Some have described media environments in terms of “ecologies” (Ito et al., 2009, p. 31). To take the metaphor a step further, for me the media environment is closer to that of a zoo enclosure than a natural landscape. It is an engineered environment designed for the special wants and needs of the semi-domesticated, semi-wild Me. Like the lion enclosure at the zoo, there are open areas designed for viewing by the public, areas specific to the needs of the captive semi-domesticated Me, and areas specific to the needs of a wild Me. This media zooscape is centered on me, even as it exists in a wider community setting.
The public cat is still shy and difficult to spot. That Me is in a life-transition. I have an under-developed public face in several venues, where I am trying to decide what that public face should be. Which Me is most relevant to Facebook: daughter, friend, mother? What does friend mean in a social network? How and where do I make room for the other important Me personas: Christian, artist, leader? What kind of commitment is a blog? Will one of these public Me identities later affect another Me: professional, student, volunteer? The public lioness feels fragmented and wary as she tries out various Me identities like a youth searching for herself. Vulnerable to the knowledge that others are peering in at me from the sidewalk, I pace about seeking a comfortable place to just be Me.
However, since I am 36 and not 16, my search for identity is less about independence as autonomy and more about independence as distinctiveness. I yearn to distill the lessons life has brought and invest in the Me that is most uniquely the result of those experiences. I yearn for quality over quantity in my interactions, including those with media. This makes the public forays that much more stressful, that much more poignant. Even though I feel the need to be an authentic Me, there is still a teenage heart that worries whether her eccentricities are too unique for the average visitor to the zoo.
Facing these nuances of the public stage, I retreat to the private spaces of the media zooscape, where TV, movies, music, games, and books – the media of consumption – are taken in as events, not as background noise to other media. I find quiet corners behind the scenes where I can lurk among the grasses and watch the outside world without being seen. I become the audience. I am content to laze with my pride, settled at a shady side of the enclosure with family and friends comingled around some device or other. In this zone, media are tools to sculpt home in the private spaces of the sanctuary.
Then, in the truly secret places out of sight, I unplug myself. Old media have greater sway in the most private dens. The private Me is domestic and old-fashioned. Maternal instincts and commitments to sisterhood are the most powerful aspects of this Me. Bliss is reading a story or playing in the sand. Being a wife/mother and sharing a life are the highest expressions of Me in that precious sanctuary. Media is just a blur against the background.
Then again, like a big cat, my nature is too substantial and intricate to have all my needs met within the enclosure. At those times, I yearn for vast miles of Savannah to explore or perhaps just free air. At those times, I go roving on the internet; pacing through vast stores of information; taking courses; searching museums, libraries, or the open web for beauty and life. I chase wild ideas from link to link hoping to bring down a stray gazelle of thought to digest and feel sated. I dream dreams, wild and free, and ponder a less tame Me.
It is there in a kaleidoscope that the creative Me reclaims herself and recreates through creativity. Whether the tools are pixels coded in RGB or pure pigment suspended in oil, the raw experience is me. I play, experiment, take the path toward mastery.
No matter which venue of the enclosure I roam, time is the only predator I can find. I am at a place in life where most resources and spaces to explore and create are available, but time is more fleeting than the gazelle of my daydreams. I am at a place in my life where I am often as much the zookeeper as I am the kept, since I have the funds and prerogative to choose my own media landscape. Time is the only resource of scarcity, and it overshadows every Me, sometimes even distracting me from finding the Me in the Media.
Ito, M., Sonja B., Matteo B., Boyd, D. Cody, R., Herr, B., Horst, H.A., Lange, P.G., Mahendran, D., Martinez, K., Pascoe, C.J., Perkel, D., Robinson, L., Sims, C., & Tripp, L.(2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press