Name-brands and Narratives, of a Personal Kind

Top o’ the morning from Jason Fry, who in his regular “Real Time” column this week considers the evolving emphasis placed on personal webpages (“A Web Page of One’s Own”).

Although he affirms that having a personal webpage remains more of a leisure activity — something unessential to wading through society — he also issues a warning: the status quo will not be static much longer. He foresees a near future in which creating a personal webpage is as crucial to our professional and personal lives as other technological commodities: TVs, mobile phones, email, et cetera. It isn’t hard to imagine this future, as individuals we interact with increasingly will refer you to their home on the web for pictures, contact information, or as a place where they conduct business.

Two themes in Fry’s article interested me more than the rest: name-brands and narratives. He quotes a Slashdot conversation, in which one poster exclaims, “Your name is essentially your very own brand; might as well try to paint it in a decent light.” This mentality congeals nicely with the best practices academia is instilling in recent graduates: business educations everywhere are reminding pupils that they ought to treat their name as a brand and consider their past achievements as their best reference. My leadership professors at the McDonough Center echoed this, instructing us to construct a professional portfolio which would communicate my brand, “the brand of I.”

On a similar note, Fry observes that “A personal Web page is an opportunity to tell your story and balance out other narratives that you can’t control.” While Walter Fisher is probably tickled that his narrative paradigm is living the high life online, what I interpret from this is that the web is evolving into a place of conflict, where narratives are being wielded for some sort of victory; maybe one for power, or influence, or control – or maybe it just plain ol’ authenticity. I’m wondering now if this trend towards conflict should concern us and how transitioning narrative conflict to the web will impact us interpersonally at home or in the office?

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