The person could be considered as the triple overlap of three spheres - ecosphere, sociosphere, and technosphere (Gardiner). It is important that the environment be differentiated into the natural world (ecosphere), social world (sociosphere), and artificial world (technosphere), because, whereas the person is part of all three, the relationship between the person and each of the spheres is different. The person is the most complex system in the ecosphere, an element of the sociosphere, and the source of the technosphere. The study of the person in each of those spheres is therefore different. Person-in-ecosphere is the domain of the natural sciences, person-in-sociosphere is the domain of the social sciences, and person-in-technosphere is the domain of what Herbert Simon has called the sciences of the artificial and Carl Popper has called world three.
If communication studies is to stake its claim to virtual reality/cyberspace as a domain of expertise, then we must consider certain theoretical issues within the person-in-technosphere, which have not been part of the discourse within the field. For example, we must recognise participant effects. In the social sciences, we recognise observer effects. Since the person is an element of the sociosphere, his/her observing of it affects the observation. It is not so well recognised that, in the sciences of the artificial, there is an equivalent participant effect. Since the person is the source of the technosphere, his/her participation in it affects the participation. The debate within communication studies between those who view technology as liberating and those who view it as oppressive is like that between the blind men generalising about the elephant from the tusk and the trunk, They both have part of the truth. Insofar as one uses the technology, it becomes an extension and thus potentially liberating; insofar as one does not use it and others do, it becomes part of the environment and thus potentially oppressive. To phrase it more crudely, in cyberpunk terms: If you are not part of the steamroller, then you become part of the road.
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