no. 6

Interactive Intersubjectivity at International Interaktionslabor 2007: Bringing Human Scale to Virtuality

F. Scott Taylor


I am a Communications Theorist and Multidisciplinary Writer interested in exploring the affect of telecommunications upon general culture, especially in terms of its impact upon psycho-physiology and language cognition.

Interactivity is closely related to intersubjectivity. Intersubjectivity is a word associated with sociability, common sense, the status quo, and the consensus that allows people to communicate verbally. When we are interactive we cannot help but reveal our intersubjectivity or socialization at the same time.

However, under digital technocultural telecommunicational conditions what we have traditionally called intersubjectivity has been deleted. For example, one of the issues I’m currently exploring is the transmogrification of the private into the public and vice versa. In other words what traditionally was considered private has become public and vice versa.

With cybernetic remote control we moved into the full-out exploitation and use of human beings by other human beings on a global scale.

As a result, traditional notions of morality and ethics have been compromised and obsolesced. I would attempt to define the moral as what we owe to our fellow human beings, and to define the ethical as what we owe our maker. Unfortunately, with the annihilation of these categories by telecommunicational means, most of what currently passes for morality and ethics is simply a will to nostalgia. For example, the attempt to build ethics into the manifestos, mandates, and the mission-statements of business endeavours is really an attempt to recreate the past. It is engaging in a past-time, in nostalgia.

The enormity of this problem is more than aptly illustrated in the example of the current creation of the “Sentient World Simulation” (SWS) by the United States Department of Defence. A news bulletin issued this July 23rd stated that the Defence Department “may already be creating a copy of you in an alternate reality to see how long you can go without food or water, or how you will respond to televised propaganda.” The article continues, “The DOD is developing a parallel to Planet Earth, with billions of individual ‘nodes’ to reflect every man, woman, and child this side of the dividing line between reality and AR (army regulation). Called the Sentient World Simulation (SWS), it will be a ‘synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information’ . . . .”

SWS provides an environment for testing Psychological Operations (PSYOP) so that military leaders can develop and test multiple courses of action to anticipate and shape behaviours of adversaries, neutrals, and partners. The idea is to generate alternative futures with outcomes based on interactions between multiple sides. It will also allow for testing the market for new products. But the SWS will be more trend watching and controlling than that, since the Homeland Security and the Defence Department are already using the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) to simulate crises on the US mainland. It is thought that future wars will be asymmetric in nature. They will be more non-kinetic, with the center of gravity being a population. Consequently, the goal of the SWS is to have a depersonalised likeness for each individual rather than an immediately identifiable duplicate for every man, woman and child in public record.

As a natural communitarian, a civil libertarian and traditional humanist, I am concerned about this. Despite the multi-disciplinary multi-media thrust of telecommunications there is no significant academic psychological or medical institution currently examining anything radically pertinent to the synthesis of ideology and pathology in the so-called “post-human.” This is an embarrassment for all of humanity. The only individuals and groups with serious intent experimentally and/or systematically focussing on the direct and indirect effects of telecommunications on interactivity and on intersubjectivity are multi-media artists. Johannes Birringer, Michele Danjoux, and the team of Nancy Mauro-Flude, Walter Langlaar and Scot Cotterell here at International Interaktionslabor 2007 are all dedicated to the moral imperative of learning the methods by which the empathetic humanist -- intent upon preserving natural respect and dignity where both the public and the private are concerned -- can subvert the anti-human methods of electrocratic control, that is the control exacted by government by, through and with electronic telecommunications.

This is with a hope that we can return to human scale and interact accordingly.