Home >  Essay


Comment 2002:
The essay below is as written at the time and in some respects is very out-of-date. It does not represent Psybernet as it is today.



9 January  1994 
Author:  Walter Logeman. 
 
PSYBERNET,  PSYCHOLOGY & TELE-COMPUTING 
 
With barely a decade having passed since its inception, telecomputing 
remains in its infancy.  Recently, though, its growth around the world 
has been exponential.  Essentially, telecomputing is a medium looking for 
a message.  Much of the information to be found within the medium 
deals with computers and the software that runs on them, rather as if a 
novelist were writing about sharpening pencils.  Science and academia 
are begining to use the medium seriously, although it remains secondary 
to the paper based journals.  Business and entertainment, on the other 
hand, are only beginning to see its potential. 
 
If the medium is in its infancy, then *psychological* awareness of 
telecomputing is still in the womb.  Some on-line activity in the areas of 
sexuality, religion and new age thought comes close to being 
psychological, but for the most part psychological telecomputing occurs 
incidentally.  I imagine that within the next year or so the medium will 
flourish into areas that approach the genuinely psychological. 
 
Psybernet is the name of a company, a bulletin board system (BBS), and 
a conference or echo (a conference that is available simultaneously on
several BBSes).  Psybernet focuses on psychology in the cybernetic 
world of telecomputing.  In this document I will write about 
telecomputing and my vision of Psybernet.   
 
Telecomputing opens up a communications environment.  It is not a 
substitute for anything else, though it may change the nature of many 
things.  Just as television did not replace radio, books or movies, so tele-
computing will not replace other media, but will add an extra dimension.. 
I doubt we will ever go to bed and curl up with a good on-line 
information system.  
 
Telecomputing will transform the psyche.  Marshall (Herbert) McLuhan 
(1) was one of the first to explore the effect of communications media on
the psyche.  Psybernet continues that work by serving as a forum for 
becoming conscious and for working consciously with the 
transformations of the psyche wrought by the impact of telecomputing. 
 
A language is emerging to describe the experience of this medium.  Its 
characteristic terms, such as virtual reality and cyberspace, describe 
aspects of an expanded psyche.  Psychology can also be practised more 
directly via this medium.  While it is akin to individual and group 
psychotherapy, the virtual consulting room and group room create a 
space and style of *consciousness* that is unique to the medium.  
Psybernet creates an environment for psychological work which consists 
of the personnel, the interfaces, and the development of modalities of 
work. 
 
== Relationship == 
Telecomputing offers relationship.  While most telecommunication is 
concerned with passing on information, relationships form which go well 
beyond that primary aim.  Psybernet focuses consciously on this 
relational aspect.  
 
== Global Village == 
The global village, or cyberspace, ignores our usual conception of time 
and place.  Physical space is relevant in some respects.  The fact that I 
am in Arthur's Pass, New Zealand, working on my notebook computer in 
a bach (holiday cabin in New Zealand English) may be of some interest, 
but I am nevertheless available on CompuServe 100026,3145 wherever I 
may be physically. 
 
Meeting a peer, teacher or professional consultant in cyberspace is quite 
different to choosing a face-to-face psychotherapist. You can broadcast 
widely, and thousands or even millions of people may see what you 
write.   
 
*Imagine*: In a past life you had more to learn from a person.  Your
daemons attempt to get the two of you together in this life. They are 
very pleased by the availability of computers and the telephone network; 
these make their job easier and save a few lifetimes. 
 
For centuries there have been, on paper, what the Encyclopedia 
Britannica has called the Great Conversations - Plato is responded to by 
Hume and then both of them by Wittgenstein.  Now, the conversation is 
global and takes place at the speed of light.  As a result, conversations 
can be personal and spontaneous as well as public and conserved. 
Everything psychological happens in the *here and now*, which, in 
cyberspace, is *flexible*.  People can connect at any time, and different 
roles will need to be developed to suit the medium.  This changes the 
nature of our psyche and our collective unconscious.  Attending to those
transformations is a task of Psybernet. 
 
== Living Literature == 
Correspondence is a form of literature.  Text-based telecomputing 
requires that the participants be authors, bringing new roles into their 
relationships.  As the correspondence develops it creates and draws on 
the living literature in the digital libraries.  This document, for example, is 
not conserved - yet - although one day I might decide to declare it 
closed, perhaps when I think I have moved on and the document is 
history.  While it remains open the text can be quoted and discussed 
with the author.  Exploring the psychology of this process is 
Psybernetting. 
 
== Librarian == 
Being an author is part of telecomputing, and being a librarian is another. 
Libraries have become electronic, and are staffed by on-line librarians 
who can help the user access information.  Knowing where that 
information is stored is one thing, but the whole matter becomes 
psychological in that the provision of information to others involves 
getting to know others deeply.  
 
== Spontaneity and Conservation == 
Telecomputing relationships are both spontaneous and conservable, and 
are document-based.  In contrast, telephone conversations are not 
documents, a notion amplified by writer Ian Frazier in his satiric essay 
"Igor Stravinsky: The Collected Telephone Bills" (2). 
 
== Editability == 
McLuhan maintained that in the global village the new electronic culture 
would be aural rather than visual, as was the Guttenberg culture which 
was dominated by linear type.  Although his precise meaning is obscure, 
McLuhan does make the point that we are dealing with a shift of 
*experience*.  Many of the new experiences are to do with the easy 
accessibility of digital information.  The editability of digitally stored
information means that fragments of our experience can mingle in 
asynchronous conversation with the living and the dead.  During the 
writing of this document I have had two people supervise the writing via 
"Annotations" in WORD, and I have added a footnote from Encarta.  
Hard copy was never like this. 
As an aside, video conferencing is much in the news as the medium of 
the future.  I expect it will not come into its own until it can achieve the 
asynchronicity of text-based telecomputing, because it will never have 
the quality of editability. 
 
PSYBERNET 
Having examined the psychological aspects of telecomputing, I will now 
dwell more fully on the nature and potential of Psybernet.
The name Psybernet comes from Psyche (the soul) and Cybernetics (the 
science of information systems).  At present Psybernet has its home in 
the Psybernet BBS in Christchurch NZ, and on the hard disks of those 
who use it.  Soon, perhaps through Fidonet, Internet, CompuServe 
and/or other services, some aspects of Psybernet will expand to the point 
where it no longer makes sense to speak of a home.  The Psybernet 
company owns the rights to the name and has certain legal rights and 
responsibilities over the information held within the system. 
More importantly, Psybernet is a network of people in relationship who 
share an interest, an ethos and a method of working with the psyche in 
cyberspace.  One aspect of this is that the methods used are created 
Psybernetically!  Psybernet is creating itself. 
This statement of definition is alive, just as I am alive, and I am one of 
the people in the network.  In essence this is not a definition but an 
invitation for a psybernetic response.  It is in this vein that I will continue 
to say what Psybernet *is* and may become. 
 
== Soul == 
Soul, psyche, is what Psybernet serves.  Cyberspace is a phenomenon 
within which the psyche lives, and Psybernet draws attention to the soul 
as it emerges here.  We are thus part of reclaiming the word 
'psychological', which in our culture has come to mean its opposite, anti-
psychological, or anti-soul.  In this respect I have learnt from James 
Hillman and archetypal psychology, who, too, re-vision psychology. To 
bring the approach of empirical science to the psyche is to lose it.   
 
== Gender == 
Telecomputing is a male dominated activity.  We have debated on 
Psybernet whether this is the result of 'nature/nurture or the will of the 
Gods'.  My conclusion is that, whatever the origin of this phenomenon, 
we will endeavour to defy the norm.   Whatever can be said about the 
non-physical nature of being in cyberspace, there are potent 
manifestations of sexism in cyberspace; these are anti-soul and must be 
addressed constantly if Psybernetting is to make sense at all.   Psybernet
carries a conference which can be seen and accessed only by women.  
We will be pro-active in making women aware of Psybernet and in 
assisting them to use it. 
 
== Awareness == 
Psybernet is deliberate in its development of psychological telecomputing.  
We can revise and re-vision our approach as we proceed.  Psybernet is 
interactive and fluid, as is all telecomputing, and Psybernet is *aware* of 
this fact. 
 
== Relationship == 
Solitary Psybernetting makes no sense.  Because we are aware of this, 
we actively name and facilitate relationships.  We do this by recognizing
that there are functional differences between people as they take on 
certain *roles*.  (Note that I use this word in the sense used by Moreno, 
which does not imply anything artificially assumed - being fully yourself 
in a role AND being in a role is a desirable possibility.)  At present we 
have defined the Psybernet as follows: 
 
Group Leader 
Sysop 
Consultant 
Supervisor 
Trainer 
 
The structuring, training, defining and selecting of people for these jobs 
is facilitated by the Psybernetic process. 
 
== Methodology == 
Psybernet is developing the art of Psybernet and reflecting on ways of 
carrying out its work.   At the time of writing we have developed 
Conferences, Groups and private correspondence with a Consultant.  The 
Psybernet Conference which is in the process of becoming an echo 
exported to other BBSes, is a place to meet and be inspired, and from 
which to branch off into more specialized areas.  One of the principal 
features of the various arenas of communication is that each has a 
different level of confidentiality to suit its specific purpose.  The creation 
of these areas is part of the creation of Psybernet.   
 
== The Warm-up == 
As I write I am aware that I keep saying the *medium* creates the 
message and that Psybernet will create itself.  I do not wish to ignore the 
fact that I am instrumental in creating a certain 'warm-up', to use the 
phrase of Moreno and the psychodrama tradition.   I am very warmed up 
to creating a certain outcome; I have a lot of energy for this task and I 
am aware that the initiation of Psybernet comes out of me.  However, to 
quote Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) on children not being your children:
 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, 
not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you, 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent 
forth. 
 The Prophet [1923]  On Children 
 
The moment I let some of my vision have life it was, fortunately,
modified by the *reality* of the world.  One major influence on me and 
on Psybernet has come through my collaboration with Reg, which has 
meant that I am no longer solely responsible for the warm-up.  Psybernet 
is a co-creation, and it will not cease to be so. 
 
== Conclusion == 
What we discover in these currents of cyberspace, and the journey of 
discovery, is enthralling.  I look forward to meeting you in the ether. 
 
Footnotes: 
.	McLuhan, (Herbert) Marshall (1911-80):  Canadian writer on 
communications, whose theory that "the medium is the message" 
provided a catchphrase for the 1960s. He was born in Edmonton, Alta., 
and was educated at the universities of Manitoba and Cambridge.  He 
taught at various universities in the United States and Canada. 
 
McLuhan's unorthodox theories on communications sprang from his 
conviction that the electronic media, especially television, have an impact 
far greater than that of the material they convey.  He also stressed the 
need to be aware of the changes being wrought in contemporary 
civilization by these media.  Although he held that books would soon 
become obsolete, he wrote several, many in an unusual illustrated 
format; these include Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man 
(1964) and The Medium Is the Message: An Inventory of Effects (1967). 
 
"McLuhan, (Herbert) Marshall," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1993 
Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1993 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.