SOCIAL SELF IN A VIRTUAL WORLD
Blekinge Institute of Technology (SWEDEN)
There is individual and collective impact on construction of social self. There are also significant dialectic contradictions at work between construction and experiencing of social self by individual or collective influences. The human species is able to combine separate but related processes for social and material interaction by means of individual input to collective activity systems. It is, however, a bit of a mystery how the balancing process between activity, consciousness and personality materializes in modern artifacts, by means of social support and as virtual personality.
Today information and communication technologies (ICT) influence people, procedures and production. It seems as if the spread and impact of the technology is straightforward for most citizens. However, there are ethical, social and instrumental issues related to management of activity and information. People simply perceive and conceive differently of technologically mediated communications. A comprehensive trajectory of research on ICT contains consecutive mental processes related to data, information, intention, meaning, communication, influencing and growth. For some decades now researchers and practitioners have grappled with an understanding of information – what a piece of information is, how to understand and model it.
In order to be able to account for how people systemically respond to the dialectics of relation building, agency and inter-dependence we need to learn how people conceive of self-construction as a social process. We also need to learn how broad cultural experiences as well as narrowly defined working life influences shape people’s values, norms, beliefs, attitudes and actions. Ever since Descartes’ dualist conception of an anti-social and self-contained Self saw the light of day complemented with Enerstvedt’s (1977) equally extreme idea of a “collective subject”, it has been a matter for research to address the social Self. A weak version of how people construct a social Self suggests that physical meetings and cultural habits form crucial influences to the construction/modeling of a social self. A strong version of how people shape their identities suggests that our ability to think and act comes as the result of socially constituted cultural contexts. For example, Karl Marx (1975, s. 423) says that human nature and individual identity comprises of an “ensemble of social relations.” The suggested perspective on construction of a social Self, however, merely provides a context for clarifying a method and providing some results that may help identify factors that shape the characteristics and functioning of a modern social Self, for example in online game-playing environments. Can old activity theory interpretations help in that ambition?
The purpose of the study is to build a theory for exploring the functioning of individual and collective agency in modern ICT contexts; first by relating to the dialectical nature of life, identifying the pillars of activity theory; raising the issue of how to define personality; presenting optional theories; providing a model and scrutinizing the implications of the suggested model.