Communication with and without presence

This post is an analysis of the fundamentals of this blog. There are the concepts of our “self” and the “other”; the “presence” of ourselves as such and as “being here”; the “presence” of an other here with us; the “person” and the “sentience”; and then, amongst all of these concepts, the “communication”, “interaction” and “sensing” between them.

Professor Jens Allwood defined communication as sharing, at NordForsk Research Training Course: Feedback, Communicative Gesturing, and Gazing in May 2011 What then is the difference between communication and interaction? What is the difference between interacting or communicating with another person, a smart phone and a piece of stone?

Thinking zombieConsider traffic signs. There is one level of communication, where we approach a traffic sign and it appears to us as a symbol. We interpret the symbol and become aware of a rule. We then adjust our behaviour based on the rule. This may be to follow the rule, go against the rule or completely ignore the rule. Nevertheless, the traffic sign has communicated with us and had an effect on us.

On another level, while approaching a traffic sign, we are observing several stimulus, including the traffic sign. We interpret the stimulus in our mind. We have a knowledge of a rule that the symbol of the traffic sign represents. We have learned this social rule from our society in our past. We consider the rule and choose to follow it, go against it, or ignore it. We have communicated only with our own self, analysing the current against the past.

On a third level, there has been a person who has decided upon a rule for this location we are approaching. This person has designed a symbol for this rule and taught us the symbol. They have placed the traffic sign here to ask us to follow the rule. As we receive this request of theirs, we now decide to obey them, go against their request, or ignore them.

If communication is sharing, it would appear to occur here on each three levels. Our past selves are sharing with us the rule through memories. If we do not remember the symbol, the rule is not effectively being shared with us and we can not make a choice. The traffic sign is sharing with us the rule directly. All it ever does is shine the symbol to everyone approaching it. Without it, the rule is not being shared with us and we can not make a choice. The person deciding on the rule is sharing with us the rule as primus motor. The intent of the rule comes from them. Without this person, the rule wouldn’t exist. There would be no choice to make.

Are we communicating and interacting with ourselves on the first level? Is the traffic sign communicating and interacting with us on the second level? Is the (other) person communicating and interacting with us on the third level? For me the last one appears as easiest to accept. Also, the first level appears to have some reason with it, though it feels a bit dodgy. I find the second level most challenging.

How defining part of a society are rules? If we set ourselves personal rules, are we a society of one? Can we only learn rules from a society. Does a society arise only among persons? What about the laws of nature and physics? If we see a boulder rolling high speed towards us, we have learned in our past that there is a rule that the boulder is most likely to continue it’s course and if we do not dodge, it will hurt or even kill us. In this situation I find it easy to say that we are interacting with the boulder (hopefully by reacting this currently active rule by dodging the boulder). However, in my conception of “communication”, I find it difficult to see that the boulder, or reality would be communicating with us, or we would be communicating with the boulder or reality. Certainly, the reality is sharing with us the reality of the rolling boulder, but the rule is shared by ourselves from our memories, or in some cases by another person shouting warnings and instructions to us.

We can learn the rule by observing a rolling boulder crashing a building, and deducing that this would happen to ourselves as well, if we were in place of the building. Here we are still communicating with ourselves with the deduction.

We can experience smaller rocks hitting us with the large ones hurting more than the smaller ones. We can feel gravity and warmth. These are all rules that our existence is based on in this reality. We have a set of senses on ourselves to survive. These are evolutionary lessons learned by our species from non-person sources. Even plants react to these kind of rules by curling their leaves to shield from the coldness of the night. What makes a person – a sentience?

Communication requires intent? The person has their intent to share the rule. The traffic sign has it’s creator’s intent to share the rule. The boulder has no intent, but the nature has the intent of our survival?

What is the role of presence in communication? Is it just something that can be communicated? What would be a term used for communication with presence?

Military and emergency personnel in action may be less likely to communicate with other persons, but rather using communication to take action. You can either use your hands to place a cloth on a wound to stop it bleeding, or phrase a command to have someone place a cloth on a wound to stop it bleeding. This communication does not require so much presence. There is, however, presence included here as well, in giving courage. We are generally less uncertain and afraid, when we are communicating with other people in emergency situation.

I foresee myself returning to this subject with taking the concept of “experiencing” into account as well. This thought is based on me recently reading Active construction of experience through mobile media: a field study with implications for recording and sharing by Giulio Jacucci, Antti Oulasvirta and Antti Salovaara, 2006.

2 thoughts on “Communication with and without presence

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