This is one in a series of posts on Visibility. In these I am thinking deeply about our visibility and the part it plays in, and how it impacts our individual and shared lives. I welcome you to think with me. — Linda
To be visible is the capacity to garner resources, to have a voice, to be alive and connected, to have choices, to gain power or to exercise it. Visibility validates us, our humanness.
“The Network” allows us to reap the benefits of visibility even when we are not present. It makes our field of visibility for connection vast and wide while broadening our “field of vision.” Digital spaces of presence are the quintessential modern visibility.
Being visible enables us to exert our value; advance our personal, group, or national causes. Visibility is essential to generating income; managing our reputation; maintaining learning; and creating ties beyond a singular community, strengthen our life possibilities.
When we are visible as an individual or as a group, we gain access to economic and political systems. We are able to make connections, build social and economic relationships, and accrue the benefits of solidarity with others. As a nation-state or organization visibility means consideration within the global economic complex.
Each of our individual visibility strengthens the cohesion and social capital of the communities in which we live, work and participate. It is inclusion in society, in forming public policy, and to informing progress. Visibility is the hinge for equity, balance, health, and justice in public and economic life. Visibility is capacity for freedom.
We heavily invest in and manage visibility because it is essential to our well-being, productivity and peaceful living.
Chronic invisibility is encapsulation, neglect and poverty. Invisibility excludes us from new or better information and resources. It’s consequence is a mindless expulsion from society and from yielding any of the fruits of progress. Invisibility robs us of the participation of those that are hidden in invisibility. Invisibility weakens all of society because it weakens the humans that are society.
Visibility so powerfully impacts us and the quality of our life that how we shape our visibility is a strategic choice.
The boundaries of our visibility either expose or protect us and our “territories of self.*” Our “territories of self“ are private life and private spaces, public life and activities, and the flow of information about ourselves.
At times my visibility is deliberate and directed so that I stand apart from others. It differentiates me, my thoughts, my creativity, my needs, or my value to others. It contributes to the public commons, shared culture and to economic vitality.
At times it is necessary for me to scale my visibility to blend in with others so they are more visible or to be in solidarity with the visibility of my community, cause or group.
Controlling my visibility allows me to mitigate the consequences of becoming hypervisible. Hypervisibility can place on me the burden of “celebrity” of place or circumstance or attention bringing an unbalanced scrutiny to me or my activities. Hypervisibility can make me the target of discrimination, unfair public attention or personal threat.
Without choice over the flow of information about me, I am exposed to hypervisibility. Data and information about me may remove vital context. It commoditizes me. It is loss of privacy, loss of territories of self. It is as dehumanizing as invisibility.
The terrain of visibility – our “field of visibility” – is modern currency. It is both a human and a societal asset. It is essential that we have the ability and the skills to manage it and the capacity to maintain a private realm, so that we can each participate and achieve in shared life in public.
Resources *Erving Goffman:for reading his theories of identity and "territories of self."