For the subject as universal mediation, conscious activity unfolds itself in an endless stream of mutual transformation of an object into a subject and back, the subject into another object:
... → O → S → O' → S' ...
In this chain, both the object and the subject are repeatedly reproduced through each other:
... → O → S → O' → ...
... → S → O → S' → ...
The first form (the object cycle) describes the subject-mediated development of nature; this also implies the growth of the inner hierarchy of the subject, since the subject is primarily an object, albeit of a special kind, a universal mediator. The second representation (the subject cycle) links one subject to another and hence it provides a basis for discussing communication and self-communication.
The origin and the primary function of communication is to enhance the universality of mediation by substituting one subject with another within the same production process:
O → S → C → S' → P
That is, the product P can be made using the object O in many ways, sometimes involving a single subject, but often by the consolidated effort of many people. This cooperation can only be achieved through sharing the products of some other activity, which will mediate the intersubjective links and therefore culturally represent them. In a well-developed form, communication can become a separate activity, apparently independent of any production; however, this independence is mere illusion, as any communication on the level of universal mediation is always related to the object cycle of reproduction, though this relation may be most indirect and hidden from awareness.
The mediator С is a primarily a product PC of S, which then becomes an object OC for another subject S', so that
O → S → (PC = OC) → S' → P
Obviously, to mediate activity transfer, both the productive and objective aspects of C must include, along with its own material implementation, the whole hierarchy of objective premises needed to produce the final product P by anybody who is going to take over the activity.
Besides being a regular object, the mediator C plays a special role, namely, it represents the whole activity. Such representation can develop a hierarchy of forms, but, within a communicative act, the mediating object has three complementary functions. Fist, in its objective aspect, this is a signal, a thing that carries information about another thing. Signal processing develops already in primitive organisms, and the specificity of human communication is in its universal character, since any object at all can serve as a signal of anything else. When speaking about the inanimate world, the word "signal" cannot be used but metaphorically. Though modern computers largely involve signal processing, they do not do it on their own; for a computer, any physical processes in their circuits remain meaningless, and it is only in the context of some human activity that these processes can be interpreted as information exchange.
The subjective aspect the mediator C, is related to the formation of a higher-level (collective) subject in the course of a common activity, and virtually to all kinds of socialization. Communication is the glue that keeps the members of a social group (or the whole society) together, determining their social positions and making them carriers of certain social roles. In the scheme of activity, C serves as a placeholder, a vacancy that must be filled by some individual or collective subject to initiate the activity.
Finally, the productive aspect of communication is to produce activities as a special kind of products. The mediator C then works as a substitute for a real product in an incomplete activity, an indicator of what should be done, rather than an actual achievement.
Formally, these aspects of communication can be expressed by differently grouping the terms in the original scheme of subject substitution:
O → S → (C → S' → P)
O → (S → C → S') → P
(O → S → C) → S' → P
These schemes correspond to the different ways of folding the communication-mediated activity. Of course, since hierarchical folding is not a linear operation, such a symbolic representation can only be considered as a convenient mnemonic, or a hint.
In their activity, people used numerous instruments and tools, which results in the extension of the subject beyond any organic body (or a community of organisms). The inorganic body of the subject includes all the artificial "sensors" and "effectors", and the inner organization of the subject is essentially the hierarchy of the modes of their usage. Communication further extends this hierarchy representing the other people in the subject as specific instruments and tools. When the goal is not directly achievable, people manipulate the others to eventually come to the desirable result. The possibility and necessity of such a second-order (subject mediated) production is an immediate consequence of the universality of subjective mediation. Higher animals can develop primitive forms of manipulation, but it is only with conscious beings that all the behavioral acts become saturated with communication. However, direct manipulation is the lowest, animal-like form of communication, a pre-requisite of subjectivity. The appearance of self-consciousness and reason requires a well-developed self-manipulation through the other people and the society as a whole. In general this reflexive communication takes the form
O → (S → C' → S' → C" → S) → P.
For an external observer, this looks like ordinary production, O → S → P, with an imperceptible, or considerable, delay between consuming the object O and producing the product P; communication with the others in order to get prepared for the final production may take some time, from negligible effects within the physiological spread, to many years, or even centuries and millennia (for collective subjects). Folding this hierarchical structure, we observe that self-communication is always mediated by somebody else's activity:
O → (S → (C' → S' → C") → S) → P,
O → (S → C → S) → P.
That is, one cannot communicate with oneself without being a member of the society involved in a number of cultural processes. The activities mediating self-communication form a full hierarchy, from individual activities to the self-reproduction of the whole culture (the activity of the society as a whole). Any isolation (or deprivation) means gradual degradation of the inner world and eventually the death of subjectivity.
It is important that different subjects perceive each other as activities, and not mere objects. Thus, in the scheme S → S' → P, the subject S plays the role of yet another object, with no subjective quality; on the contrary, in the scheme
(O → S → O') → S' → P,
the entire activity O → S → O' plays the role of the object for S', so that S can be perceived as a subject of activity, universal mediation.
The first syncretic form of communication understood as activity transfer is non-separable from that very activity. The members of society join their efforts in a common act of production, so that the physical and social organization of activity determines a hierarchy of cultural roles, which is an indispensable part of any product, though people may be entirely unaware of this or consider it as a side effect. When one of the positions becomes void, some individual will occupy it, and the activity will go on. This role inheritance is yet a semi-animal form of cooperation; for instance, wolves can take over the roles one from another while pursuing the prey, depending on their hierarchical positions in the pack. However, as an aspect of universal reproduction, syncretic communication acquires specific traits reflecting cultural development. First, conscious activity results in the formation of some material culture, a universal environment for any interpersonal contacts. Acting within the same economy, people become essentially interdependent, so that their behavior can no longer remain mere reaction to random events or needs. The higher-level subject thus formed shapes people's individuality to favor the integrity of the whole, and even apparently egoistic motives represent a social position rather than individual preferences. Though communicating people lose a part of their individuality, transferring it to the group, the formation of a collective subject can drastically increase their efficiency as universal mediators and hence the level of spirituality. As a result, the reproduction of the social conditions becomes as important as material production, and the communicative component of activity may overweigh its primarily objective mediation. We do something together just for the sake of togetherness, and it does not matter what we do.
On the other hand, any product at all will serve both to satisfy some need and to mediate syncretic communication. That is, within the culture, any object includes a symbolic component reflecting its intentional usage as a signal. This ideal aspect, the cultural function, is reproduced in human activity along with any other content. In cultural development, this aspect of reproduction may become more and more important, up to absolute dominance. Thus syncretic activity grows into reflexive activity.
In syncretic activity, all the participants are basically equivalent, and any person can overtake the function of another. However, the growth of the cultural hierarchy leads to a traditionally layered organization of activities, with a limited range of roles available to each particular person or group. This results in a difference in the forms of communication characteristic of the distinct social layers. The hierarchy of cultural roles as a specific product is reproduced in parallel with the other modes of reproduction. However, such violated integrity contradicts to the very definition of the subject as universal mediation, which gives rise to a special activity serving to restore the whole as a kind of unity. Once again, we come to reflexive activity, cultural self-reflection. The transformation of syncretic communication into a separate communicative activity is thus prepared. As any other conscious activity, communication will then unfold a hierarchy of finite communicative acts, which, in their turn, are implemented as sequences of operations (transactions).
On the analytical level, one can consider communication as relatively independent of material production. However, being a part of universal reproduction, communication between the subjects always implies message exchange rather than one-directional information transfer. For a conscious being, there is no word without a response; even a most solitary writer addressing himself to some distant generations and risking to be never read at all, without really being aware of it, is engaged in reciprocal communication, as the very idea of a virtual interlocutor comes from the current cultural trends, and therefore, is somehow communicated to the writer. Subjectively, this may take the form of following the call of beauty, truth, or a supreme ideal.
In a simple act of activity exchange, two subjects are substituted for each other: S ↔ S', which implies a folded communication cycle:
This process establishes the cultural equality of the communicating subjects, their interoperability; but it also develops a cultural framework for such communication, a common system of signals. Different classes speak different language, but as soon as they come to sharing the same range of activities, the social hierarchy is bound to change. Talk to each other to get free; but the very possibility of such talk is based on a certain level of economic development. The whole of the human society as a collective subject, is impossible without a common system of communication, and a common language is an objective necessity in the history of the humanity. Language barriers, restricting people's universality, are incompatible with the development of consciousness. If humans will ever meet some other conscious forms, they will have to develop a common language, to avoid degradation of consciousness and reason.
Though any product can serve (and virtually serves) for communication, most products do it in a very limited way, in the context of a specific activity. The universality of the subject demands the existence of a hierarchy of products mediating communication in a universal manner, in any activity at all, including those that have not yet appeared. Such a universal mediator is known as language. The development of language is another side of economic development, and consciousness, as soon as it passes beyond the most primitive forms, cannot develop without language, which provides universal forms for conscious self-construction and self-reconstruction. The ubiquity of language feeds the illusion that the any consciousness at all is due to language, and verbal activity is prior to any other cultural phenomena. However, the objective necessity of a universal means of communication does not imply that consciousness cannot develop in other forms; in any culture, there are numerous language-like activities that may occupy a significant portion of the cultural space. Of course, all such modes of communication gradually become language-saturated, as they influence the development of language.
Unlike other mediators that do not function as such outside the context of their reproduction, language retains the traces of subjectivity in a much wider range of situations, being absolutely artificial and hence impossible outside communication. The relics of gone civilizations tell us about their material culture, but the sparks of their language convey the motions of their souls. This is the way with any reflexive activity, but it is only language that can preserve the universal core of the culture.
The growth of the hierarchy of the subject in conscious activity is expressed with the same scheme S → O → S; reflexive communication is thus understood as the fundamental mechanism of spiritual development. The inner hierarchy of the subject reflects the hierarchy of the culture. Being a folded form of practical activity, any subjective phenomenon can be unfolded in a communicative activity, thus allowing of verbalization. This is yet another manifestation of the universality of language. The inner world of the subject takes the exteriorized form of language, which presents us our hidden selves in an explicit manner. That is why language analysis occupies an important place in the scientific study of consciousness. Though comprehending subjectivity is impossible without the study of the material culture from the viewpoint of universal mediation, language often gives the clues for deciphering such indirect indications and organizing isolated facts in an integral view.
The role of language in human communication closely resembles the role of money in economy. Exactly like material production gets eventually subordinated to rotation of capital, language becomes apparently independent of the relations of material production and consumption and begins to develop on its own basis. Still, like a banknote is a representative of a social relation rather than mere scrap of paper, words mean nothing outside the context of communication.
The formation of language is based on the cultural association of activities, with one product representing many others, and thus a hierarchy of activities. Within such an association, the product becomes a sign. Though almost any product can function a sign, the practice of sign exchange selects products (words; later, symbolic expressions) that are more suited for that purpose, thus developing language as a hierarchy of signs. However, verbalization, as well as sign exchange in general, is not the only form of communication, and that is why language will never embrace the whole of culture. Otherwise, language would no longer develop.
Reflecting the diversity of culture, language is in no way restricted to speech; it can incorporate any verbal and non-verbal components, rearranged in a universal manner. Conversely, spoken words are not necessarily related to language; they can be mere voice signals, without the specifically human cultural reference, that can be used, for instance, as a kind of physical material in the arts, just like written language is used sometimes for mere ornamentation, or as a canvas, or as a set of standard elements used in a combinatory manner. Non-verbal forms play an important role in human communication, and silent communion can convey much more conscious content than vast prolixity.
Like the same world can unfold its hierarchy in a many ways, and any manifestation of the same world is a kind of universe, language in general can take the form of many different languages. Each of them represents a separate aspect of communication, reflecting individual cultures within the cultural whole. In the physical conditions of the planet Earth, higher organisms have developed the capacities of hearing and vision, and the two most common forms of language (spoken and written) originate from the voice and the gesture. This does not mean that there are no other implementations. Quite probably, when the humanity will populate the outer space, it will develop some kinds of language adapted to the new physical environment. This does not necessarily suppress the already existing forms, since communication develops towards the highest possible diversity, including both verbal and non-verbal components.
The history of communication assumes a dynamic balance between the two opposite processes, verbalization and "disverbalization", which is reproduced in the hierarchy of communicative activity. First, syncretic activity exchange finds an adequate language expression; later, verbal communication gets folded in various non-verbal transactions. Within a certain cultural context, such folded forms can be as universal as verbal contacts, developing a hierarchy of symbols representing all kinds of ideas. In other words, non-verbal communication, to be universal, must be mediated by the whole of the culture, in analogy with the process of ideation (the formation of ideas as objective counterparts for the inner structures of the subject) and the presence of the super-conscious level in the hierarchy of activity.
The folded forms of communication make it much more economical, since a long verbal message can be "compressed" using commonly accepted symbolic systems. For instance, both speech and writing can be reduced to a sequence of standard symbolic transactions (the characters of some formal system, an alphabet). Since any object at all can acquire a symbolic function of any kind, any text could be replaced, say, by a conventional sequence of zeroes and ones (binary code). Alternatively, verbal communication can be folded in ideomotoric sequences, which will deliver the message to the partners as reliably as (or even more reliably than) any discrete constructs.
Communication is commonly said to transfer information from one partner to another. However, people differ in their opinions on what the term "information" should really mean in this context. This may sometimes lead to confusion, as the formal information measures used in some natural sciences become uncritically applied to human communication, and conversely, animal behavior and physical interactions are anthropomorphically interpreted in the terms of subjectivity and consciousness. There is no communication in physical nature, and it is only in higher animals that the communication-like forms of behavior can develop as a necessary premise for any spirituality.
Understanding conscious activity as universal mediation, one could conjecture that the idea of information reflects the reorganization of the subject within the same activity, folding and unfolding the inner hierarchy. For instance, if my partner's words do not influence the state of my activities, they remain entirely void for me, carrying no information at all. That is, information transfer depends on both the source activity and a specific reaction in receiver extracting the content of the message from the signal and accordingly modifying the receiver's activity, including the subject's hierarchy. The very possibility of information exchange is based on the existence of a higher-level activity joining both the sender and the receiver in a collective subject. This approach to information accounts for its both quantitative and qualitative aspects, well in accordance with the original meaning of Latin informo (I induce a change in the form of something). In general, communication can affect both the material and the form of the subject; information transfer is only concerned with the latter, formal aspect.
The quantity of information is inseparable from its quality. Basically, it depends on the scale of the induced rearrangement of one's activity. Larger reorganization means more information. This evaluation may differ in the sender and the receiver, depending on their involvement in the common activity. In the two limit cases, a presumably informative message (for instance, this text) may carry no information at all to the public, while some unintentional acts addressed to nobody (for instance, somebody's silly whim or hobby) may acquire a tremendous cultural significance and turn the society's development in a different direction. The traditional mathematical treatment binds the quantity of information to the inner diversity of the signal, and hence the idea about the required minimum of information (Kolmogorov complexity). In a more general context, information is largely unrelated to the parameters of the signal, depending on the complexity of the sender and the receiver, within a certain cultural context. However, information exchange is impossible without any signal at all; communication is essentially based on passing the product of somebody's activity to another subject. The signal can certainly be associated with some complexity measure; but this inner complexity does not need to correlate with the content of the message and information transfer. Still, in the cultural context, the hierarchical organization of any signal can be considered, including its subjective meaning as one of the level of hierarchy. In this case, obviously, the formal complexity of the signal cannot be less than the quantity of information on either side of the communication act. One can observe that any quantitative notions are inapplicable to the activity as a whole, since it can be unfolded in quite different hierarchical structures, admitting an infinite variety of actions and operations, even within the current level of cultural development.
Yet another quantitative common approach to information is to consider the degree of novelty of the message to the receiver, rather than mere statistics of the signal. In a way, this is a special case of evaluating the quantity of information by the message-induced changes in the inner hierarchy of the receiver, which partially reflects the universal scheme of activity exchange. Folding typical communication acts in a number of standard transactions is an objective basis of the idea of novelty. In particular, something entirely new can hardly ever be recognized as meaningful; to function as a cultural link, the message must incorporate traditional elements, albeit unexpectedly organized. The new has to grow from within the old. Objectively, few people can invent anything absolutely uncommon, and the major problems with the meaning of the message arise from cultural incompatibility of different societies or social layers. Like the statistical measure, novelty also depends on the level of cultural hierarchy, and the commonality of cultural scales, a common interpretation system, is an indispensable requirement for mutual understanding. Language provides one of the possible integrative contexts. Traditional forms of reflexive activity play the same role. For example, to enjoy a musical piece, the listener must share the same scale hierarchies with the composer; music written in an uncommon scale will most probably be perceived as lacking order and harmony.
In any communication, the presence of a common cultural context makes the behavior of the partners highly correlated. In this respect, information exchange resembles quantum physics, which applies to essentially correlated systems observed from an upper level of dynamic hierarchy. This is the objective reason for the numerous attempts to reinterpret quantum mechanics in terms of a conscious observer, or even a kind of conscious demon manipulating quantum particles and fields. Taking similitude for identity is a typical source of mistakes in theoretical science, which is essentially based on scheme transfer.
The collective nature of conscious activity suggests yet another parallel to quantum physics. It well known that the parts of a quantum system are mutually correlated regardless of any physical interaction, as if they were communicating in no time. This "quantum telepathy" was much speculated upon as a reason for admitting the possibility of telepathy and extrasensory perception in humans. Sometimes it may seem that people can produce changes in the world by mere force of their will. In reality, the only way for the subject to influence nature is getting engaged in a conscious activity, combining physical interaction with communication and mental processes. However, in the motion of a highly correlated system, one can observe various collective effects apparently violating natural laws. Thus, the relative phases of oscillations in a standing wave are maintained without any energy transfer between the parts of the oscillating string; plasma waves can move faster than light, etc. Similar phenomena can be observed in cultural systems, provoking the illusion of extrasensory communication or perception.