Intrapersonal Network

Ruesch, Jurgen and Gregory Bateson 1951. Communication, the social matrix of psychiatry. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

SCIENTIFIC theory traditionally distinguishes between that which is assumed to ekist in reality and that which is actually perceived by a human observer. The difference in the picture between assumed reality and perceived reality is explained as being due to the peculiarities and limitations of the human observer. In the study of human communication, it is difficult if not impossible to distinguish between assumed and perceived reality. (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 273)
I thought about it recently in the following way: suppose an extraterrestial intelligence discovers the remnants of human existence and starts to study human society and culture. The aliens can see on the pictures and videos what human bodies and behavior looked like (perceived reality), but they have little conception of what they are actually seeing, what is the significance of this or that form of behavior (assumed reality). I'd use this metaphor to explain the study of concourse. Suppose the aliens manage to translate human languages and read books. They would soon discover that there are a variety of ways we humans conceptualized our bodies and behaviour, how we describe and prescribe behaviour, etc. The signs of this conceptualization forms concourse.
But this is not what I should be doing right at this moment. I do not have the time to read the whole book, as much as I would like to. Instead, I'll have to Ctrl+F myself through it, given that I'm already somewhat familiar with Ruesch's thought and at the moment only need to know what he says about intrapersonal communication.
Intrapersonal Communication: The consideration of intrapersonal events becomes a special case of interpersonal communication. An imaginary entity made up of condensed traces of past experiences represents within an individual the missing outside person. However, a crucial difference exists between interpersonal and intrapersonal communication with regard to the registration of mistakes. In the interpersonal situation the effects of purposive or expressive actions can be evaluated and if necessary corrected. In intrapersonal or fantasy communication, to perceive that one misinterprets one's own messages is extremely difficult, if not impossible, and correction rarely, if ever, occurs. (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 15-16)
Some of these aspects are elaborated later by other psychiatrists. It is interesting what else Ruesch and Bateson call intrapersonal communication. "Fantasy communication" is especially good term for the so-called "internal addressee" form of autocommunication. And one can speculate that because correction rarely occurs in intrapersonal communication it is such a great way to come up with new, "misinterpreted", ideas.
Limitations of Communication: The limitations of man's communications are determined by the capacity of his intrapersonal network, the selectivity of his receivers, and the skill of his effector organs. The number of incoming and outgoing signals, as well as the signals that can be transmitted within the organism, is limited. Beyond a certain maximum any increase in number of messages in transit leads to a jamming of the network, and so to a decrease in the number of messages which reach their appropriate destinations. This type of disruption of the communication system the psychiatrist calls anxiety. (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 17)
Very down-to-earth justufication for "selectivity".
"Comparison" implies that however different the items, some common denominator can be found. This inferred psychological process includes not only our considerations pertaining to the nature of the stimuli and A's possible responses but also includes the idea that A has had certain past experiences. In daily language, the term "justification" denotes certain personal deliberations which serve the purpose of matching present events with past experiences. In this manner contemplated action is matched with ideas which refer to commonly accepted practices. The assumptions we make about A therefore refer to intrapersonal processes, among which we include perception, comparison, justification, and evaluation, which are assumed to lead either to an overt statement of preference or to an action from which we, as observer, can deduce preference. (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 47)
These aspects can all be approached semiotically, as Ruesch himself does later in his Semiotic Approaches to Human Relations.
The network of communication, therefore, is going to define our psychiatric universe. The origin and destination of messages may be found within the same organism; then we are dealing with an intrapersonal network. If the message originates in one person and is perceived by another, we are dealing with an interpersonal network. If an individual has the function of messenger, then both the origin and destination lie outside that particular organism. Therefore, in order to understand a communication system, and especially the disturbances of communication arising in such a system, the attention of the psychiatrist has to focus on the social situation; the focus of interaction will then be the interaction of people, the influence of mass communication upon the individual, and the shaping of the larger and more complex superpersonal systems through the summation of actions of single individuals (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 81)
Basically Ruesch's definition of intrapersonal communication.
It is necessary first to point out certain general notions about the nature of intrapersonal and neurophysiological processes — notions so general as to be independent of the types of theory which the reader may prefer. The notion of codification is, we think, of such a general nature as to be common to all psychological theories, though not always explicit. Whether we favor organicist or mentalist concepts, it is clear that the intrapersonal processes are distinctly different from the events in the external world, and the concept of codification refers to this difference. Using an organicist phrasing, one might say that impulses and showers of impulses traveling in the neural network are the internal reflection or picture of the external events about which the organism is receiving information through his sense organs. Or following mentalist theories, one may say that ideas and propositions (whether verbal or nonverbal) are the translation or reflection of external events. In either theory — organicist or mentalist — internal events are different from external and are reflections or translations of events in the external world. The term used by communications engineers for the substitution of one type of event for another, such that the event substituted shall in some sense stand for the other, is codification. (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 169)
Forecasting Barken & Wiseman's (1966) question: "In "thinking" does the brain encode and decode, or does it merely process information without going through an encoding and decoding procedure?"
The significant fact, for our present purposes, is that in interpersonal communication, the units and aggregate messages reach this same level because words and postures already refer to complex Gestalten corresponding to some of those which the internal system uses. Communication between persons is of course pathetically impoverished compared with the richness of the intrapersonal consciousness, which in its turn is but an impoverished and restricted version of the total psychic life of the person. But still it is important that the external communications are a codification of the internal psychic life and that the recipient of such communication is receiving an already elaborated product from the psychic life of another individual. (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 206)
Embracing the richness of autocommunication above that of heterocommunication.
At the intrapersonal level, the focus of the observer is limited by the self, and the various functions of communication are found within the self. At the interpersonal level the perceptual field is occupied by two people, at the group level by many people, and at the cultural level by many groups. Concomitantly, in each of these fields, the importance of the single individual diminishes, and at the higher levels one person becomes only a small element in the system of communication. (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 274)
The self is the limit of self-communication, if that makes sense.
The intrapersonal network is characterized by the fact that:
  • The self-observer (see p. 199) is always totally participant.
  • Both the place of origin and the destination of messages are located within the sphere of one organism (see p. 38); and the correction of errors is therefore difficult, if not impossible (see p. 199).
  • The system of codification used can never be examined (see p. 200).
Within the intrapersonal network (see p. 29) three distinct groups of functions can be distinguished:
  1. Reception includes both proprioception and exteroception. Proprioception gives information about the state of the organism; in popular language these data, if consciously perceived, are referred to as feelings or sensations. In proprioception the end organs are predominantly internal and react to chemical and mechanical stimuli (see p. 30); in exteroception the end organs are located on or near the surface of the body, and give information about relations between the self and the environment (see p. 197). The exteroceptive end organs react to wave phenomena, such as light and sound, in addition to other mechanical and chemical stimuli.
  2. Transmission includes both propriotransmission and exterotransmission (see p. 30). In propriotransmission, nervous impulses travel on the efferent pathways to the smooth muscles, and chemical impulses travel along humoral pathways for purposes of regulation of the organism. In exterotransmission the contraction of the striped muscles is used for action upon the outside world, including communication with other individuals (see p. 203).
  3. The central junctions include coordination, interpretation, and storage of information (see pp. 169, 183). Information received through proprioception or propriotransmission is complementary to information acquired through exteroception or exterotransmission - The complementary relation between proprioception and exteroception is such that complete information could only be obtained by a combination of these two functions. Such total combination seems, however, to be impossible, and in its functioning the organism seems to specialize at certain moments in one or the other mode of experience, with resulting failure to act upon data which might have been derived from the other mode: pain may preclude external perceptiveness, and exposure to violent external events may preclude awareness of pain or fatigue.
(Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 278-279)
An earlier version of the communication system model put forth a few years later in Ruesch's synopsis of communication theory.
The cultural network. In addition to intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organized group networks, which are variously perceived as such by the individuals, there is a host of instances in which the individual is unable to recognize the source and destination of messages, and therefore does not recognize that these messages travel in a network structure. For lack of a better word we describe this unperceived system as the cultural network, since many of the premises of every culture are carried in this way (see p. 41). (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 281-282)
This is a characteristic of a communicational approach to culture that Lotman apparently didn't notice (or at least didn't talk about much).
At the cultural level, the codification is again entirely different. At the intrapersonal and interpersonal levels, codification is characteristically atomistic: separable and isolable events, such as the neural impulse or the word symbol, stand for separable events in the outside world. At the group level, there is apparently no such atomism; and the organization of the group is evidence of codification. At the cultural level the organization is beyond the reach of observation of the individual, who implicitly carries the cultural message in his actions of everyday life. Being an infinitesimal part of the network, the individual's function as communication channel is overshadowed by the importance of intrapersonal and interpersonal events. (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 284)
Also an important precept that can aid cultural semiotics. Especially the notion of "cultural message" seems comparable to Lotman's "culture text".
Third, we deal with the problems of predictability — that is, the information which a part possesses about the other part and about the whole system. At the intrapersonal level, the capacity and the extent of the network are more or less known to a scientific observer, who may be the participant himself. At this level the possibilities of rearrangement are limited, and therefore the organism can somewhat predict its own reactions. At the interpersonal level, the capacity and extent of the network are still within assessable range. But because the topology of the interpersonal system is undefined, it is difficult if not impossible to predict future events within the realm of the system. (Ruesch & Bateson 1951: 287-288)
This is exactly the contention of Peirce and Mead when it comes to autocommunication.


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