How does the meaning get drained out of flows of information?
I think the process can be divided into several aspects:
А – Technological. A lot of information now travels between different machines rather than people. For example, when I buy a theatre ticket on the internet, a symbolic reflection of the purchase is transmitted from my computer to a bank, and to the accounting systems of the theatre and the ticket agency… but I am the only person who knows the meaning of that action. The infrastructure of our society already consists of connected circuits which function without human beings, there are just symbols and algorithms for processing them.
B – Cultural. As our urban-industrial civilisation develops, ever less of the content of my world is made up of natural or hand-made objects. Instead, we are surrounded by a standardised set of mass-produced items and commercial audio-visual recordings. Each one of us has such a similar environment that it creates a sensation of “deterritorialization“.
C – Economic. Our working lives have mostly migrated into the realm of symbolic manipulation. (It’s well known for example, that the biggest corporations don’t physically manufacture anything – and generally just work on promoting “brands”). This results in the sense that both workers and managers are spending their weekdays in offices pointlessly (Glaser, 2018) .
D — Physiological. In contemporary culture there may be a trend towards less physical contact between people, and we certainly sleep less. This state of nervous isolation explains a lot about the characteristics of people’s behaviour. Mutual understanding becomes harder to reach.
Next week my professional task is to help ease my colleagues into starting to use the Virtual Learning Environment Moodle. I understand this as a risky undertaking. From my point of view, the more meaning students put into their communication, the easier it will be for them to learn English (or any other language). At first glance, adding virtuality to our practice may actually make it harder to create meaning. But, if we can find a way to overcome the kind of influences described above, I hope we can not only meet our educational goals but also tackle the more general problem of our post-industrial times.
Glaser, E. (2018, May 25). Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber review – the myth of capitalist efficiency | Books | The Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/may/25/bullshit-jobs-a-theory-by-david-graeber-review
The picture shows a detail from the painting “An experiment on a bird in an airpump” by Joseph Wright of Derby (1768), slightly manipulated in Gimp to give the impression that the viewer is also in a bell jar.