In the domestic landscape of the “internet of things,” one thing is clear: it is not so much the smart TV, the biometric wristwatch, or your car’s new AI that constitutes one in a series of internet objects. You are the thing. You are the data that Big Data categorizes and sells back to you. Instagram is the hypermodern mirror stage. Look at yourself online; online looks back at you; you buy yourself online. Around the same time that social media began to escalate, popular culture found a new word, snowflake. Special Snowflake Syndrome, Generation Snowflake, and eventually just snowflake, named the old problem of the One and the Many. One day the world Woke and looked outside to see that it was snowing. The snowflake meme, starting from the common idea that “no two snowflakes are alike,” collected various social connotations: unique, special, individual, but also fragile, easily triggered, too liberal, and then even the conservative alt-right. The special snowflake must be kept in a language freezer, a safe space. As if the heat of jouissance produced by the speaking being, the collision of language and the body, could melt it in an instant.
Psychoanalysis, which studies the One, the Many, the Other, and the Letter, has something to say about the contemporary online snowflakestorm. We cannot call it special or even essential, because the word at stake is pursued in other disciplines that approach the real: physics, mathematics, art, writing. Our word for this issue of The Lacanian Review, one that is vital for keeping the speaking body out of the freezer, is singularity. You will notice that we have pluralized it too: singularities. Singularities are not unique, they are not individual, they are not exceptions, and they are certainly not special. They have less to do with being something and more to do with something of the One. So let’s open this volume with Lacan’s formulation, ‘There is such a thing as One’ (Yad’l’Un), to see if we can pass through the malaise of our special social syndromes.
Editorial originally published in The Lacanian Review, “The Art of Singularities“, Issue 11 (Spring 2021).