Changing self in the digital age

The impact of digital technology on the self and person




Self, Person, Digital, Technology, James


This article integrates William James’ (1890) theoretical model of Self with contemporary theoretical discourse and recent research on the impact of digital technology upon the Self. An overview of James’ self-theory is presented and followed by a detailed review of contemporary publications on self in our increasingly digital world; organized around the Spiritual, Social and Material realms of James’ “Me”. This is followed by this author’s extension of James’ concept of “I” into contemporary discourse on the person in terms of authenticity, agency and power. It is shown that the “Spiritual Self” is reflected in technology as fragmented, decentred and dislocated while the “Social Self” has expanded into virtual communities; continuing to seek recognition from others, but in a magnified and accelerated fashion. A cultural shift has been identified towards one of simulation and surveillance. Transformations of the
“Material Self” in terms of physical bodies, interaction with the material world, and with material others, are presently observed. This author’s conceptual and theoretical exploration has also shown a corresponding loss of control and fracturing of the status of the person through the rise of surveillance and loss of personal rights that challenges the theoretical construct and everyday experience of persons.

Author Biography

Randal G. Tonks, Department of Psychology Camosun College

Randal Tonks is currently based at Camosun College and the University of Victoria in Canada. He is former chair of the History and Philosophy of psychology section and current chair of the International / Cross-cultural psychology section of the Canadian Psychological Association. He has published in the areas of Identity and the I Ching (Tonks, 2019) Hermeneutics of Identity (Tonks, 2004) and the History of Culture in Canadian Psychology (Bhatt, Tonks & Berry, 2013) as well as Cross-cultural Psychology in the Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology (Tonks, 2014).




How to Cite

Tonks, R. G. (2021). Changing self in the digital age: The impact of digital technology on the self and person. International Review of Theoretical Psychologies, 1(2).



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