How we interact with each other and systems

When discussing communities of people and systems, a distinction has to be made between ‘use’ and ‘being in communion with’. A user is someone who is aware of the instrumentality of his or her actions with objects and systems with which he or she interacts. This is distinct from interactions with other natural and intelligent life forms for which there is communion; there is the possibility of a shared meaning.

Understanding perception can be confusing, but people are not confused in their perception of whether they interact with systems they use or beings with whom they are in communion (interview Sood 2008). People make clear distinctions in their vocabulary when they speak about things versus beings. In many online systems, a clear effort is made to blur the distinction between systems and beings, demanding human beings to format their presence to system needs (interview Quillinan 2009). Human beings, however, notice the difference. When designing systems, objects or architectures, the designer communicates a set of values that users may recognize or even sense (interview Jansma 2010). Users may enjoy but are not in communion; there is no generation of a shared meaning (interview Sood 2008). Sharing experience, including establishing a shared meaning, is a fundamental basis for trust between human beings (interview Jansma 2010).

Both in a context of ‘use’ and in a context of ‘of being in communion with’, there is the possibility of engagement, referring to a perseverance of attention and interaction that generates its own dynamics. Engagement is intensity of dialogue, sustained interaction, focused and fine grained. Engagement is an attitude in which the sense of self dissolves in the situation in which a person is engaged, whatever the outcome may be (interview Hazra 2008). The distance between self and other disappears. An attitude of engagement results in for example ‘if someone feels hunger, I feel hunger’ (interview MacFaydyen 2009). In online larger data structures, however, it offers dynamics for reflexivity that are new (interview with Hazra 2008).