In Becoming Beside Ourselves: The Alphabet, Ghosts, and Distributed Human Being, Cultural theorist and mathematician Brian Rotman posits that alphabetic text has become incompatible with selves and subjectivities that have emerged in relation to new technologies and networked media. While he argues that the digital self is going plural, he raises the question of how the self could ‘function in ways other than [an] organised arborescence’[i]. Considering the challenges that the idea of a networked self is to the understanding of western consciousness, Rotman suggests that with parallel computing the breaking down of barriers between self and other leads the networked self to become multiple, distributed and besides itself:
But what is involved in becoming besides oneself? In experiencing plurality? How does one accede to the para-human? The process is not to be identified with imitating, reproducing, splitting oneself; […] It is rather a form of a temporal change, becoming party to a condition other than one’s own, a question of self-difference, of standing to the side of the single, monadic ‘I’[…] Can I, you, those yet to come, really not be what we have (felt to have) been for so long in Western culture, an 'I' that is before all else, as a condition for all else, an enclosed, individual, indivisible, opaque, private, singularly rooted Me? (Rotman, 2008: 103 – 4)
In this article, as two performance makers from different backgrounds (dance and theatre), we attempt to find strategies that will allow us to examine the shifting tension between our sense of the monadic ‘I’ and the idea of the distributed self that Rotman powerfully describes as ‘becoming beside ourselves’.
[i] Brian Rotman, Becoming Besides Ourselves, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2008, p.104