Massimo Silvano Galli
Surf Your Self
Psychological Divide
   
 
The instruments, even the tools of a purely technical and pragmatic knowledge are the premise for a "Knowledge Society" to be possible; however, for this society to reify itself, and to really seizing up all of its opportunities, it is necessary to cancel, together with the digital and cultural divide, that gap that I would call "psychological" only beyond which a “Knowledge Society” can really originate. This gap, that the debate about the Network seems to disclaim or not grasp as it deserves, and that we call, to remain in harmony: "psychological divide" has to do with a much broader humanity than those who suffer the "digital divide" and those who succumb to the "cultural divide ", nor exclude those who do not belong to any of these two categories but, indeed, seem to exploit the network in (almost) all its power.
 
art work    |   introduction   |   the making
 
 

Our civilization represses not only 'the instincts', not only sexu­ality, but any form of transcendence. Among one-dimensional men, it is not surprising that someone with an insistent experience of other dimensions, that he cannot entirely deny or forget, will run the risk either of being destroyed by the others, or of betraying what he knows.

Ronald D. Laing

1. A third place

The enthusiasm with which, especially in recent years, operators and users of Internet and the new technologies, with the help of the mass media and  the prevailing "theology of techno-science", have designed the advent of the so-called "Knowledge Society", as far as it is justified by the real opportunities about which this hypothetical society is -or would be- repository, has, however, constituted an obstacle to a deeper analysis about what necessarily imply the presumption of  such a society and, all the more so, about the necessary actions for it to be established.

This, I dare not to say superficial but, at least, ergonomic enthusiasm, seem to be unilaterally concentrated on how to overcome two age-old issues that appear to be the only able to stay between the new technologies potential and their actual use, issues that are called "digital divide" and "cultural divide ", meaning, with the first, an existing gap in terms of technological possibilities of use of the network, ranging from not having a PC or the needed software, to not to be reached by high speed internet connection like cable, satellite, broadband or similar, and, with the second, that gap that goes from  ignoring the potential / ability of the network, to not to have the cognitive tools to use in part or all its opportunities. Two issues that seem to be separate entities (even though, separately or together, they work toward the same result) but that are actually related to a single “techno-centric” paradigm.

Giving adequate the technological leadership that defines the concept of "digital divide", we can not -I believe- remain indifferent when the same primacy prevail on the concept of "cultural divide", radically reducing the very boundaries of the notion of culture that ends up taking , precisely, a fold instrumental to the techno practical needs, ignoring all the implications that, for instance, make culture the most glaring being of that epistemology of the complexity with which the network must not only come to terms, but also adequately support the concrete example that represents that complexity .

The instruments, even the tools of a purely technical and pragmatic knowledge are, in fact, the premise for a "Knowledge Society" to be possible; however, for this society to reify itself without being reduced to an "Information Society" or, at most, to a “ Society of Science” (that is, a mere knowledge and not a cognition where the prefix co remind us the original sense of  union, participation, simultaneity of the mental process of knowing), and to really seizing up all of its opportunities, it is necessary to cancel, together with the digital and cultural divide, that gap that I would call "psychological" only  beyond which a “Knowledge Society” can really originate.

This gap, that the debate about the Network seems to disclaim or not grasp as it deserves, and that we call, to remain in harmony: "psychological divide" has to do with a much broader humanity than those who suffer the "digital divide" and those who succumb to the "cultural divide ", nor exclude those who do not belong to any of these two categories but, indeed, seem to exploit the network in (almost) all its power.

Before any profiling of this psychological gap it would be better, however, to focus on the idea of "Knowledge Society" from which it emerges. It is clear that, if by "Knowledge Society " we mean only a more or less wide group of individuals that, thanks to a particular technological equipment and a series of legislative safeguards are in a position to exchange, as never before: information, data, knowledge and learning, this society would not express the need of a subject with a different mental predisposition. A "Knowledge Society", intended as a place of greater circularity and availability of knowledge, would simply need an individual who may use the tools to access this information and the know how to best exploit it.

The "Knowledge Society" that we conceive and that is soaked in the Network possibilities, hopes a real subversion of the relationship that the contemporary man has with “knowledge”, and for this is calling for a necessary psychological change of its citizens.

To be able to figure out this society we must escape from the idea of "place" that permeates us, which can be essentially described in two areas: the “outside-me”, and the “inside-me”, and move into a third space, which is the space in which knowledge is taking shape, and that the Network has all the characteristics to be the incarnation.

By making a necessary action of simple illustration, let’s think about the computer, network and its annexes, as the umpteenth attempt of mankind to move the wealth of information in his possession from inside-of-himself to the outside-of-himself, with the objective of facilitating the availability, recovery and use of it. An attempt which, although unstoppable so far, being symbiotic to the same idea of human evolution, records from its first steps some important criticisms on which it is necessary to reflect. It is Plato (1998), in his Phaedrus, who warned us first. When the Egyptian god Teuth travels to his Pharaoh illustrating the invention of writing, he describes it in this way: "Oh king, this knowledge will make the Egyptians wiser and will help their memory." But the Pharaoh replied: "You believe that you have invented something that helps memory, rather your  invention will produce forgetfulness in the souls of learners, precisely because trusting writing, they will remember things from outside, from alien signs, and not from within, from their self, " and then concludes with a prophecy that seems the portrait of our post-modernity, where we see the risk of a "Knowledge Society" simply as a place of paroxysmal movement of information: " You do not offer truth to learners, but an appearance of wisdom; in fact thanks to you, they will be informed and aware of many things without teaching, they will seem like scholars although mostly ignorant; it will be difficult to stay together with them, because their attitude of self-conceited wisdom, instead of real wiseness.".

This does not mean, of course, a demonizing of writing and the undeniable benefits that has brought to humanity. Umberto Eco tell us, appropriately, how the outsourcing of information simply produces a new concept of knowledge that is not expressed in "how much information I have" but in the ability to go to seek the information that I need, obviously extending the possibility of collect the essential data needed.

Considering the doubt of the Egyptian king as our own, offers us  the opportunity to observe the phenomenon from another angle, even more appropriate for that extraordinary instrument which is the network, that represents or could represent, an overrun of the criticisms that Plato moved to writing, when accused of not being able to talk, nor to shape itself to the soul toward which it turns,  to be able to answer his questions, and in so doing  lighting the spark of knowledge. As a matter of fact the network exceeds this limit, at least as a possibility, and gives the opportunity to intimate communication, giving an object of sharing, between the author and the reader. The problem is, if anything, how and with which mental patterns (and here we return to our psychological gap), these two souls process their relationship.

This is the question. Each allocation of information from inside-me to the outside-me produces, in fact, a place whose fate may be at least twofold: to remain in that territory which refers to the outside-me, and this is the actual risk of the Network: a kind of storehouse of data more or less vast and easily accessible; the place, so to speak, of the  potential power of knowledge, precisely because this "knowledge" is unlimited in its collection, its use, in its  access speed, etc.  (qualities closely dependent on the technological developments and on the degree of freedom of a given society), or, and this is what we wish while talking about a "Knowledge Society", to give life to that “third place” that is not “inside-me”, nor “outside-me”.

This area, which is not inside-me, and not outside-me, is the place of potentiality, of hypothetic, of what is not and it was not, but that may or could have been. It is that halfway space that Donald Winnicott (1974) indicates as existing between child and mother, where is the making of the Self setting, where the newborn subject enter into relationship with the object through a symbolic re-creation of the object, with a replacement function  to the progressive separation from the mother. It is the mixed space of the relation,   suggested by  Michel Serres (1992), in which the Master and the Pupil, the Child and Mother, I and the Other, (meant as everything that is not “I” ) let themselves go to a dance whose movements are dictated by the individual experiences of any “ own external” and any “own internal”, and pushed towards a goal threshold of which both are  unaware of. It is the land of Land of Hurqalya evoked by Henry Corbin (1979), a mundus imaginalis in which each symbol preserves and radiates its polysemic nature and the 'yes' and' no 'of things simultaneously coexist under one eye. In short,  this is not the territory of “information” but of “transformation”. It is, in fact, that place that Plato reclaims by raising the primacy of oral teaching on writing.

It is clear that the focus of this supposed society must  be a suitable awareness and ability to determine "the knowledge sharing", this sharing meaning an exchange of objects (physical or abstract) between two subjects in a relationship that is able to go beyond the simple and mechanical peer-to-peer, placing  themselves on an equal footing and at the same time as a teacher and student engaged in a re-creative effort, having them both internalized that potential space between “I”  and the Other, as key element in building the never finished one's own identity; having identified the other as, at the same time,  Alike and Different (Other-than-me), whose reckoning determines the discovery of that hiatus, that potential space, in which happen, filling in it, the possibility to create, to transform, even to become “trans-formed”. A "sharing of knowledge”, that is not limited to the exchange of the existing but, moving from the existing produces a new object of knowledge.

This concept of " knowledge sharing" is something more than just to participate, or to make “available to…”, it is, instead, and indeed, a state of mind, what Winnicott (ibid.) indicates when he speaks of a "mother sufficiently good", i.e. a figure able to present the world (the Other-from-me) to the child (the student) with creativity, placing him in a position where he may experience the subjective omnipotence, while accompanying him towards a less self-centered sharing of reality. In the "Knowledge Society" which we hope, with all the appropriate approximations, each user is both mother and child of the Other, and along with the Other, prepares itself to share the game of the free re-creation of the world.

A placement unknown to our times myths and paradigms, primarily because the strong centering on the Ego, typical at the present time, that makes us a little like those mothers "not sufficiently good" that prove incapable of playing the game of free re- creation of the world and can bring to a child only the world as seen by themselves, leaving him the only option of condescend with it.

The “sufficiently good” citizen of the supposed "Knowledge Society” is, instead, the one who is able to make a subtraction to its own projections, so that the Other does not become the mere reproduction of his interior forms, his narcissisms, his biographical pre-insights or the anxious search of them. The citizen sufficiently good of the supposed "Knowledge Society" is able to operate a decentralization from himself on behalf of this Other, to whom we belong more deeply than we know or believe and to whom only through this effort, which the  Ego elude, it is possible to accede (Mottana, 2002) giving form to that potential space which generates knowledge.

In this sense, the psychological gap that I feel must be filled, and on which I believe it is necessary to work, is directly proportional to the pedagogical disinvestment which is involving the societies and that manifests itself in the total absence of education of the creative processes that define the deep modalities with which knowledge is produced and spread, while continuing to invest on the idea of a world that, at least potentially, it seems that would be able to survive purely on information, knowledge which is not re-created but submitted and supported by a –precisely- information and educational technology and that, not by chance, tends to proliferate through the fight (at least declared) against the digital and cultural divides.

 

2. Art, Internet, the Other

 

¿El hombre es una metáfora provisionalmente vestida de carne o una carne que se nutre de metáfora?

Manuel Scorza

I'm an artist… Indeed, to remain on the scaffolding of post-modernity I should perhaps say: "I am a non-anti-artist" (Senaldi, 2003), but things would be much more complicated and this is not the place to chase these kinds of plots.
Heidegger wrote that "[…] art is that one thing to which something has happened"… Here, I am one that makes things happen. Besides, even when they asked Marcel Duchamp (probably the real father of contemporary art) what he was doing, finding some difficulties, like me,
in answering, he said something like: "I do not know how to say what I do. I suppose it could be said that I spent my time breathing. I am a Breather.". Well, perhaps this is better: "I am a Breather!"…

Elementary movement that refers to the fundamental of life, but not only: also rhythm, sometimes a cadence, sometimes a syncopated one, but always dichotomized: inhale and exhale: two poles of the same truth that still needs to take in its contrary to exist. And who else, more than an artist, pardon… a breather, is roaming the territory of poetical and symbolic "in which the yes and no of things are equally credible" (Lorca, 1993)? Who more than a breather-artist- inspire, and having inspired, expires, expiates, repairs, with its Works, ugliness, his own and, in a broader sense, of mankind?

Inhale and exhale movements are clearly at the heart of the concept of sharing and finds in art its natural metaphor and in the artist his anthropological translator.
The breather-artist inspires, in fact, from the world things and the phenomenology that move things, and then expires them, letting something happen to those things. It is a kind of tree rooted in earth and history and, through a process not dissimilar from photosynthesis, gives name and shape to unshaped nature, becoming an intermediary between its reigns and the kingdom of culture, that feeds on these works of intermediation. In this sense,  Knowledge is, before anything else, an imaginative and creative act that finds in Work (not necessarily a work of art, but any Work) its expression and in man, as imagining being, his medium. That is why Joseph Beuys says that "Every man is an artist", an imagining being (at least potentially), inherently spiritual and creative, and for  this reason any speculation that attempts to synthesize those crossovers, evermore complex and that refer back to "Knowledge", can not fail  to circumnavigate, to dissect, to sift out the specific reason for being of these inspirations and expirations in which the Work ab-solve itself and, in the end, re-solve.

So, I'm an artist, and I am so as any other two-legged specimen of the human species. Not only. I am also a breather that try to enjoy the many metaphors that come from the breath of others breathers. Too often, we forget -or perhaps we give only little attention to- how each inspiration of the breather-artist could not be filled with meaning and rise to a social and cultural level if to the imaginative man, to the artist, it would not be matched his necessary counterpart, the user: that "Other" through whose senses the Work, the imagined, come down from the pedestal of solipsism and make itself available material. The Work as a witness of Knowledge, is always, namely, a process of intimate sharing between at least two individuals in relationship: one that imagines and the other receiving that imagination, and giving to it life.

When we speak of "Sharing Knowledge", of "Knowledge Society" we are right away in front of two latencies that need to be explored, and brought to light, so that sharing could really be such and not simply another contemporary myth.
The fact that these latencies become, more often than not, real
psychological removals, as  a result of several factors, may be attributable, in short, to that difficulty we observed above: to recognize the Other as essential part in the never finished building of one's identity (or one’s own Work, in case we feel there are differences between the two); to always recognize the Other as the one who is  (like the Work) teacher, simply because, as my  alike/different if I look at him not only he looks back at me (double movement which contemplates the idea of my care and attention to the Other and, together, the fact that the Other, looking back in turn recognizes me as his alike/different), but also that, through his eyes, I am also looking to myself, I found myself reflexed.

This is, in short, that inescapable mutual taking characterizing (consciously or not) every relationship, because only in that gap that is created between me and the Other is returning, filling it, the opportunity to know, that  is, once again , that mutual taking or, again, to make something happen to the thing (that Work) that I am .

In this complex relationship of intimate correspondence that is generated in the movement of knowledge, it appears, therefore and above all, the inevitability of the relationship as an element which underlies every kind of sharing between humans and, consequently, the irreducible educational dimension that, like it or not, always insinuates itself.

Yet, when we speak of "Knowledge Sharing" and the society that would descend from  the new technology revolution, almost always we elude the fact that any Knowledge is the result of a Sharing, that there is no sharing without relationship and that each relationship, implies in some way, an educational meeting.

That is why the war on "Digital" and "Cultural divide" must be associated with a parallel investment of energy and resources to counter what we called "Psychological divide", an investment that must be, firstly, pedagogical so that can emerge these latencies, and men who inhabit the contemporary world could be accompanied to the assumption of new awareness and new behaviors.

The idea of a gasping pedagogy on his deathbed that drags in his oblivion any reference to a, now, unutterable educational instance, leaving the field to an apparently more dynamic "training" is certainly not something new; already Riccardo Massa (Massa, 1987) back in 1987 was trying to explain the premises as signals of an era and its myths.

Since then the question became -if possible- much more dramatic and, together with the increasingly blatant distance that educational institutions have gradually taken before any educational urgency  (of which are not lacking  signals),  the personal computer first and then Internet, have even given shape to our times mythologies, freeing them by the pure dogma and embodying the idea of a world that, at least potentially, seem able to survive of purely in-formation, supported by a “technology of Education” apparently, but only apparently, for everybody ... In this sense, the absence of educational endowment from the debate on "Knowledge Society" is nothing less than the proof of that  removal at which Massa was aiming, already asking to grasp its hidden meaning.

By sure here we do not want to demonize the computer and its abnormal evolutionary potentials, but rather, just give a warning signal so that every scenario of liberation and diffusion of knowledge really proves itself to be so and  that the mountain would not, as often happens in human history, end on giving birth to the mouse.

The speed with which new technologies are investing and dissolving the old paradigms of reference at the end will, with good peace of all, concretize this blessed "Knowledge Society", the question is, however, to understand who will be, at that point, its citizens and what it will be the concept of Knowledge  with which they will relate to. 

The danger that - I think - lies is that of a technocratic and techno-centric  society where, to an elite of experts familiar with the network and its mode of access, we may add a vast majority more or less lost, between a pornographic site and the video of an idiot on Youtube that finally found his fifteen minutes of fame, crushing his own testicles under an hydraulic press; however both groups are prey and blinded by a splendor of false omniscience and orphans of the imaginary-built-in process that defines the deep procedures by which  knowledge is produced, and of the relational aspects through which knowledge is shared and spreads.

 

3. Overcoming the Psychological Divide

The network represents, for the time being, a great opportunity that is given in the "greatest public space that history has ever known" (Rodotà, 2006): to forge a pact between someone who has something to say, display, perform, and someone who search that thing, made in that way, said in that way, in that way represented: in fact overtaking, or otherwise endangering, the concept of “authority” that has dictated so far the distribution of knowledge; this overtaking does not mean an unchecked growing of incompetence, but the possibility for many competent, capable, but hidden or concealed by  the authoritative selective distribution forms (markets, censorship, totalitarian regimes, etc.). to find a place where their voices have resonance, simply tightening, as taught by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1990) in unsuspected time, a pact with the reader: the Other -precisely- which is different from me and alike me, the only "[…] worthy of any most scandalous research."

However, to build a "Knowledge Society" it is necessary not to stop to contemplate, full of enthusiasm, this scenario and, together with the suture of  the digital and cultural divides, to begin to prepare educational and formative paths capable of leading the contemporary man to take possession of the complexity necessary to penetrate and use the network as a potential area of re-creative  meeting with the Other.

With the concept of "psychological divide" we want to stress that, as far as we can assume that a reorganization of human knowledge and its models is in place (a kind of long bridge that perhaps in a few decades we will define in a more appropriate way), the revolution that through the use of IT is marking human action, has not yet been fully matched in an equal mental evolution. While the body of contemporary man is increasingly immersed in an environment of stimuli, information, images, connections, communications that involves him in a space-time with apparently seamless continuity, in which objects and subjects are given all at the same time under the same look, his psyche is still linked to that mechanistic rationality, which from the alphabet invention onwards, has characterized his technological journey and still permeates his thinking. That is why tools such as computer and network, which exemplify the possibility of a  much complex approach, rhizomatous, serendipitously not sequential to knowledge, struggle to impose their true evolutionary primacy, highlighting that area that we called "psychological divide" and that involves everybody under a gaze that looks too much like the one with which the queen of the Shakespearean Hamlet observe the world and its things: "Do not you see anything there?", asks Hamlet, and her: "Just nothing, yet I see all that is”.

Who spent, like me, his time breathing and knows that his breathing, to have meaning, must necessarily enter into relationship with the Other, knows the deep obstacles that our contemporary time put in the way between two subjects in their relationship and their possible "Knowledge Sharing ", obstacles that new technologies could help us overcome but, to date, in the absence of an effective educational awareness, seem only to exacerbate.

I do refer in particular to the increasingly ineptitude to the sense of amazement and wonder, especially in the younger generation to whom every technological miracle seems the predictable conclusion of a present unable to look to the future through the scenarios of science fiction; this disuse of the imagination, because of the images hyper-pollution which we are subjected to, images that are "[…] lacking the internal necessity which should characterize every image, as a form and as meaning, as the power to impose to the attention, as wealth of possible meanings" (Calvino, 1988); the resistance to any irrational expression, marked by a school that, at the most of its efforts, can access the labyrinths of art with that unlikely thing that is  the “education to the image”.

I am a breather and have, since a long time, in the large gnoseological container of art, the magic potion of a knowledge that can overcome this psychological gap that too often imprisons us inside our psychological  homes impeding that profound and shared experience with the soul of the world and its inhabitants, a crucial experience that enable us to speak, at first of knowledge and, then, about a society that could be built on it .

Each object of art is, so to speak, "in light", through the sharing of a variety of gazes that share the same object, bearer of Knowledge. There is the gaze of the artist that captures the object, deciphering these items that come from the world and is giving back  in that new and unexpected form that we call "Work", but there is also the gaze of the user that, in fact , brings the work to life, giving life to the hub of a neural network capable of collecting and channeling the work stimuli, transforming them into awareness and translating them into customs and actions that fall on one of the infinite territories of reality, transforming it.

The construction of a "Knowledge Society" must necessarily make the effort to wade over this "all that exist" , educating every citizen to the encounter with the Other in the genuine space of an ungoverned knowledge generated by that knowledge which is upstream of every fence of the known, and is it is built in any knowledge: the creative imagination, power capable of mixing the raw material before inside-me-and outside-me and, at the same time, to generate, from these and through these, new knowledge; thorn of the senses, can transform any definition of the world and things in a figure of speech that, while goes away from any shared truth,  embraces another, others, more subtle and often invisible, but no less worthy of being observed, shout, claimed.

It is clear and evident that such a change responds to a complexity of interventions that include but are not solved only in the network, in its possibilities or the exceeding of its limits, but involve the whole society, firstly in its educational structures that need to rebalance the processes of learning alongside the profile of the scientific method, a profile, we could say: "extra methodical of truth" that will appeals to all those forms of knowledge access  not governed by the regime of proof, radically reducing the vision of ontological truth that has dominated throughout the modern age (and still is a legacy of  a more than a common feel ) to change the system structured to "convey the truth" that sweeps us today, in a system capable of "building knowledge".

The network and attached technologies, exemplify and promise this possibility, and it is for this reason that restricting them to a little more than mechanical use appears today not only gnoseologically inconceivable, but perhaps even morally impeachable.

The network resembles very much art and art could be, for the network, its natural  free code capable of overcoming any psychological gap freeing all codes in a Babel of generative languages in which each  thinking human being, inspired by his imagination and his knowledge, will finally make available its creative imagination by participating in that Great Conversation where men, together, create new worlds and new men.

 

Translated into English, Marco Maurizio Gobbo