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Philosophical Thought

Sociality and Socialization in the Context of Digitalization of Society

Antipov Mikhail Aleksandrovich

ORCID: 0000-0003-4672-7144

PhD in Philosophy

Associate Professor, Department of Church History and Philosophy, Penza Theological Seminary of the Penza Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church

440023, Russia, Penza region, Penza, Perekop str., 4






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Abstract: The subject of the study is the impact of digitalization on social reality and the socialization of the individual. The author examines in detail such aspects of the topic as the ratio of mental and physical in social life and social interactions, the features of social interactions in virtual digital spaces, the specifics of socialization in the information society and the development of digital technologies. Particular attention is paid to the phenomenon of metauniverses, the essence of this concept is revealed, and the technologies used in their development and implementation are described. The concept of an avatar as a digital self of the user is revealed. The advantages and disadvantages of metauniverses as a fundamentally new form of social reality and the sphere of socialization are considered. The scientific novelty of the study lies in considering the impact of digitalization and metauniverses as one of its leading trends on social reality and socialization. The main conclusions of the study are the following: digitalization, a significant trend of which is the development of metauniverses, leads to the formation, along with social reality, of virtual hyperreality with new forms of the social; socialization in the context of the virtualization of society is also transforming, which is manifested in its division into offline and online; the construction of a single metauniverse in the future should take into account that despite all its advantages, this is an additional sphere of social relations and everyday life, which should not replace social reality.


virtualization of society, social life, digitalization, real and virtual, metaverse, socialization, avatar, sociality, corporal, mental

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IntroductionDigitalization as a process characteristic of the information society has many empirically recorded manifestations in various spheres of social relations.

But changes also occur at a more fundamental level at the level of sociality as a form of being, as a result of which the position of a person, his socialization and functioning as a person undergoes cardinal transformations. This article is devoted to the study of the features of the new socialization. The novelty of the work consists in the fact that the current trends of digitalization, and above all, the development of metaverses, are considered in a socio-philosophical context as leading to new forms of sociality. The characteristic features of the new socialization and the social risks of the development of metaverses are highlighted.

"An essential feature of the new type of sociality is an increase in the possibilities of access to information for an increasingly wide range of people and turning it into a strategic resource" [1, p. 71].If we can verify the reality and objective existence of the natural through sensory experience, as well as special scientific instruments, and the physical itself can ultimately be reduced to particles and waves, or strings or superstrings combining the properties of both particles and waves, then the reality of the social, which we tend to call social, is expressed in collective attitudes, values, beliefs, beliefs, patterns of behavior, ideals and moods. In this study, we proceed from the position that the social, in which the objective and subjective, collective and personal, individual and social, are closely intertwined and generate each other, exists due to the creative activity of many generations. Thus, the personality participates in social life, first of all, at the mental level, which is clearly manifested in the relationship of personal and social consciousness, the spiritual world of the individual and the spiritual sphere of public life. When considering socialization in the conditions of digitalization, the socio-phenomenological approach is close to us, in which social consciousness appears as an intersubjective reality, and the reality of public life is the result of its construction by individuals in the course of joint life and communication [2].

Also in this paper we rely on the concept of digital socialization by G. U. Soldatova, A. E. Voiskunsky, in which it is considered as a process of human adaptation to a technogenic dynamic digital environment, which implies hyper-connectivity to the Internet and human activity in mixed reality, the expansion and completion of personality, as well as digital sociality" [3, pp. 437-438].In addition to the mental, the personality is also involved in social life at the level of physicality, since the mental in a person is unthinkable without a body.

This is evidenced by the psychophysical problem posed by R. Descartes about the interaction of the mental and physical in a person, which later took the form of a difficult problem of consciousness formulated by D. Chalmers [4]. Each person perceives the other in the unity of his mental and physical properties. At the same time, at the first acquaintance, attention is drawn to the appearance, only then, in the process of communication, the inner subjective world of the Other is revealed to us.

Physicality has been given special attention in postmodern philosophy. Thus, according to M. Foucault's views, power in society consists primarily in controlling bodies by shutting off space, which is atomized, strictly distributed and divided into separate sections. This is how discipline is established and maintained in society, examples of which are hospital wards, school classrooms, army barracks. According to the French poststructuralist philosopher, "in any society, the body is clamped in the grip of power, imposing coercion, prohibitions or obligations on it" [5, p. 214].

J.-L. Nancy in the work "Corpus" points out that the body is what certifies a person in his existence and the existence of other people, it is the center around which the Ego is located. One's body is an "obligatory being-with-oneself" [6, p. 27]. The body is the localization of the Ego. In other words, it is the body that is the key to confidence in one's own existence. The Cartesian Cogito ergo sum is complemented by physicality: I do not just think, but think and exist bodily at a certain point in space. And we perceive others primarily as bodies. "The other is the body, because only the body is the other" [6, p. 55].

But such an understanding of corporeality and its role in social life, in our opinion, is hypertrophied, since the objectively existing corporeal, in our opinion, in social relations is refracted through the mental. So, in the perception of the Other, it is not the body itself that is important to us, but the image of the body that has developed and imprinted in the subjective world.

The main part"Natural processes of self-organization and modernization of information technologies are of great importance in the formation of the information society" [7, p. 106].

Modern society under the influence of informatization is divided into the real and hyperreal, or, in other words, real and virtual [8]. As a result, a person at the level of consciousness is immersed in both dimensions of social life both real and virtual. Immersion at the level of consciousness in virtuality, which is created by on-screen mass communication media, leads to the fact that in the inner world of the individual (microcosm), not the real world, but the virtual world, which replaces the real world, receives refraction. In the language of postmodern philosophy, the virtual is a sphere of simulation, a world of simulacra, each of which is a sign without a referent, that is, not referring to any object in reality [9].At the same time, at the level of physicality, we spend most of our time in the real world.

We immerse ourselves in the virtual world physically at the level of subjective perception and self-perception only if we use modern VR devices and technologies. One of the significant vectors of digitalization is the development of the metaverse, a decentralized network of virtual spaces where users can communicate, learn and play using other new technologies: 5G, blockchain, artificial intelligence and moving from 2D graphics on flat screens to 3D graphics in headmounted displays [10, p. 2]). The metaverse is a virtual world parallel to the real world, it is the third generation of the Internet after computer and mobile [11, p. 2129].

There are four technologies of the Metaverse: augmented reality (AR), lifelogging, mirror worlds and virtual worlds. Augmented reality allows you to create intelligent environments based on location networks, such as Pok?mon Go. Facebook Instagram allows you to record everyday information about people or objects using augmented reality technology, for example, for Facebook or Instagram. Mirror Worlds technology creates virtual maps and models using GPS technology in applications such as Google Earth or Google Maps. Virtual worlds are based on the virtual interaction of avatars and the display of various characters [12]. Such worlds are built on digital data [13, p. 3].

Popular platforms for accessing the sought-after metaverses include Roblox (over 200 million users, Snapchat (over 300 million users), Fortnite (over 350 million users) and Meta's Horizon Worlds [13, p. 4]. Immersive technologies used to access the metaverse, including augmented, mixed and virtual reality, are referred to as augmented reality. It also represents a spectrum in which each of these technologies is located between a fully computer-generated virtual environment (high virtuality) on the one hand and physical reality on the other (lack of virtuality) [13, p. 3].

Thus, the metaverse should become a connecting intermediate space between reality and virtuality. The metaverse in the future will have the following properties:

the feeling of immersion;

real-time interactivity;

user interaction;

functional compatibility between platforms and devices;

parallelism with thousands of people interacting at the same time;

use cases covering human activities far beyond games [14].

The hypertrophied understanding of corporeality as the basis of social life does not allow us to attribute virtual spaces of social networks, computer games, VR environments and dynamically developing metaverses to new forms of sociality, since interaction occurs at the mental level in them, and corporeality, if present at least in some form, then in the form of avatars. Even the most perfect virtual space involves a digital simulation of a personality, which can both accurately reflect its features and properties, and radically differ from the real referent, embodying, for example, the ideal Self.

But if we understand society as a sphere of collective mentality and actions performed on the basis of this mentality (and the bodily as the physical refracted into the mental sphere), then metaverses can be interpreted with full confidence as a special form of sociality, which, on the one hand, reproduces real social relations, and on the other hand, complements them with fundamentally new elements and capabilities.

Digital society is a sphere of interaction between avatars, each of which is "a picture or a photograph or an animated image personifying a user on the web; a system with selflearning and self-identification in cyberspace; a cloned"personality with a certain mission for a while" [15, p. 32].

In it, interaction is carried out exclusively at the information level, while the levels of matter and energy play the role of the necessary bases for the uninterrupted functioning of the necessary for the uninterrupted availability of Internet communication and the unhindered operation of the corresponding technical electronic computing devices that provide access to virtual cyberspaces. At the same time, the information is presented in audiovisual form, usually bright, colorful and attracting the attention of users. If society itself is self-sufficient, then the cyberspace of the Internet, where interaction takes place, needs technical infrastructure and uninterrupted provision of electricity for its existence. Also, this environment, unlike society, is isolated from nature, is not connected with it. As a result, each user is divided into an inextricably linked with nature, combining the physical and mental, on the one hand, and his information-simulation virtual incarnation, on the other, on the other side of the screen.

Avatar as an "informational named dialog system created in the image and likeness, capable of adapting to any input data to achieve the goal" [15, p. 32], replacing a person in the virtual space, participates on behalf of a real person in all interactions, collective processes and activities that are carried out in the digital space of cyberreality. If in a real society, social consciousness as the consciousness of the whole collective is formed and maintains its existence through the objectification of ideas, thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ideas, then how do individual and social consciousness coexist in the metaverse as a simulation of society? We can say that similar processes take place in it, and along with values, norms, ideas and beliefs brought from real society, their own elements of collective mentality are formed relevant for this virtual space.

So, for example, when holding meetings in a virtual office, it is quite possible to introduce a special digital etiquette: connect and disconnect at the appointed time, use an acceptable style for avatars and corresponding to the dress code of the organization, check the information used in presentations and uploaded to the metaverse for the presence of spyware and viruses, etc.

Similar tendencies of the modern information society also leave their imprint on socialization, that is, on the formation of personality in society, the development of socially significant qualities, a combination of adaptation and individualization [16, pp. 8-9]. Socialization in the conditions of the information society, taking place in both the real and virtual spheres, consists in the formation of both a genuine personality (within the framework of real social life) and the formation of a virtual inauthentic Self under the influence of virtual spaces generated by digitalization: social networks, Internet portals, online chats, computer games, virtual realities and metaverses.

Adaptation to the conditions of the information society means following the imposed stereotypes, social attitudes, values of post-industrial society. Digital mass media have an intense impact on society, forming mass consciousness, as a result of which there are risks of dissolving the personal into the mass, when the majority begins to think the same way. In addition, the abundance of media streams that modern people face creates difficulties in assimilating such extensive and disparate information. As a result, information is grasped superficially, and if we take into account that within the framework of screen culture it is presented in the form of vivid audiovisual images, then we can conclude that users have a fragmentary little-meaningful picture of the world when a person knows a lot, but this knowledge is scattered and is not the result of critical reflection and careful analytical study. In other words, blocks of information are assimilated in the form in which they are presented by mass media.

Individualization means the development of one's own Self, the assimilation of norms and values of society on the basis of existing life experience, ideological orientations, interests and inclinations. And the opportunities provided by modern information and communication technologies allow us to realize exactly this aspect of socialization, that is, to develop and form taking into account our own interests and preferences. Digitalization led to the emergence of online education, which in turn gave an unprecedented impetus to the development of informal education, considered as the most important component of "long life learning", that is, lifelong learning [17]. It is within the framework of this type of education that the free realization of cognitive interests and the design of one's own trajectory of education and development is possible. The use of virtual reality technologies allows people with health limitations to socialize, for example, with autism spectrum disorders [18].

But in order for socialization within the framework of hyperreality to follow a path that does not contradict general social attitudes and values, it is important for children and adolescents to develop digital literacy, critical thinking, knowledge of the basics of cybersecurity and the features of the digital environment of the global Internet. The main thing is the ability to filter out really significant and valuable information from secondary and even more false, distorting reality, and especially carrying deliberately destructive content.

As for socialization in the space of the metaverse, it is carried out due to the participation of an individual in the life of a cyber community, under the influence of both targeted influences, for example, within virtual schools and other educational virtual spaces, and non-targeted influences from the diverse factors of the metaverse, among which collective activity, participation in joint activities in a simulation the digital world.

Discussion of the resultsMetaverse, as one of the most significant trends of progress in the IT sphere, presents ample opportunities for cognition and self-development, for the formation and development of certain skills and abilities, the study of professional activity situations (cases), as well as possible situations from everyday life related to solving everyday problems, problems in interpersonal relationships, possible difficulties in building stable family relationships, conflict-free child-parent relationships, financial literacy, legal literacy, choice of educational organization, job search and employment, etc.

On the other hand, metaverses carry a number of risks, including the substitution of genuine direct communication, communication at the level of avatars, which is fraught with impoverishment of the emotional side of communication, weakening of nonverbal aspects of communication, displacement of facial expressions and pantomimics inherent in people with new, digital communication tools (movements and facial expressions of avatars, emoticons and various visual symbols expressing certain other emotions, etc.).

In addition, there is a risk of fixation on the virtual space of the metaverse due to its greater attractiveness, which is provided by the saturation of vivid images, dynamism, simplicity and accessibility of the information available in it. If such fixation occurs, it can lead to alienation from the true reality, and a person will spend more and more time in the world of digital simulations.

Thirdly, there is a possibility of manipulation of the user's consciousness in the virtual space of the metaverse, tracking, unauthorized access to personal data, etc. At the same time, such actions can be performed both by the developers and administrators of the metaverse themselves (or with their consent), and unauthorized by any of their hacker groups. In both cases, it is important to have a well-established system of legal regulation of the development and implementation of such technologies.

And finally, another metaverse problem is related to the technical imperfection of VR helmets, which are recommended to be used continuously for a limited time, otherwise they can cause malaise and discomfort, especially in minors [19]. In any case, staying in a simulated virtual space is not natural for the human body, which is formed and adapted to find and interact with the natural environment, with the real physical space.

ConclusionsCurrently, a new digital sociality is being formed, within which a person functions in a mixed reality, which expands the scope of his activity, his identity, his opportunities and prospects.

Modern digital technologies, and in particular, metaverses, have become new means of socialization, forming a fundamentally new personality - including both real and virtual identity (avatar). At the same time, the very nature of social interactions is changing.If we proceed from modern postmodern ideas about society and sociality, then the metaverse perfectly reflects the features of the society of the XXI century, in which there is no constancy and stability, and relations are discrete [20]. The virtuality of the metaverse perfectly reflects the flickering nature of modern social structures: people gather to perform certain joint actions depending on the specific situation, and the ways of interactions change from time to time.Replacing themselves with avatars and the surrounding world with a digital environment, humanity has reached such a level of transformation of reality and organ projection, at which reality itself fades into the background before the simulated digital space, where physical laws do not apply, where opportunities expand to unprecedented limits.

If we ignore the essence of man, then the metaverses can be attributed to "projects of remaking human physicality and psyche" where "human social connections are replaced by surrogates in terms of content" [21, p. 193].Despite the formation of a new sociality and the strengthening of its influence, man and society remain in the physical space, as they are closely connected with it at the bodily level.

With all the advantages of the virtual space of the metaverse, it remains an additional sphere of human existence, expanding its capabilities, but at the same time not replacing the real natural and public space, to which every representative of the human race belongs from time immemorial. The new sociality generated by digitalization contains both significant opportunities in terms of self-realization, development, education and communication, as well as a number of risks associated with the enslavement of the truly human by technical, artificial, digital.

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