Dr. Von Eckartsberg, a graduate of Dartmouth College with a doctorate from Harvard University, was the author of many articles and the books "Life-World Experience" and "Metaphors of Consciousness". He was a Duquesne University faculty member since 1964, and during that time had conferred over 2,000 Ph.D.'s on his students.
As a social psychologist, Dr. Von Eckartsberg combined the subjects of humanism and technology to bring to his studies and research a unique blend of social and modern technological sciences. Dr. Von Eckartsberg was a renowned scholar, and a prolific writer in the area of Social Psychology. He was a proponent of existential and phenomenological psychology. By "existential" it means Von Eckartsberg specialized in studying human beings as persons, not as biological entities or organisms. By "phenomenological" Von Eckartsberg believed in studying human behavior on its own terms, rather than trying to reduce it to something else.
As a social psychologist Von Eckartsberg had a unique, if not haunting, understanding of the social forces which make up global cultures. Of the many provocative, and truly insightful, articles Von Eckarstberg wrote it is the "Cartography of the Mind" and "Electronia", which is offered below, to be most closely representative of his visionary social psychological perceptions.
He died May 20th,1993 at 60 years of age.
I personally knew Rolf for 27 years, and regarded him as one of my very best friends. He gave me the opportunity to lecture in his classes at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and we co-hosted many cable television programs also in Pittsburgh. Rolf was unique in as much as his insight into the social forces that made up our world were conducted with a vast background of many social psychologists all over the planet. He allowed you to understand your thought processes from a backdrop of phenomenological events in your personal life which are the forces which guide our thinking. He brought to your attention your personal existential ensemble, and was a strong proponent of the personal journal.
Index to articles
These comments on the future of cyberspace give some indication as to Dr. Von Eckartsberg's breath of concern for our personhood as we enter the 21st century.
The phenomenon of cyberspace is coming into view. It is also referred to as virtual reality as contrasted to real i.e. tangible reality. We are creating 3-dimensional electronic places into the midst of which we can project ourselves via cyber-goggles and within which we can move bodily by controlling our movements through data-gloves. Electronic sensors on the glove can perceive the fingered hand as pointing thus initiating virtual movement in that direction in the 360 degree spherical electronic image environment or as making a fist thus stopping the motion. We are creating electronic teleportation.
Inherently there is no gravity in this electronic situational space. Gravity can be and has to be programmed into the virtual reality and thus becomes a variable we can choose.
We are at the beginning of a new type of human movement. We do not as yet have a vocabulary for this type of electronic locomotion and will have to metamorphize it in the familiar terms of walking or running or of swimming and flying. We can modulate the density or viscosity of the virtual reality matrix - the onto-electronic medium - and simulate the realistic conditions of resistance to human effort mediated by the data-body-stocking. The running or walking in place of fitness training and aerobics will become, the running or walking through chosen electronic landscapes - the portable video arcade. We are stimulating living movement itself, and we are expanding the possibilities for participating in newly created fictional worlds made in 3-D omnidirectional electronic reality called cyberspace.
New professions of virtual reality architecture, electronic space design, and videography are emerging which will "electrograph" existing buildings and locales and invent new cyberspace for electronic voyaging and exploring. New 3-D videographic recording technology will have to be developed which can represent material reality as electronic holographic space in which the cybernaut is embedded. Yet cyber-reality bypasses and supersedes holographic image projection as a more flexible and economically feasible medium.
We are building a new continent of consciousness awareness which is fully shareable- others can plug into it with us- and fully preservable. It can be stored and accessed at will. Let us call this emergent continent of consciousness: ELECTRONIA! Like America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe this continent is inhabitable, it is visitable, it is reworkable, it is growing and changing through human activity. It is the immense world of virtual reality generated, sustained, and mediated by computers. It is Chardin's Noosphere vivified, concretized, and electronified ie. digitized.
Electronia is made up of myriad perceivable settings and situations into which we can enter, in which we can move, and with which we can interact. I prefer Electronia as a name over Cyberia which virtual reality is sometimes also called, because of Cyberia's negative emotional connotation with Siberia. Are we prisoners in cyber-space?
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At present a helter-skelter kaleidoscope of cyber-space situations is being created. We have specific and practical applications like airflight simulation, like townscapes, like museum space, like lab spaces, like architectural spaces in which cyber-living simulation can take place.
Electronification-the electronic simulation of real spaces will continue at a rapid pace and quickly expand in terms of the travel-and tourist industry. Electronic vacations and trips will be offered as well as previews to help make travel purchase choices. This may include whole regions, a picturesque tourist village like Oberstdorf in Germany with all of the mountains, trails, meadows and buildings which make up this beautiful valley will be digitized and presented as an electronic landscape ready fore exploration.
Rolf wrote this article in 1990. His vision was very accurate for today, 1996, there is a live camera which allows us to see the beautiful country side he so loved and enjoyed. Take a live look at Oberstdorf, Germany
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We may not meet anybody there or be able to pick electronic flowers although we will have come a long ways from picture postcards. Electronic Oberstdorf!
With cyber-space reality, in Electronia, we will have many more channels and modes of participation available and, most significantly, we can chose our own path of exploration thus becoming emancipated from the editor who preselects for us. "Go see for yourself!" will be the slogan.
Satellite surveillance has long given us the capability to televise, in simulcast, the entire surface of our globe as Electronia-Earth. In this cyber-space-geographical matrix all simulations can be anchored. We already watch our region via weather satellite during the evening news, our Earth landscape as virtual reality, as Electronia.
The great cities, rivers, coastlines, islands will become cybernavigationally available. This is "gentle tourism" indeed as we make no tangible impact and leave no trace. Even waste does not naturally accrue in Electronia nor is there decay or death. There is no biological life in Electronia, only variable levels of videographed images and movements for us to perceive.
Cyber-geography will revive the ancient discipline and make it into an exciting adventure of personal and shared exploration. The predominant form of cyberlocomotion will probably be gliding, slow-motion flying, air-swimming as in a balloon which is directable by willing and pointing. There will be silence or what we chose to put on the audio channel.
Of course, there are already excellent travel-videos of almost everywhere and they de concretize, vivify and perceptualize our participation in Earth reality as contrasted to geographical map reading.
What cyber-space and Electronia offer is a participatory reality of holographic lightness into the midst of which we can locate ourselves, from which point we can teleport ourselves in desired directions without a guide and without editing by another. But it is an encounter in cyber-space only. The represented tangible world has to sacrifice its tangibility. This means we can not have a tangible consequential impact on the real world of nature (material density) though we may well play with and creatively transform it as electronically represented world. This transformation is an event in personal consciousness and not an event in the material world. It is an event in the electronic world perception. It partakes of the expanded freedom of imagination, of daydream, fantasy and wish, but it does not have the power and impact of real life events.
Electronia, will offer us almost limitless movability in consciousness though not in terms of bodily world action. It is a gift of possibility. It offers more degrees of freedom to its human inhabitants: the cybernauts than does tangible reality which has to obey the unbendable laws of nature. The rules of humans and the freedom of imagination which govern creation in Electronia are more flexible and forever changeable and re-inventable by the participants in its creation. They are rules of personal willing and consensus between partners by which we agree to abide by and obey for the duration of the game.
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We are already spending hours a day watching 2-D electronic screens displaying virtual realities. The TV or monitor watcher sits outside the represented reality which is an electronic strip of reality film. We sit opposite and outside 2-D video-reality. Now we can get into this virtual representation-reality and experience it as an encompassing environment, as a surrounding world, as an action-space for consciousness.
With the cyber-world goggles we enter the new domain of the electronified world as co-producers of experienced reality rather than as consumers.
After we emerge again from our electronic dive and take off our electronic helmet we are astonished at the richness, texture, feel, smell, taste, and full-spectrum presence and atmosphere, the "realness" of concrete tangible bodily reality and marvel at its mysterious complexity and beauty. We are citizens in both worlds. Both of these realities-among others- coexist, and we live in both as a certain ration and rhythm.
The availability of the electronic world holograph called cyber-space will highlight-by contrast-the value, uniqueness and irreplaceability of the original which we encounter in the material world in bodily interaction leading to existential impact and moral responsibility for our actions and involvement's. The real world is action-space organized as a moral existential drama in society.
Electronia is a psychological continent of simulation and play, of playing with possibilities in consciousness perceiving the world as pixel-imagery. Material reality and its manifestation to humans as heft, as ontological weightiness in relation to an acting human-body subject is suspended in cyber-space and with it all tangible action possibilities. Like the free play of private fantasy there a few if any reality-constraints or moral consequences. The serious consequences of bodily tangible or spoken reality of real life actions are suspended in cybernautic play although insight may be gained which has consequences for real world action.
The emergent cyber-space of Electronia is a new ontological realm not ruled by gravity (heavy-power/Schwerkraft) but by levity (light-power/Leichtkraft). It is a shared human creation. It is a contribution to the expansion of human consciousness. It accelerates the process of the ephemeralization of material reality, the transmutation of reality into image. It re-activizes and ultimately undermines the authority of tangible reality. It inflates our sense of mastery. We are the absolute rulers over this creation. We are its Gods. We are restricted only by the limits of our own imagination.
We have to learn to be vigilant about not abusing this God-power which can easily addict us, lest we become grandiose and unrealistic in consciousness yet at the same time, paradoxically, impotent in reality, in actually changing the conditions of tangible life. The hands-on world of bodily involvement in concrete situations with real others of flesh and blood and consciousness must remain the ground of evaluation, comparison, judgment and effort. It is our Earthly home-base from which we can temporally jump into the electronic ether of world-as-representation, but to which we must always return for bodily psychological and spiritual sustenance and renewal. We cannot sustain our life in Electronia, we cannot grow, age, and be reborn, die there, but it is an exciting place to visit and to help build.