[iDC] How does social media educate? :: response to john hopkins

John Hopkins jhopkins at neoscenes.net
Mon Feb 19 06:35:59 EST 2007


>However, I struggle with the notion that, as you 
>suggest, "The seed of alienation is in that 
>imperfection-of-means to bridge the gap between 
>the Self and the Other." Do you mean to suggest 
>that any kind of face-to-face communication is 
>always preferable to any kind of mediated 
>communication because it is immediate and 
>synchronous? (not that f2f is unmediated) If so, 
>this would

no, not because it happens to be synchronous 
(it's not really, there is always a delay in 
transmission), but because of the imperfection of 
any means of mediation.   nor does it have to do 
necessarily with being face-to-face (as some 
utopian precursor to our highly mediated age). 
I'm sure most people have experienced the dilemma 
of being f2f with someone, and nothing seems to 
get across the gap, despite sharing many 
pathways, the pathways are closed, and the Other 
becomes a brick wall.  and those other instances 
where the Other shares no language, no culture, 
no social milieu, no race with the Self, and 
there is the magic of electrifying connection...

there is the almost always the possibility of the 
flow of connection despite even extreme 
mediation, but it is transitory, unsustainable, 
and ... imperfect...

we move through a desert of be-ing, drinking the 
libation of authentic connection at rare and 
energized instances.  I have not yet met one who 
lacks thirst.

>mean that distance translates into an increase 
>in mediation (the farther the Other, the more 
>mediation is required to bring it near), which 
>in turn results

Cartesian distance is one way to circumscribe the 
alienation factor, but it is not THE factor nor 
is any metric except the more esoteric metric of 
the ability for any two humans to bridge that gap 
and create a connection through which their 
energies might flow.  This possibility for a flow 
rests more in the 'ability' of the individuals to 
conform their energy expressions (and receptions) 
to that mediative means than anything else.  Most 
people will do this very 'easily' on the surface 
(substitute remote connection for f2f) because of 
the enormous social pressures involved in 
adoption.  However, it is this process of 
conformation of expressive means to a narrow 
range of socially acceptable options that is a 
major factor in the evolution of alienation. 
(for example: a dominant social form of 
interaction between people -- the highly mediated 
cycle of advertising-consuming which relies on a 
strictly defined pathway of interaction 
across/through/via a tremendously mediated social 

>in more imperfections’ introduced into the 
>communication process. In other words, the use 
>of any instrument or technology to mediate 
>communication is seen as resulting in a lesser 
>form of perception than what can be experienced 
>directly by the body, because in some way or 
>another this mediation

I would say that this imperfection is a condition 
of human existence in the world -- from any 
mediation introduced by the imperfect body itself 
as the embodied form of life-energy, to any form 
of life-energy exchange -- the gap is literally 
un-bridgeable without attenuation -- this is a 

So, with that accepted as a ground-rule, the 
level of mediation can be defined along a sliding 
scale of its relative mediative qualities and 
intensities (again, either blocking or allowing 
human connection).  The social system defines the 
overall character of the pathway that the 
mediated energy flows along, with more or less 
room for variation and individual possibility. 
(a musical instrument is a good example -- how 
the social system determines some overall 
parameters (say, violin vs lute), and within that 
framework humans (both transmitters and 
receivers) seek/allow either difference 
(innovation) or sameness (tradition) in 
expressive pathways.

>constitutes a decrease in the quality or amount 
>of data that could be gained through one's 
>senses. But

I would define virtuality being any situation 
where a social system (or its output applied to a 
human system) attenuates the wide range of 
possible energy inputs to an individual human's 
body system.

A window is a prime example -- the rush of 
energies which together form weather might be 
seen with the eyes but not felt with the skin.

>  just as we can 'understand' a city when viewing 
>it from an airplane in a different way than we 
>can understand it while walking through it 
>streets, I think sometimes mediation can provide 
>a new kind of "nearness." I think the issue is 
>not whether the Self can approach the Other 
>through "imperfect" mediation, but whether 
>mediation can help the Self, as Deleuze would 
>say, become Other to itself:

interesting point, but how can you extract the 
individual (to simply receive 'help') out of the 
social system that generated the technology and 
that the individual is embedded in?  this is not 
help, this is conformation to a certain socially 
applied system, and in this case, requires a HUGE 
socio-technical infrastructure within which that 
individual being 'helped' must conform to the 
demands of that system.  In order to fly, you 
must participate in an enveloping social system 
which indeed affects all parts of your life 
(including how you spend your life-energy on a 
moment-to-moment basis).

>"For it is not the other which is another I, but 
>the I which is an other, a fractured I" 
>(Difference and Repetition, 1994, p. 261). 
>Perhaps the problem is that we have been too 
>quick to buy into social media's narrative of 
>the "integration of identity" that Alex Halavais 
>was talking about a while ago. If anything, 
>social media should educate by going in the 
>opposite direction: not towards the "look at me 
>I can have any identity I want online" but 
>towards an authentic critique of identity via 
>the 'fracturing' of the Self.

but social media inherently does not support the 
idiosyncracy of individual existence and 
experience by its collectively-determined set of 
pathways for expression and reception.  it 
appears to, but actually requires conformity more 
than it offers in individual possibility.   Of 
course there are interstitial zones within which 
there are possibilities -- but in the general 
case, the social system does not sanction these 
spaces, and most often, people operating in those 
spaces are rejected or sanctioned by the system. 
not sure what you mean by 'authentic critique of 
identity via fracturing' -- but schizophrenia is 
not a pleasant outcome.

back to travel.


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