Connect-universum 2012
Author: Zavyalova Z.S.


A person as a member of society is generally known to require knowledge – information necessary for personal development and socialization. In the 21st century, the main tool of social informatization and globalization of social processes is no longer the mass media but the Internet – the worldwide network of interconnected computers. The Internet is the global computer network based on the smaller local networks. Initially, the main function of the Internet initially was the exchange of information between the computers connected to the network. Presently, the Internet represents an international computer network that interconnects different kinds of users such as governmental organizations, educational institutes, libraries, corporations, private individuals etc. From its initial main function of optimizing the exchange of a great amount of information, the Internet has developed into the main communication medium for virtually the entire world.

Internet communication has been researched by such scholars as A. Toffler, N. Luman, M. Castells, J. Habermas, and U. Eco, among others. Their research allows us to conclude that this new informational technology is the most important tool of interaction between individuals. And the Internet also facilitates self-expression of a person that can only happen through socialization, according to the social communication expression researchers (symbolic interactionism – J. Mead, H. Blumer and others, phenomenology – H. Garfinkel, А. Schutz and others, dialogism – M. Bakhtin, М. Buber and others, post-modernism – J. Baudrillard, J. Lyotard and others). Thus far, the most important reason for the transformation of the Internet from a tool of information exchange and processing to a broader communication environment lies in human nature and psychology.

The process of communication is the main anthropological practice since it provides personality development as opposed to plain possession of information. Communication is the basis of personality self-identification and self-expression by means provided by society and technical progress [1]. According to М. McLuhan, communication technologies determine social systems formation. McLuhan also assumes “the Gutenberg galaxy”, the era of typography to die out and be replaced by the era of the audiovisual sensitive post-written culture based on the electronic video technologies that inevitably leads to the literature decline [2]. U. Eco, on the other hand, points out that the leading role of the text in cyberspace is a quasi-return to the written culture, and therefore, to Gutenberg.

Combining the main features and functions of the TV set and those of the printing machine, the Internet has become a global informational communicational environment, an alternative to objective reality and possessing great potential in influencing and altering the objective world. Technically built virtuality becomes the location of objective things and phenomena, which cannot be found together in the real world [3]. Therefore, a new type of the so-called symbolic life of a personality, culture and society has been developed. This new type becomes the main framework for all other types of life.

The communicative function of the Internet as prevailing caused the development of the new virtual communication genres that are widely used nowadays: Internet Relay Chats (IRCs), I Seek You Service (ICQ), forums, conferences etc. An informational resource has a feedback function that enables a user to leave a request or a comment or to invite another user or the author into discussion.

Wide distribution and popularization of different communicative genres attract many users of different nationalities, genders, ages, social layers and religions and turn a dialogue into a polylogue. The short period of communication euphoria seemed to claim that the technical characteristics of the communication model of the Internet such as interactivity, unlimited amount of contacts, anonymity, freedom of speech and self-expression, abolishment of social limits would bring a revolution of personality consciousness. Instead of the global social unity, the Internet gave birth to another strict socially-differentiated system than the one existing in the real world. The nature of the Internet communication model created Internet-communities with rigid rules, ethics and language, closed corporate structures with limited access, its own agents, life principles, subordination and regulations.

Like other virtualities in anthropological practice, the Internet is another stage of personality and societal development. Compared to other kinds of virtuality, however, it is a technology that absorbs all things in existence and alters them in accordance with its symbolic nature. In its swift and persistent development the Internet has changed its status from informational anthropological practice or communicative environment to another being. According to Bergelson, rapid development of Internet technology and its persistently growing social significance is a cliché that marks “the high degree of penetration of a certain idea into the social consciousness regardless the current situation that this idea portrays” [4].

What are the points that determine the Internet communication as a specific form of being? A survey of existing research sorts out three basic features. The first feature is a virtual personality (VP) as a product of activity of a real individual or the net reconstruction of personal and social identities. The VP expressed itself using lingua-cultural self-presentation adequate to the discourses of the communicative situations in the Internet.

The second feature is the language used for such communication. Finally, the formation of “the framework,” which is a set of nonverbalized regulations, norms and traditions of the web interaction.

The technical characteristics of Internet communication appear to be invariable burdening factors as they are initial basic conditions of the personality existence that cannot be changed. In the beginning there were no specific purposes of Internet technology usage, no ways of self-expression or self-fulfillment of a personality in the set conditions. This circumstance has automatically caused a necessity for a search that has created an illusion of chaos as it is built from an intellectual and emotional activity. The chaos naturally tended to develop into a self-organizing and self-developing organism and thereby has gained a name of the virtual community.

On the Internet, public space invades personal space that widens to the size of the universe so the inner and outer space become one. It is no surprise that in the research of the Internet as a cultural phenomenon, the leading part belongs to the philosophers of postmodernism. It becomes even clearer when the Internet is taken as a main form of existence of postmodern society where philosophy is postmodernism [5]. The most essential feature of postmodernism is erasing the line between art and everyday life, elite culture and pop-culture, eclectics and styles fusion. Postmodernism is a fusion of incongruities. Chaos theory is a striking example of postmodernism in science that erases the lines between the examination of the phenomenon from the point of view of physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and sociology. Thereby, the postmodernism philosophy could be examined as a methodology of chaos theory [6]. Postmodernism is distinguished by polysemy, pluralism, doubt, detachment, irony, transformation of reality into an image, reflection, citation and self-citation, fortuity and ambivalence, aspiration to disorder. It brings the problem of reality loss, otherwise known as “the death of the real” or “the kingdom of the simulacrum”.

However, fusion and erasing of borders are cause for the search of the relative points of stability that make self-identification possible and organize the chaos by turning it into a complicated organism of informational society with the virtual superstructure that interprets the events and regulations of the real world. The superstructure develops up to the level where it is capable of self-education, becoming independent it produces a product of original art of the individuals that the virtual community consists of.

The following points support this statement:
1. Synchronic and diachronic development of the network environment.
2. Many-dimensionality of the informational-communicational environment.
3. Formalization of the language.
4. Netiquette.

What follows is an elaboration on each point.
1. New communities, groups, communicative genres and styles of communication that determine diachronic development of the Internet technology appear constantly.
2. The whole network is constructed according to the principle of nonlinearity. Hypertext is a basis of the Internet structure that is constructed according to the principle of associative thinking [7]. The given many-dimensional structure opens immediate access to all levels of information.
3. Many graphic symbols and abbreviations lose their etymology and transform into formalized signs that mark communicative situations. Such phenomena are typical for an originally developing language.
4. Netiquette is a set of nonverbalized regulations and norms of behavior adopted by the users in the process of electronic communication. In the same way the rules of etiquette accepted in a culture are adopted in the process of real communication.

According to K. Cherry “we gain experience in understanding these forms as they appear and trace their structure, rules and regularities. It is how reality appears from chaos” [8]. The Internet communication and the level of its development and significance for a person is grounds for comparison of reality and virtuality.

The research on Internet technologies in different fields such as psychology, sociology, linguistics and others concludes that modern form of this technology works as a distorting mirror that refracts the reality. A closer look at this idea reveals that the research of the question of motivation for using the Internet provides the following interesting factors:
1. Immateriality – the absence of the physical aspect of perception of a person.
2. Social gradation and conventions corresponding to it.
3. Unlimited number of contacts and its independence from time and location.
4. Anonymity.
5. Limited emotionality that doesn’t muddle a message and makes self-expression more effective. [9]

It is not difficult to understand why these factors are the most attractive for a person. They all build a situation of communicative intensity; they are the most important in the process of communication and, therefore, they represent the risk factors that influence the success of the communication. In real communication too much attention is paid to physical and social aspects that almost always condition the nature of the communication before it starts.

These aspects are external (in both a direct and indirect sense) and important for an opponent, but the specifically personal aspect represented by anonymity and limited emotionality is internal and conditions the behavior in the process of communication. Thus, electronic communicative practice is an attempt to get rid of the burdensome factors of reality that immediately affect the process of communication and its result. An individual feels highly excited upon entering the electronically communicative environment for the first time due to the cancellation of conventions and perceived freedom of self-expression. However, as time passes, the participant of the Internet-communication faces the problems of a no less serious sort as those he left behind in the real world. The peculiarities of the electronic form of being that seemed to be advantages turn into extreme disadvantages. Immateriality and anonymity, the absence of social belonging deprives an individual of a crisp image and reduces himself by turning him into a symbolic person, “one of many others” that constantly changes and does not stick in the mind. A deprivation of natural individual emotional expression leads to a deprivation of full self-expression that turns an individual into an image created on the basis of an experience and stereotypes.

Thereby, resuming the above, the Internet causes transformation in physical, psychological and social components of a personality, leading to dangerous effects of new types of communication and, potentially, personality disorders. Escaping the defects of reality a person faces more serious problems in the virtual environment that cannot be fixed without personal changes.

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