New Alterities and Emerging Cultures of Social Interaction

Christian Meyer

With commentaries by Stephen Brown, Daniel Gaus, and Dirk Messner

Global Cooperation Research Papers 3, Duisburg 2013

Keywords: Social and Cultural Change, Cultural Heterogeneity, Alterity, Social Interaction, Dementia, Robots, Virtual Agents, Globalization


Globalization has generated increased societal heterogeneity and awakened interest of a new kind in social cohesion and integration. But globalization is not the only contemporary process to give rise to societal hybridization. Two other such processes–much less attended to in the theoretical debate but no less problematic as regards social integration–are societal ageing and robotization. Drawing on statistical estimates, this paper begins by assessing the relevance of these new processes of hybridization. The predictions in question indicate that in the near future, everyday interaction, not just with cultural strangers and 'intelligent' machines, but also with people suffering from dementia, will be an omnipresent phenomenon, confronting our societies with types and degrees of alterity never before encountered. Whereas contact with cultural strangers is to some extent familiar (though not yet taken as standard), interaction with intelligent technological devices and dementia sufferers represent new forms of alterity for which most societies have not yet established routines of conduct. This paper gives a detailed account of a number of empirical studies showing how new forms of hybrid interaction and cooperation evolve out of repeated contact with each of the three alterities. With this groundwork in place, the paper then attempts to identify not only the ways in which routines may develop out of interaction with the three alterities but also the trends towards, and prerequisites for, the emergence of a new culture of cooperation and interaction.

The Author

Christian Meyer is currently Visiting Professor of Media Studies at the University of Siegen, Germany. His research interests include interaction theory, video-based interaction studies, and cultural hybridization. Download full paper

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