I just came across this wonderful extract in a book I’m reading. I feel slightly silly quoting from a play I’ve not seen but it so perfectly expresses a thought I’ve struggled to articulate that I don’t mind:
“The best moments in reading,” Alan Bennett writes in The History Boys, “are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”
I don’t think this only happens in reading. I think it’s an important feature of internet culture (“oh, there are other people just like me? maybe I’m not so weird after all”) that unsettles the fallacious boundaries we tend to draw between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’. It’s a process by which difference, defined in relation to a local reference group, finds itself transvaluated into commonality, defined in relation to a dispersed reference group. Tom Brock and I have a book chapter under review at the moment which uses Foucault and critical realism (in a weird synthesis I’m concerned will piss off both Foucauldians and critical realists) to try and understand this process but I’m not sure how successfully we do it.