Self-Reflection

Where does your inspiration come from? This is one of questions that is asked of anyone who does anything creative and it’s hard to answer. You can list films, books, artists, tv shows, plays etc that you like and have ‘inspired’ you, but to deeply answer the question – and to answer it honestly – requires some psychological deep diving and perhaps an on-going documentation of your thinking.

That’s what the purpose of this blog is. We are encouraged to write ‘self-reflecively’, which is to think about not just HOW you did something, but WHY you did it. It is not writing about WHAT you did.

“Self reflection is like looking into a mirror and describing what you see. It is a way of assessing yourself, your ways of working and how you study. To put it simply ‘reflection’ means to think about something. Reflecting and composing a piece of self reflective writing is becoming an increasingly important element to any form of study or learning.” [1]https://www.open.ac.uk/choose/unison/develop/my-skills/self-reflection

“Writing reflectively involves critically analysing an experience, recording how it has impacted you and what you plan to do with your new knowledge. It can help you to reflect on a deeper level as the act of getting something down on paper often helps people to think an experience through.

The key to reflective writing is to be analytical rather than descriptive. Always ask why rather than just describing what happened during an experience.” [2]https://libguides.cam.ac.uk/reflectivepracticetoolkit/reflectivewriting

It is related to ‘self-reflexive writing’:

“A term applied to literary works that openly reflect upon their own processes of artful composition.” [3]https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100453429

So ‘self-reflexive writing’ is more about looking at your work (eg writing, art) and turning it back in on itself and ‘self-reflective writing’ is about looking at yourself and describing HOW you are working.

Both self-reflective and self-reflexive writing are basically postmodern inventions, the latter often being referred to as ‘metafiction’ [4]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metafiction.

I am, however, done with postmodernism. It’s 20th century thinking. We are in a new era now: Metamodernism…

Greg Dember’s article ‘After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts'[5]https://medium.com/what-is-metamodern/after-postmodernism-eleven-metamodern-methods-in-the-arts-767f7b646cae describes the metamodern evolution of ‘self-reflexivity’…

Hyper-Self-Reflexivity / Life-As-Movie

Hyper-self-reflexivity, indicates an intensified looking back upon the self. The “self” may be the author, the reader/viewer, the work itself, or even the genre or medium that the work is part of. Self-reflexivity is not unique to metamodernism; it is also an important part of postmodern work but it functions differently in the two epistemes. I’ll use “self-reflexivity” as the name for the postmodern phenomenon and hyper-self-reflexivity for the metamodern version. Allow me to explain the difference.

Briefly, in postmodern work, the role of self-reflexivity is generally to dissolve or to call attention to boundaries — and to raise questions about the unexamined premises that such boundaries point to. Reacting against modernism’s tendency to see individual pieces of art and intellectual efforts as autonomous, self-evident revelations of an objective and universal truth, postmodern work will often draw attention to the way that the author’s own perspectives, flaws or belief systems may distort any meaning that might be drawn from the work, if even by simply keeping attention on the fact that there is an author. Similarly, with attention drawn to a postmodern work’s own form, genre or medium, the reader is reminded that the work is, indeed, a piece of “work” and so not to be entirely “trusted.”

Metamodernism inherits self-reflexivity from postmodernism, but repurposes it in a manner that, generally speaking, serves to affirm felt experience. If the “self” being reflected upon in a metamodern work is the work’s author, the result is a highlighting of the author’s own lived, inner experience. In this case the author’s own self-reflection provides a model for the reader’s self-reflection, and by extension, the reader’s own felt experience. If the “self” being referenced is the work’s own form, genre or medium, the effect is that the reader is reminded that they are engaging in something that has form, genre or medium — in other words, some sort of a work, that therefore has a reader, and of course the reader is the particular one doing the reading! Again, bringing focus on the experience of the individual engaging with the work.

Hyper-self-reflexivity inevitably spawns a sensibility that my thinking partner Linda Ceriello likes to refer to as “Life-As-Movie,” wherein people’s identities are constructed quite self-consciously through a narrative lens. In other words, people regard and “make” themselves, as actor, director, lighting designer, etc. (even audience member) in their own 4-D movies. This self-awareness or witnessing mentality is kind of like a breaking of the 4th wall, and is expressed through popular slang and other cultural expressions prevailing during the metamodern era, such as the use of the word “awesome” to point to the poignant, strange, awkward, exceptionally human — and going beyond its earlier meaning that signified the hyped-up “super-great!”

Examples:
• I’m Still Here (film starring Joaquin Phoenix, 2010): A sort of “prank” documentary which purports to follow Joaquin Phoenix’s attempt to transform himself in the public eye from actor to rap star, with him seeming to become mentally unstable. In the end it is the tale of a driven, creative person’s fierce fight to defend his own sense of self.
• Community (television series created by Dan Harmon, 2009–2015): Frequent examples of hyper-self-reflexivity including an Aspergers spectrum character who understands and connects with other people via television tropes that he is familiar with; homages to other television shows, internal references to the politics of the production of the show.

So what would metamodern ‘self-reflectivity’ be?

I would guess that it wouldn’t be treating your own self like an ‘object’, describing how it did something and why it did something as if you were describing a car being built, but, instead you would be the ‘subject’, and the writing would reflect upon your inner experience, so how you feel when you are doing something, as if you were David Attenborough constructing the story of three generations of elephants discovering an ancestor’s bones.

So if ‘hyper-self-reflexivity’ is ‘Life-As-Movie’, maybe ‘hyper-self-reflectivity’ is ‘Life-As-Attenborough-Documentary’ except with actual access to the ‘subject’s’ emotions so that the story is grounded in reality.

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Feeling: pleased