actress is not so much playing the role of Anna, but rather being herself. The challenge of in this is finding an actress who shares a common conflict of identity with Anna. When we find this person, the story will undoubtedly change so that the relationship between the actress, Anna and Harlequin is congruent and true.