Interaction and Interactivity: A Semiotic Commentary
Authors: (Jan M. Broekman, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, Pennsylvania)
Abstract: Law is the field in which today the application of semiotics remains essential. It has furthermore "interaction" as a fundamental concept and guiding principle for its social activities. However, legal discourse leaves important philosophical implications of this principle untouched. The concept of interaction, theme of this commentary, shows a static character despite its suggestion of dynamics, and a rigid sender-receiver scheme qualifies its idea of interaction as "action between (inter) actors". These, however, do not fit our experience that relating to others equals the unfolding of a dynamic vision and interpretation of life! That other mode of experience is expressed with the concept of "interactivity", which this commentary forwards as a semiotic alternative to "interaction". The process of "being in a state of interactivity" thus changes the substance of "interaction" when semiotics is applied to law. Interaction is not the same as interactivity—but neither word articulates the essence of their difference. That simple observation goes for the context of social sciences as well as for semiotics. Both use the notion of "interaction" to indicate the phenomenon of "the social" without specifying any particular quality of action, which could eventually be meant by that expression. Semiotics and social sciences are strongly intertwined, so that considerations about the first concept immediately affect the second. This imports in particular since "interaction" prevails in semiotic approaches of foundational discourses in modern society that are implied in social sciences, such as law and legal discourse.