Everybody’s dick looks big on 60-inch TV. My sister’s dick looks big on TV.


With the growing permeation of online social networks in our everyday life, scholars have become interested in the study of novel forms of identity construction, performance, spectatorship and self-presentation onto the networked medium. This body of research builds upon a rich theoretical tradition on identity constructivism, performance and (re)presentation of self. With this article we attempt to integrate the work of Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello into this tradition.

Pirandello’s classic 1925 novel Uno, Nessuno, Centomila (“One, No One and One Hundred Thousand”) recounts the tragedy of a man who struggles to reclaim a coherent identity for himself in the face of an inherently social and multi-faceted world. Via an innocuous observation of his wife, the protagonist of the novel, Vitangelo Moscarda, discovers that his friends’ perceptions of his character are not at all what he imagined and stand in glaring contrast to his private self-understanding. In order to upset their assumptions, and to salvage some sort of stable identity, he embarks upon a series of carefully crafted social experiments.

Though the novel’s story transpires in a pre-digital age, the volatile play of identity that ultimately destabilizes Moscarda has only increased since the advent of online social networks. The constant flux of communication in the online world frustrates almost any effort at constructing and defending unitary identity projections. Popular social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, offer freely accessible and often jarring forums in which widely heterogeneous aspects of one’s life—that in Moscarda’s era could have been scrupu- lously kept apart—precariously intermingle. Disturbances to our sense of a unified identity have become a matter of everyday life.

Pirandello’s prescient novel offered readers in its day the contours of an identity melee that would unfurl on the online arena some 80 years later.

{ Alberto Pepe, Spencer Wolff & Karen Van Godtsenhoven, Re-imagining the Pirandellian Identity Dilemma in the Era of Online Social Networks | PDF }