Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 2, 1999

Shlomo G. Shoham and Amit Pinchevski

The Medium is the Barrier


In this paper, we present a critical viewpoint of human dialogue in the modern age. In our view, the Internet, as the paramount cultural guidepost at the end of the millennium, is a stark reflection of the barrier in human communication in our time. By means of an analysis of conversation transcripts at virtual conversation sites, we shall endeavor to show that virtual communication, to use a phrase from Zen wisdom literature, is ‘the clap of one hand.’ The medium of the Internet does not permit authentic dialogue, which in our view is the key to creativity and culture; instead, it sells the illusion of communication. We shall make our claims on three levels. First, we shall analyze the virtual entity at the ontological level. We shall then go on to analyze conversations at virtual conversation sites. Finally, we shall adduce a number of social implications of the phenomenon under consideration.

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