(The University of Sofia)
The title “Philosophical Studies of Virtual Culture: How is a Philosophical Virtual Laboratory Being Made?” refers to a series of scientific research projects and innovational educational forms, which were created during the last 5 years (2008-2013), through the initiative of teachers with a specialty in Philosophy at Sofia University and developed with the active participation of their students.
The title reflects a heuristic attempt to combine the analysis of new, current, and still poorly researched philosophical phenomena, with possibilities of education and teaching derived from the virtual world of cyberspace as a place of digital technologies and global communication. The roots of this attempt lie in a Masters program with an interdisciplinary profile/character, entitled “Virtual Culture.” It was created in the 2000s by a group of teachers at the Philosophy Faculty of Sofia University. Back then they probably didn’t expect that the program would subsequently turn out to be the basis for the development of a new research and educational paradigm with a distinctive accent: the need for and possibility of philosophical reflection upon the modern application of technology. That need and opportunity comes from the fact that the ‘boom’ of information technologies is not only a technological matter. It changes social relations and culture. After the creation of typography, the steam engine, radio and television, we are today not only observers of yet another revolution of technique and technology but are also its immediate moving forces. The everyday participation of regular people, of non-specialists such as consumers, is the new and different element in the modern technological and social transformation. This means that today we are not only objects but also subjects of change.
The internet is developing through big technological and economical corporations like Google and Facebook. They create social platforms—scenes where the actors are millions of users. The platforms are constantly improving, opening a new field for the activity of users. The better their creators predict the interests and potential for activity of users, the more successful the platforms are, in a commercial sense. That is why the development of virtual culture is so important and interesting in human terms, as well as from the perspective of individual identity.
Due to electronic networks, especially the Internet, communications channels and boundaries are constantly changing, leading to the emergence of new virtual communities and significant changes in human lifestyles and people’s conception of nature, culture and themselves, their coexistence, communication and cooperation. The study of these phenomena and processes requires their own special philosophical research and consideration, supported by logical and fact-based arguments from the history of science, scientific theoretical constructs, and also the modern life and thinking of people influenced by the application of science. Use of these arguments provokes different questions and hypotheses about the tension between humanistic values and cyber perspectives, which allows the shifting and blurring of borders between man and machine, socium and technology, to the point of their fusion due to the penetration of cybernetics in social and humanistic fields.
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