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"Uploading": The Human Creation of Culture
by Richard Koenigsberg
What does the development of the Internet tell us about the nature of culture—the symbolic order? Thinking about it, we realize that each and every element of culture was “uploaded” at one point or another by a human being. Reality is a human creation. A discourse that becomes an element of culture is an idea that resonates with large number of people: that goes viral, and remains viral, spreading and taking hold of human beings within a given society.
Foundational texts on the psychological sources of culture: click here for information on ordering at VERY SPECIAL DISCOUNTED RATES.

For additional information on any title below, please click the title or the book photo.
Developmental Time, Cultural Space

Howard Stein has one of the finest minds engaged in the study of culture in our time.
—Prof. Howard Schwartz, Oakland University

Hitler's Ideology: A Study in Psychoanalytic Sociology

The best critical analysis in English of Hitler's thought. —Colin Day

Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War

A psychological inquiry of great depth and tragic urgency. —Walter A. Davis, Professor Emeritus, Ohio State University

Special Issue of the Peace Review on the Psychological Interpretation of War

The definitive publication on the psychological sources of warfare.

Symbiosis and Separation: Towards a Psychology of Culture

Lays the foundation for a theory of culture and politics by showing how objects in the external world symbolize objects in the internal world.

The Dream of Culture

What is culture? Where is it located? What is it for? Where does it come from? Why do cultures persist over time? “An enduring contribution.” —Prof. John Connor

The Myth of Africa

An important founding text of postcolonial studies and discourse analysis, envisioning British representations as arising from projections of shared unconscious fantasies.
—Prof. Keith Booker, U. of Arkansas

The Psychoanalysis of Racism, Revolution and Nationalism

A truly bold and provocative treatise.
Political Psychology (Journal)

The Withdrawal of Human Projection: Separating from the Symbolic Order

Following the path Freud laid down in Civilization and Its Discontents, M. D. Faber presents a profound analysis of the relationship between the individual and society.

Scholars tend to separate culture from human beings: to think of culture as a “thing apart.” The concept of culture suggests something “out there,” or “up above,” descending upon us from another realm of being.

Lacan speaks of the “symbolic order.” Foucault uses the term “discourse.” The idea of narrative has become popular. In each case, what is implied is an order of being above the realm of concrete human existence. This domain of the symbolic order, or culture, seems to go on by itself. Scholars analyze societal discourses, and may oppose them.

People frequently engage in debates with ideas or ideologies—that seem to have an objective existence. These ideas descend from textbooks, or from the mass-media, or from politicians. Whatever the source, certain ideas seem to constitute “culture.” Our minds and bodies are shaped by “discourses” that impose themselves from without.

The Internet is perhaps the greatest invention in the history of communication. It makes it possible for nearly any human being to create an element of culture. In the age of Lacan and Foucault, it seemed that most of what we knew was something that someone else had “downloaded” upon us.

Even now, we feel society is “out there,” up above us, imposing its will upon human beings. We may identify society with the world of politics, or entertainment, or religion or sports. In each case, we think of these domains as existing in a transcendent realm.

I do not doubt the power of societal ideas to shape us—to determine who we become; who we are. However, I pose another question (see, for example, my paper “Why do Ideologies Exist”): Why do elements of culture assume specific forms? Why do some discourses become dominant and not others? I seek to ascertain the human source and meaning of cultural ideas and ideals.

Among all the ideas and ideologies put forth by human beings, why are some perpetuated and others not? What do specific elements of culture do for human beings? What is the nature of the gratification that a specific form of culture provides?

I theorize that ideas and ideologies as elements of culture are perpetuated to the extent that they provide specific forms of gratification for human beings. Culture was created by human beings, and exists for human beings, even though it seems it is something separate from us. For any cultural form that becomes powerful, I seek to identify the sources of the power of this ideology—the nature of the gratification that it provides.

Ideologies—and other forms of culture—exist because human beings have created them. They continue to exist because they provide some sort of gratification for human beings. We are that. We are the source. Human beings have created that which exists. Who else could it have been?

Take, for example, a cultural form of behavior like Chinese foot bindings that lasted for 1,000 years—from the 10th century to 1911. One might call this a custom, or a form of culture. Whatever we call it, there is a tendency to imagine that it came from another realm of being. It was not we human beings who invented and embraced this form of behavior. A societal discourse shaped the bodies of Chinese women. We imagine that this discourse is something other than the self.

I pose the question: Why did this form of behavior become established as a significant element of Chinese culture? Why did it persist? I begin with the assumption that this form of behavior continued to exist because it “did something” for the Chinese people—provided some kind of psychological gratification.

We need to pose—attempt to answer—this question for any idea, ideology or institution that we study. Why does this form of culture exist? Why does it assume a particular form? What function does it serve in our psychic economy?

The development of the Internet gives us new insight into the nature of culture. In the past, each human being was subject throughout life to the “downloads” of others. There was school, there were textbooks, and there was television. Someone up there or out there created the programs—templates—and they flowed into us.

When I entered “society” as a young man, Time Magazine was very popular. It seemed to represent reality: informing people of “what is going on now.” Time embodied “cultural authority” and played a significant role in defining the discourses of the day: how we perceived reality; what reality actually was.

Before the Internet, only those who were in politics, or who worked for a television station, magazine or newspaper, had a voice. The mass-media constituted the “power structure.” Authority came from afar. At best, one might write a letter to the editor and get it published.

Today, everyone has a voice. Anyone in the world can write, publish and “upload” their own ideas. One can create one’s own magazine (or Newsletter) to express and convey one’s views. One doesn’t need to own a television station. One doesn’t need to work for a large magazine.

What does the development of the Internet tell us about the nature of culture? Well, if we think about it just a little bit, we can realize that each and every element of culture was “uploaded” at one point of another. What seems to be an “objective reality” originated as a human creation. Human beings created each and every element of society.

In the history of any particular society, some uploads went viral. A human being invented an idea, put it out into the world—and many people resonated with it. A discourse that becomes an element of culture is an idea that went viral, and remained viral, spreading and taking hold of people within a given society or population.

Everything that appears “out there”—each and every discourse, each and every element of the symbolic order, was created—uploaded—by another human being. With this insight, we put an end to the age of “mystification.” The king has no clothes.

The wonderful Wizard of Oz is a human being blowing smoke. Each and every discourse or narrative originated with a human being or group of human beings—who conveyed and promoted the idea. For whatever reasons, certain ideas and institutions caught on. They resonated with human beings—were widely embraced and perpetuated—becoming elements of culture.

Why do particular discourses or ideologies become dominant? Why are certain ideas selected out among all the ideas proposed by human beings? Why are certain ideas passed along—becoming elements of culture—and not others? Ideas or ideologies are embraced and perpetuated to the extent that they represent the fulfillment of specific desires, needs or fantasies. Human beings are the source of that which exists.