Unrelated to our earlier treatment of Integral Theory, we want to highlight another aspect of Rich Carlson’s essay.
The remarks discuss an essay by Ronald Purser, i.e. The Limits of Cyberspace – Hypermodernist Detour in the Evolution of Consciousness.
The issue discussed here is: what mode of consciousness is induced or visible in cyberspace? Purser refers to Jean Gebser’s analysis and prediction of the emergence of a new form of ‘integral consciousness’, which he described in his masterpiece, The Ever-Present Origin.
For comparison purposes, see the interpretation by Chris Lucas.
“Ronald Purser’s The Limits of Cyberspace – hyper-modernist detours in the evolution of consciousness – posits that any integral mutation Gebser may have thought was heralded by certain scientific and artistic movements of late Modernism has rather morphed into a Hyper-Modernity
Through the exponential growth of information technologies we increasingly live in simulated environments that collapse space not as a function of time concretion but as an implosion of real space into cyberspace. What follows is hyperperspectival rather than aperspectival mutation.
“Since the emergence of linear perspective, we have progressively intensified our ability—especially through electronic and digital technologies–to distance ourselves from the world. Cyberspace has taken root in a period where the subject is “…already virtualized, volatized and fragmented” (Simpson, 1995, p.159).
This technologically mediated detachment has provided the cultural infrastructure for the postmodern ironic subject (Simpson, 1995). Indeed, viewing the world from a distance becomes the habitual posture of the disengaged, self-as-bystander.
What we are witnessing today is the extreme manifestation of the rational-mental structure operating in what Gebser referred to as a “deficient phase.” In this phase, rationality takes center stage, disallowing all other structures of consciousness from coming into awareness. In a sense, rationality becomes hyper-rational, deficient, and imbalanced, its mentality proliferates into collective consciousness, dividing and segmenting the world to such a degree that the result is fragmentation, anomie, and a decline in meaning. In effect, the rational-mental structure has imploded in on itself — not into a mutation, not into aperspectival consciousness, but into a hyper-extension of the perspectival world.
Hyper-perspectivism, in conjunction with cyberspace, has created a new epistemic order based on non-referentiality or depthlessness, collapsing the distinction between signified and signifier. The result is a cultural fascination with surfaces, images, and a restless energy intent on gratifying arbitrary and ephemeral desires. Simpson (1995) maintains that this detached stance, especially as it is mediated by information technologies, is actually “a way of anesthetizing oneself to loss,” reflecting an existential dread of being in linear time (p.136). In a hyperperspectival world, the postmodern subject takes up a cynical and ironic stance, keeping the world at arms length.
That the dominant mode of consciousness in digital culture is hyperperspectival (and not aperspectival) can be ascertained simply from the fact that cyberspace is founded on a spatial metaphor. Gebser (1985), in numerous passages, associates perspectival consciousness with spatialization and concretion of space.
“Perspectival thinking spatializes and then employs what it has spatialized” (p.258). The psychic experience of our period, according to cultural critic Frederic Jameson (1997), is that of being dominated by categories of space (rather than of time), of being immersed in the synchronic rather than the diachronic (p.16). Hyperperspectival thinking is an extreme form of spatial fixation and attachment, manifesting in the technological conquest of the globe ….
A troubling inconsistency arises between the functional limits and the hype/hyper-potentiality of cyberspace. Unfortunately, as we can see from this discussion, the current trajectory of the digital age is not a fundamental break from the past; cyberspace is not catapulting us into integral consciousness. Instead, we are taking a hypermodern detour.(9) (Purser 1999 para 21-25 & 68).