Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Fractional Roles

Originally posted on March 31, 2011

Here’s a concept I just made up. I think we play vicarious roles and sometimes only parts of these as we interface with mass media. We root for our preferred team in sports, or for our combatant in television wrestling or online computer games. We “become” various characters in the dramas and comedies we view in movies or on television. We feel with the words or rhythms or melodies of the music we play or hear. We “live” to some increasing degree in this sea of media energy.  They’re “fractional” in that often we do this with far less than full life-involvement. Sometimes we’re even multi-tasking, doing other things. If we’re snacking watching television, is eating a fractional role, too? Maybe so.

Then there are the various social media—twitter, Facebook, etc.—and we live also fractionally to the degree we’re aware that others know we exist and email us, twitter us, text us, return our greetings— “Hey, whassup?!”—and we vaguely imagine our relationship. We may feel hurt by either being not-responded-to when we reach out, or responded to curtly. We feel touched when another acknowledges they’ve thought of us when … whatever. Who we are (i.e., our sense of self) gets spread around over a wider territory—even when that includes one of our alter egos, our avatars, as a graphically-enhanced computer image in a virtual world. We may even be anonymous and yet sense our own influence—and therefore presence—elsewhere. Sure, this blog is an example of my broadcasting myself into a far vaster sphere of activity, not knowing how many or few will even glance at it. It wasn’t like this in the olden days.

We play many roles, and many of these have components and sub-components. Role is a useful “unit” for thinking about social psychology, just as “note” is a useful way to think about music. It isn’t the only way, but it’s a tool. Otherwise, as I’ve said elsewehere on this blog, it’s all mush.

The value of the concept of role and fractional role is that it promotes a slightly sharper level of self-perception and self-reflection, of thinking about thinking, and thinking about the context and circumstances that make for more implicit versus explicit types of awareness. One of my missions in life is to do what little I can to promote a shift towards more explicit awareness, and towards building the skills to engage in consciousness at a more complex and refined level.

Part of this mission involves just naming the roles, and that includes the fractional roles. (It’s part of knowing music more consciously to name the notes there, too, as in the song “Do, Re, Mi” in the 1950s Broadway Musical, The Sound of Music.

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