Alfred Schutz, F2F, Social Software, and Streams of Consciousness

This might seem off topic for this blog, or it might be digging a bit too deep. Nevertheless, I found some passages in an old sociology text, one of the most important texts, in fact, by Alfred Schutz. He’s from the “meaning” tradition. Meaning that he believed that something called meaning did in fact unfold during human interactions; that it could be communicated; that there is a connection in face to face situations (f2f). I post this and some associated questions here because p2p is often not f2f. 2p2p or not 2p2p, this is the question that f2f raises.

“If I wish to observe one of my own lived experiences, I must perform a reflective Act of attention. But in this case, what I will behold is a past experience, not one presently occurring. Since this holds true for all Acts of attention to my own experiences, I know it holds true for the other person as well. You are in the same position as I am: you can observe only your past, already-lived-through experiences. Now, whenever I have an experience of you, this is still my own experience. However, this experience, while uniquely my own, still has its signitively grasped intentional object, a lived experience of yours which you are having at this very moment. In order to observe a lived experience of my own, I must attend to it reflectively. By no means, however, need I attend reflectively to my lived experience of you in order to observe your lived experience. On the contrary, by merely “looking� I can grasp even those of your lived experiences which you have not yet noticed and which are for you still prephenomenal and undifferentiated. This means that, whereas I can observe my own lived experiences only after they are over and done with. I can observe yours as they actually take place. This in turn implies that you and I are in a specific sense “simultaneous,� that we “coexist,� that our respective streams of consciousness intersect. To be sure, these are merely images and are inadequate since they are spatial. However, recourse to spatial imagery at this point is deeply rooted. We are concerned with the synchronism of two streams of consciousness here, my own and yours. In trying to understand this synchronism we can hardly ignore the fact that when you and I are in the natural attitude we perceive ourselves and each other as psychophysical unities.� Alfred Schutz, The Phenomenology of the Social World, 103

  • How important is simultaneity to meaning?
  • How important is it to interaction?
  • How important is it for the “binding” that occurs between interactants when they are in a cooperative type of interaction?
  • How important is it for the exchange of truth, for displays and confirmations of sincerity and authenticity, between interactants?
  • Does culture change when we participate in asynchronous activities, when our interactions involve less actual being together, less coordination of our interaction in shared space and time, less in terms of getting on the same page emotionally, or of creating a mood, disposition, and common attitude?
  • How critical is this moment of shared stream of consciousness, as described here by Schutz, to the production of human relations?
  • How much of it can be leveraged as a basis of interaction when interaction cannot be face to face and must be mediated? Or is every asynchronous and technically-mediated interaction a tiny death, a departure from home, a lesser version of the real human experience?
  • As it is in the philosophical duel between Isabbelle Huppert and Lily Tomlin/Dustin Hoffman in the film I Heart Huckabees, the question (or one question) seems to be: are we all connected, or is there an infinitessimally small but ever-present gap and space between us? Does the shared stream of consciousness described here really happen, or does it only seem to happen?

1 Comment Alfred Schutz, F2F, Social Software, and Streams of Consciousness

  1. AvatarUlises

    I’ve found Schutz arguments very relevant to the issue of communication in our digital age. I’ve tried to incorporate some of his theories here and here, in case you are interested.

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