Major propositions of the information theory are described, the term information is defined more precisely, theoretical concepts of the information interaction process and social information are scrutinized, and points of contact of the information theory and the social interaction theory are revealed in the collaborative monograph.
The notion of information is analyzed in terms of scientific and philosophic approaches. Basic propositions of the information concepts, namely functional and attributive, are elucidated. Close attention is given to the essence of these concepts, that is, interpretation of information as an objectively existing and reflected variety of real objects of any matter organization level on the one hand, and understanding of information as functional adaptive reflection of objects of only highly organized systems on the other. In both interpretations information is viewed as an attribute of matter but in the first interpretation it is an attribute or property of all matter (living and nonliving) while in the second one it is an attribute and a functional property of highly organized matter. The development and functioning of information as a scientific notion is studied in terms of both attributive and functional conceptions of this phenomenon. More and more researchers pose the question as to the philosophic status of information. The definition of information proposed in the monograph eliminates the contradiction between the attributive and functional conceptions. Information is treated as self-reflection of the universe partially given to a subject in the act of reflection. It is clarified that it is more correct to interpret information as a substance of self-reflection of the universe rather than self-reflection. Any object can be characterized by external and internal information. External information is given in acts of reflection. Self-reflection of the universe is identical to internal information on its whole content both revealed and unrevealed. Self-reflection of the universe as a fundamental object in philosophy is both the result and the process, therefore information cannot be static. It exists as an informational process in which traditionally it is only a set of discrete fragments of this process. Such an interpretation of the substance of self-reflection results from an understanding of the universe as a dynamic object. Correspondingly its adequate reflection is also a process. The universe is discrete, so reflection is both self-reflection in its certain parts and reflection as a connection between them, they are linked, act through each other and interact.
Information properties in the interaction process of objects of reality are studied and an interpretation of information as an integral feature of the interaction process of objects of reality is proposed. Information is introspectively inherent in any object that is a potential source of information. It partly manifests itself in acts of reflection of an object by a subject. It implies that information can be internal and external. Partial manifestation of internal information in informational processes is caused by objective space-time finiteness of users’ features and by the interference of the communication medium. In general, reflection of a source in an information user is always incomplete and inaccurate. A qualitative measure of internal and external information depends on the diversity of possibilities which an information source possesses. The more possibilities a source possesses, the more potentially informative it is. Thus, internal information of a system is quantitatively related to the diversity of its possibilities – the greater is this diversity, the greater is its information awareness. The notions of information and an informational process as information interaction are invariant to the nature of sources and users. In particular, these can be material and ideal, rational and irrational information sources and users in acts of cognition and self-organization. In the monograph, information is treated as an isomorph of another, as a side through which a subject interacts with another. An isomorph is understood as an external structure of an object that realizes interaction. Such an interpretation of information focuses on the moment of the process of self-reflection of the universe. Social information is carried by material objects but it is immaterial in nature. The model of informational interaction – “a thing relationship as a set relationship” information is proposed to study the nature of social informational interaction. A thing is isomorphic; it communicates a lot of information to another thing in interaction. In this interaction a moment of identity formation occurs in which the processes of reflection and identity formation are interdependent.
The monograph stresses an interest in an information aspect of social interaction revealed in theories of social interaction. The analysis of interpretations of social information given in various concepts (V.G. Afanasyev, D.I. Dubrovsky, V.Z. Kogan, Yu.V. Levitsky) made it possible to find proofs of an information nature of social interaction. Social information can be defined as knowledge used as a function of subjects’ activity organization. In the process of interaction of social subjects their consciousness reproduces social being of each of them and allows them to recognize themselves in interaction. This recognition is manifested in recognizing different social being of others expressed in values, goals and ways of achieving them. This recognition is treating social information as an isomorph of another, an aspect or property through which a subject interacts with another. Theoretical conceptions of social interaction are presented in the monograph. It is shown that informational and functional as well as informational and character-symbolic aspects of social interaction are interrelated in the system of social interaction. The structural and functional concept and the symbolic interaction concept form a theoretical basis for the analysis of social information interaction. Society as a social system can be presented as a set of interacting factors whose social activity is conditioned by the availability of information necessary for functional interaction. Society is a product that is constructed by a set of character-symbolic interaction processes as acts of communication but at the same time acts as knowledge implicitly implying information. People react to the environment depending on what meanings-characters they attach to their surrounding. These meanings are products of social interpersonal interaction or communication. It is pointed out that propositions of symbolic interaction can be relevant to the information theory if we treat a person as an information subject. It is emphasized in the monograph that communication is an act of conveying information on social interaction of subjects and self-interaction. This interpretation of communication as the core of self-observation of a semantic system results from the social communication theory proposed by N. Luman in which society is treated as a communication system. Psychic and social systems whose content is formed by meanings act as participants of communication. Understanding of communication as a message, information and comprehension supports the statement that information is an inherent part of communication where information is treated as the moment of self-reference of a system: different reference as a side of another through which a participant of communication interacts. Researchers of the information aspect of social interaction in the light of system-structural and interaction theories reveal fixation of one of the aspects of social interaction, namely, knowledge movement in the notion of information. The information aspect of the social is most consistently studied in the works by N. Luman who interprets self-reference of systems in the social communication theory in terms of information interaction.
In the monograph the author proposes his interpretation of social information interaction. It is stated that the key components of social information interaction are subjects and semantic units of this interaction which are joined by the growth of interaction intensity. It is pointed out that information and communication are related, in particular, by self-reference of a semantic system where information acts as content while communication is a form of the self-reference moment. The affinity and complementarity of the notions of communication and information are emphasized. Communication is established through synthesis of three different selections, namely, information selection, selection of a message of this information and selective understanding or misunderstanding of a message or information. Each of the three components can be presented as information interaction: selection of information is conditioned by information interaction of a system and the environment; selection of a message of this information depends on the interaction of a system and the environment in which the system understands the difference between a message and information; understanding is also possible only with information selection and selection of a message of this information on the one hand, and on the other hand, communication ‘grasps’ the difference between the information value of the content and reasons for communicating this content. Understanding forms the autopoyezis of the system. As a consequence self-reference results from communication or social information interaction. Self-reference of a system is the moment of self-naming and at the same time naming another and every time it is an understanding of its own reality relative to another. “A second-order observation” as a disappearing integrity of a system under conditions of social information interaction also proves the information-communication relationship as content and form of the moment of self-reference of a semantic system. Viewing the world as integrity the observer discovers differences in it and distinguishes himself from it by naming a different thing and every time naming himself. The observer is therefore to pose the question of his place in the world and his function as a self-observer who distances himself from the world just to have a possibility to observe it and to live in this world. Thus to observe itself a semantic system attributes itself to another, identifies itself and another, self-limits itself and in doing so it loses its integrity. These moments constitute the content of social information interaction. They are revealed to the observer as social communication. Hence self-reference of a system, social information interaction takes the form of social communication.
An interpretation of social interaction as an informational process is proposed in the monograph based on our understanding of form and content of social information interaction as self-reference of a semantic system. A semantic unit of social information interaction – name of a thing – is used. Social interaction is treated as an isomorph of another if the moment of social interaction in society is regarded. According to A.F. Losev, “the name of a thing” is what the outer world communicates with it through; it is the conjugation of the essence of another. “The name of a thing” expresses self-reference of a semantic system implemented by the processes of self-reference and ino- reference (N. Luman). The subject of social information interaction generates its name by self-referencing itself as a system and thus calls the name of another as a result of inoreference. The author claims that the growth of the intensity of the social information interaction process is an essential characteristic of a research object. Theoretical grounding of an increase in differentiation of social communication given by N. Luman is treated in the monograph as the ground for the growth of intensity of social information interaction. The range of evolutionary mechanisms of variation and choice of inherited selections is increasingly widening, which accelerates socio-cultural evolution. Not only does a greater variety caused by differentiation results in a better reaction to the environment, it also provides for a faster evolution. The process of growth of social information interaction intensity for a system is characterized by: 1) growth of the number of information selection moments or growth of the number of meanings; 2) growth of the information selection rate or growth of the social information interaction rate. It is noted that the concept of social activity form development proposed by V.E. Kemerov also arrives at an interpretation of the process of growth of social information interaction intensity. Social being of a person is manifested in certain activity forms. It is stressed that this change in the attitude to the activity pattern is caused to a large degree by growth of growth of information interaction intensity. At early stages of history, at stages of relatively low intensity of information interaction humans are at the state of wholeness and self-integrity when it is impossible to separate any self-consciousness on the one hand, and social relations and things on the other. The number of things used by individuals increases and more and more things appear to be involved in individuals’ reality as information interaction accelerates. The social form begins to assume an abstract character. A new level of human penetration into the world of things and a higher degree of self- separation of individuality are caused by the fact that people use some properties of things combined into lines and systems rather than things themselves, in other words, they use information more and more consciously. Under conditions of information interaction acceleration things lose their fixed names, i.e. they lose their social character as an order. With further growth of interaction frequency social form dynamism comes out of control of human power and conception. On the one hand, the name of a thing is lost for a person’s individual being, which brings it to social formlessness, forming negates the formed more and more, and self-separation dominates self-reunification. On the other hand, an information set of a personality as a subject of social information interaction becomes limiting while extrasensory being of a personality is overfilled with meanings of certain moments of being. The subject of social information interaction, in particular a personality, is analyzed in the monograph. The concept of a personality is viewed in terms of the proposed concept of social information interaction as an information structure and an information process – “an imperfect unity of an imperfect set” (L. Karsavin) of information. A personality is interpreted as a self-unity, self-separation and self-unification of the moments of being. It is cognizable and identifiable, that is distinct of everything that is not it, by its time-space manifestations, i.e. as a result of self-reference and different reference of itself as a psychic system. It is shown in the monograph how the concept of a personality of “an imperfect unity of an imperfect set”, on the one hand, and the interpretation of a personality as an integral information set, as a semantic system under conditions of information interaction on the other hand, mutually complement each other and lead to a qualitatively new understanding of a personality under social information interaction. If the concept of a personality as “an imperfect unity of an imperfect set” helps to outline ontological aspects in the analysis of a personality as a subject of social information interaction, the concept of a personality as an extrasensory structure (A.N. Leontyev, V.E. Kemerov) makes it possible to analyze the problem from the point of view of the socio-philosophic approach in which a human personality is treated in terms of its relation to the social whole. It is pointed out that existence of a personality under conditions of social information interaction is living in the state of extrasensory social being. An ability of humans to relate with the social whole in the absence of direct communication and interaction results from people’s individualization caused by the common and separate character of their activity. In the reasoning concerning extrasensory being of a personality self-reference of a psychic system is compared to the concept of a personality as the self-unity, self-separation and self-unification of the moments of being or information. A personality as “an imperfect unity of an imperfect set” of information creates other things as sets of information and is created by them. In this sense an individual calls its name and calls the name of another, an isomorpf of another. It is concluded that the interpretation of social information interaction includes the definition of the subject of interaction, in particular an individual as “an imperfect unity of an imperfect set” of information and a semantic unit of social information interaction as “the name of a thing” which cause and interrelate the growth of social information interaction intensity.
Based on the proposed interpretation of social information interaction the author reveals the dependence of characteristics of modern society on the intensity of social information interaction. It is manifested in “the formation” of a personality’s reality as the subject of social information interaction in modern society. It is pointed out that extrasensory being of a personality occurs in both traditional society and modern information-oriented society as well. Traditional society is characterized by “low frequencies” of information interaction and by relatively weakly differentiated communication processes which are sparse and simple in their structure while “high frequency” of information interaction is typical of modern information-oriented society and extrasensory being is mediated by information technologies and by knowledge. Communication is highly differentiated in modern society; its structure is getting more and more complicated and is less amenable to reflection. The rate of social information processes in society is increasingly exceeding the potential of contemporary humans as intellectual systems. Such limitations of human nature undoubtedly result in serious contradictions and problems for modern people and their extrasensory being. It is pointed out that there is a distinctive contradiction between the right of a personality to self-affirmation and their ability to control the social setting which makes such self-affirmation feasible or impossible. Self-affirmation is as necessary for a personality as it is impossible because of “the eluding situation” of society itself. The destiny of an individual becomes “a biographic settlement of systems contradictions” which leads to a closed-circle situation – to become a personality an individual needs resources and possibilities that are undoubtedly rejected by a new order. A new order rejecting an individual as a unity of information sets, contingency as a value in modern society (Luman) is an order caused by ever increasing rate of informational processes in society confirming an increasingly temporal character of the human environment. Ideas of post-modernism concerning radical transformations of modern society are analyzed. Contemporary human beings are doomed to experience the unauthenticity of the world given in their cultural experience as well as they are doomed to its being infected by parasitic secondary senses (J. Baudrillard). Social reality on a mass scale that increases together with the growth of social information process frequency develops self-sufficient pattern-independent simulacra and is increasingly forming the life environment of modern people from them. It is shown in the monograph that extrasensory being of a personality under conditions of increasing rates of social information interaction in modern society turns out to be “simulative pseudo being”. Virtual practices performed by means of “incomplete actualization of empirical reality” or simulacra seem for a person to be a no less authentic and radical alternative to an ordinary routine order of being. As information process intensity grows, such features of information society as the appearance of “information economics” that is characterized by the development of a technological paradigm possessing a new organizational logic correlated with the current process of technological changes and “the culture of real virtuality” (M. Kastels) become the main moments of “the formed” in the extrasensory being of a personality, the moments of reality of a contemporary person. “The culture of real virtuality” is characterized by the concept of a multimedia text, i.e. a potential integration of texts, images, and sounds interacting from numerous points in the global net in one system; by a new role of mass media that have become an audio-visual environment an individual automatically interacts with as well as by other features. So, the problem of formation of a subject’s reality and “the formed” as reality of a subject of social information interaction results from increasing temporariness of social senses and the growth of diversity of social information in society. Modern society is characterized by: 1) “disappearing” of a semantic unit of social information interaction, i.e. “the name of a thing” and growth of temporariness of social senses; 2) growth of information content of a personality that leads to transformations of the latter, which is manifested, in particular, in potential degradation or degeneration of social being of a personality into “simulative pseudo being”.
Theoretical and methodological grounds of the analysis of social information action are presented in the collaborative monograph. Definitions of the virtual proposed by philosophers and scientists from other fields are studied, the definitions of the virtual, virtualization, the virtual in society, social virtuality and virtual social action are specified.
The author analyzes the concept of the virtual in terms of approaches used in philosophy and natural sciences. The main propositions of views of the nature of the virtual are revealed. The emphasis is made on the key points of these propositions, i.e. since ancient times till now the virtual has been treated as some potential force only, a property, an ability that is inherent in objects and that can be actualized, while now more and more philosophers pose the question of an ontological nature of virtuality. The concept of the plurality of reality proposed by N.A. Nosov to reveal the specificity of the virtual is regarded. Virtual reality is interpreted as reality possessing its own attributes that is generated by social reality and interconnected with it (N.A. Nosov). It is stressed that it is more correct to treat virtual reality not as reality existing statically but as dynamically developing reality, reality in the process of formation. Virtual reality is not being in itself, but it is being in action. Reality is a process, not the outcome. This interpretation of virtual reality arises from the understanding of the virtual as a force capable of actualization. Actualization of virtual phenomena and reduction of social phenomena occur in the process of interaction between virtual and social realities. It was found out that in natural sciences virtual reality is treated as a particular kind of certain reality, but not as its generated form. In natural sciences, virtual reality is treated mostly as material and substantial reality, that is, technological reality and is related to the advent of the computer. In the humanities, virtual reality is defined as ideal reality, as a changed state of human consciousness.
The concept of virtualization is specified and approaches to virtualization in social cognition are analyzed in the monograph. Major propositions of theories, concepts and models of virtual society are described. The author underlines differences between these theories, concepts and models. Virtual society is treated either as simulation similarity, distorted imitation or play of mind without any practical realization, or as symbolic and semantic similarity of society, or as a specific form of the social that is genetically inseparable and exists only within the established social forms, or as the existing alternative of the established stable social world genetically not related to it. Therefore it is quite clear that there isn’t any single virtual society. The author has failed to find an unambiguous interpretation of virtual society and virtualization processes leading to its formation. The definition of virtualization within the activity-based approach makes it possible to identify a process-like character of the formation of virtual society. Society virtualization is understood as the process of mutual transition of potential social actions to real ones. The process of modern society virtualization is to be associated with computerization and electronic technologies. The computer is a new symbolic medium that has greatly accelerated virtualization processes; however, we should remember that individuals have always lived in the virtual world that other virtual media created. Virtual processes only partially involve all strata of society and hence it is too early to speak about the replacement of society by virtual society.
In the monograph kinds and models of reality are studied and the specific nature of virtual social reality is defined more accurately. Four models of reality, namely, naturalistic, realistic, activity-based and phenomenological have been analyzed. It is shown that virtualization is quite difficult to study by using naturalistic and realistic models as they describe static society from outside. The activity-based model is best suited to the analysis of virtual processes as it describes dynamic society from inside. In this connection reality is defined as actuality in the monograph. Four kinds of reality, namely, ideal, material, actual and potential have been studied. In virtual social reality borders between the ideal and material, actual and potential are blurred. In the light of this virtual social reality is defined as the system of actual and potential social actions.
In the monograph the author gives his interpretation of virtualization processes occurring at all social levels and conducts a search of the virtual in structural elements of society. It is found out that transformation of activity of social institutions and social communities as well as behaviors of individuals occur under the effect of virtualization processes.
It is pointed out that virtualization processes involving all social institutions result in changes in social institutions activity. It is shown that virtualization processes of social institutions are implemented through computerization. A new organizational form of institutional interactions, namely, a global network has emerged, a vertical hierarchy is replaced by a horizontal one and an informal structure of relations begins to dominate. Relations and managerial actions are carried out based on integrated and local systems and telecommunications and a more flexible adaptation to the environment emerges. Institutional interactions are widened in the process of introduction of computer technologies. Institutional interactions are increasingly becoming temporary. Institutions begin to focus their activity on generation of simulative functions. The transformation of social institutions caused by virtualization processes is a necessary condition of the adaptation of social institutions to the changed social environment. Those social institutions that haven’t undergone changes cannot withstand competition and in the long run completely disappear.
A new form of organization of social relations — a global network — has appeared in modern society. The network existing in industrial society was local; it integrated physically localized in time and space social institutions, social communities and social actors. In post-industrial society the net has acquired a global character by integrating social institutions, social communities and social actors separated in time and space. Time-space borders are becoming blurred. Virtuality may be regarded as an attribute of the net because a net-based organizational form of relations leads to the expansion of space. In addition, its geometry is sufficiently changeable, that is, network nodes are created and disappear quickly. The author attracts the reader’s attention to the advent of a new type of communities – virtual Internet-based communities. Virtual communities interact; they are interconnected with social communities and influence them via changing behaviors of individuals forming these communities. At the same time, virtual communities possess attributes distinguishing them from social communities. There are no social restrictions in virtual communities and interaction between individuals is anonymous. In virtual communities normative control begins to weaken and a self-regulation mechanism works. There is feedback between subjects. In virtual communities interactions are conducted via computers and computer reality is conventional, intangible and unlimited. Interactions in virtual reality possess the following attributes of virtuality: they emerge and are actualized if individual are interested in them and disintegrate quickly. Virtual communities contribute to both compaction and expansion of space interactions simultaneously. In virtual communities due to the availability of the global network individuals can expand their social interactions beyond the boundaries of their areas and strengthen social interactions within their areas. A network-based organizational form having a global nature is an alternative to an area-based organizational form of society.
It is pointed out that virtualization processes cause transformations of individuals’ behavior. In virtual society axiological senses of information that individuals exchange disappear. Not only do modern information technologies accelerate information flows but they also transform the underlying structure of information. Information becomes a flow of the defining without any connection with the defined. Information is transformed to communicability or broadcasting that produces a real and symbolic world of vacuousness. Continued generation of information, play on information, juggling, distortion, use and turning information into a tool of struggle leads to distortion of communication and escape from its authenticity to the world of technological and social speculation. Nature and people continue functioning while the purport of being has long disappeared. Virtual communications more and more carry people away from communication with existing society. Social relations develop due to dramatized communication that includes a lot of behavioral models. Dramatization of life is manifested in an interactive exchange of symbols. As interactive information space develops, the performance merges with life in which differentiation of imaginary and real, public and intimate becomes more and more challenging. Public vanishes in the total dramatization of social on its way to virtual society. Performances become more and more real, more similar to life and included in it.