As we have seen, the loss of a clear division between front- and back-stage results in an exponential increase in the risk of communication giving rise to conflict.
The anarchy resulting from the disappearance of formal rules renders the achievement of one’s objectives for communication ever more dangerous. This despite claims that the collapse of this division represents a victory for freedom and an opportunity for humanity to overcome its biological limitations by means of cultural evolution.
Modern society has often been defined as being “transparent” in nature, and the effects of that transparency on communication need themselves to be clarified.
We need to remember what we touched on when talking about front- and back-stage. And we need to bear in mind the fact the 3G video phones have failed most likely as a result of their transgression of the confine between front- and back-stage.
The same policy, today overwhelmed by demand for transparency, bears upon the complicated matter of discovering how best to manage the back-stage problem and the question of whether “back-stage space” should be considered to be negative or positive in nature.
Let’s try and think, for a moment, what would happen if the lives of politicians were recorded “big-brother” style, 24 hours a day.
Evidently, any aura that politicians might have of being well-rounded, competent persons would be constantly put to the test by contradictory images. The recordings would present viewers with images of people in a constant state of reflection and doubt, who constantly test the boundaries of the differing roles they are expected to play from day to day in order to find the most appropriate way to react to each particular situation. They would look just like actors rehearsing for play, but would in fact be doing what each and every one of us do constantly, every minute of every day.
What would be the consequences of our putting this back-stage scene on show to all?
Total transparency would nullify every attempt to play a particular character, to use a particular piece of choreography, to tell a particular story or to set up a particular scene. Characters would themselves become flat, one-dimensioned entities. Time itself would be rendered transparent, its passage indifferent.
Ultimately, this process would turn everything into instantly accessible, undifferentiated pornography: what Han Byung-Chul describes as a “hell of sameness”.
The effect of this species of egalitarianism would be non-communication, a violation of the first axiom of communication: “It is impossible for communication to be avoided in any type of interpersonal interaction”.
If we follow Bateson in defining information as “the perception of difference”, we have to ask ourselves how it will be possible for us to communicate at all in a situation of total epistemological egalitarianism: one in which all potential differences, including those between front- and back-stage, are laid bare for all to see.
The renunciation of the private sphere, understood in terms of the renunciation of the division between front- and back-stage, would completely nullify the differences between individuals and the uniqueness that distinguishes them from one another. Such a situation of would give rise to human beings who communicated like machines, following mechanistic rules, the meaning of whose words would be merely denotative. Their utterances would lack any connotative meaning linked to their context or to cultural, economic or social capital. Such connotative meaning, which must be decoded by the receiving party based on the a message’s socio-temporal location, would be entirely absent.
At first glance, this consideration may appear to be of little practical importance for those who are trying to communicate effectively using social media. However, a good understanding of the mechanisms by which social media functions and the risks that this method of communication proses is of essential importance to those who desire to communicate efficiently and effectively using it.
The effect of these procedures is now clear: we communicate without informing. This is due to the fact that messages sent through the channel of social media are stripped of the meta-data that makes it possible to read the differences between them. All such messages are decoded by means of a single key. The context is comparable to that of a section of a football stadium where the supporters of a team are concentrated: a non-fan entering that area would be difficult to identify and, if successfully identified, would probably be dismissed as mad: a one-off, isolated error.
Modern systems of communication, we are told, allow us unprecedented freedom of expression. In reality, however, they are pushing us in an entirely different direction. The simplification of the communicative act leads us, inevitably, to a language that is entirely mechanical in nature. One which operates according to the on/off logic of a computer program and which lacks any ambiguity by virtue of its quest for absolute perfection: a quest which nullifies differences and attempts to coerce negativity into disappearance by forcing everything into a state of transparent uniformity.
One defence against this homogenization is to make an effort to avoid imposing our own interpretation on messages that we receive; to do our best to avoid hearing only what we like. In doing so, it will be of help to us if those addressing messages to us provide us with data that will make it possible for us to correctly decode their message and ensure that such messages reach us in a context and at a time when such decoding will be possible.
One example of the perverse effects of the process of cultural simplification currently underway is well explained in this video link: