Cor Van Halen & Jacques Janssen
University of Nijmegen, Psychology of Culture and Religion, The Netherlands

E-mail:c.vanhalen@psych.kun.nl

 

THE USAGE OF SPACE IN DIALOGICAL SELF-CONSTRUCTION:
FROM DANTE TO CYBERSPACE

 

The spatiality of the human mind is a central tenet in the theory of the dialogical self. Self-dialogue entails a constant exchange of different I-positions to establish youR own borders or appropriate alternative self-definitions. The motives of demarcation and exploration indicate that the spatiality of self-construction should be taken literally, that is, as an active form of orientation. There are however different formats in the usage of space. An early example is Dante's descent in the abysses of Hell. His account can be read as a systematic search of conscience, elaborated in images that were derived from the medieval cosmology that Dante and his audience were so intimate with. The closed moral structure of Hell transforms Dante's self-confrontation into a journey with a preordained destiny. This in marked contrast with the more contemporary forms of self-construction in which tentativeness, experimentation, and expressiveness have become the focal criteria. Such formats can be found in the chat boxes and multi-user domains on internet. Here, the continuity of the body is left behind to take temporary positions in a shared identity play. Again, space is a necessary prerequisite to explore the viability of these positions. Yet, as cyberspace, it endorses hyperbolic rather than preordained position taking.