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The essay below is as written at the time and in some respects is very out-of-date.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  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.