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Textual Dualism and Augmented Reality in the Russian Empire

Independent Scholar, 2007 N Willamette Blvd., Portland, OR 97217, USA
Future Internet 2012, 4(4), 1037-1048;
Submission received: 16 August 2012 / Revised: 6 November 2012 / Accepted: 5 December 2012 / Published: 10 December 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Theorizing the Web 2012)


While the current focus on how digital technology alters our conception of the self and its place in the broader perceived reality yields fascinating insight into modern issues, there is much to be gained by analyzing the presence of dualist and augmented reality discourses in a pre-digital era. This essay will examine the ontological interplay of textual dualist norms in the Russian and Soviet states of the 19th and early 20th centuries and how those norms were challenged by augmented claims embodied in rumors, refrains, and the spelling of names. By utilizing the informational concepts of mobility and asynchronicity, three Russian historical vignettes—the Emancipation of the Serfs in 1861, the documentation of Jews in Imperial Russia, and the attempts by Trotsky to realize Soviet symchka—demonstrate that not only are dualist discourses prevalent in periods outside of the contemporary, but also that the way in which those conflicts framed themselves in the past directly influences their deployment in today’s digital world.

1. Introduction

In 1861, the governor of Kaluga province in the Russian Empire ordered that 167 of his representatives, known as the “heralds of liberty”, travel to every community in the area and ensure that relevant sections of the recently enacted Emancipation statues be read and interpreted “correctly” by peasants who lived there. The precaution was well warranted. Given the momentous nature of the announcement, governors across varied provinces wondered how their peasant populations would react to the news of legal manumission. The proposed changes, upending over two hundred years of serfdom, would bring radical change to the relationship between peasant and landlord. One thing was very clear to rulers of the Russian empire; their peasants were keen interpreters of written documents whose contents, often, could not be read by the illiterate population. Even the tsar, who finished the draft that would become the Emancipation edict on the 19 February, waited until Lent to release the decree because it was then, under religious prohibition, that peasants were supposed to abstain from alcohol, a great enabler of glib tongues [1]. “Incorrect” interpretations espoused by peasants proved especially dangerous for Russian rulers because, at the core of their use, these variations exposed the fundamental crisis between textual dualist reality, advocated by the ruling elite, and an augmented reality, advocated by the peasants and others in subordinate positions of power. Emancipation was only one flashpoint in which this crisis manifested.
This essay will demonstrate clear empirical linkages between so-called digital dualist ontological claims of the present era with textual dualist ontological claims made by the Russian and Soviet states in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Here I am using Jurgenson’s discussions on digital dualism [2,3], defined briefly as “the systematic bias to see the digital and physical as separate; often as a zero-sum tradeoff where time and energy spent on one subtracts from the other.” What pierces both dualist frameworks named above, in terms of validating claims on objective reality, is the concept of augmented reality. Augmented reality holds that dualist conceptions obscure the workings of social interaction and power through false separation of reality into dual spheres, i.e., cyberspace and real life, when in fact there is only one reality amongst which both the digital and physical interoperate. In the same way that Jurgenson views online activism and social media as inductive of augmented reality effects [4], in that their pervasive and successful use blends both “atoms” and “bits”, I see similar blending arguments used by subjects in the Russian empire protesting the intrusion of textual dualist assertions through the augmented reality discourses found in rumors, refrains and the spelling of names.
Due to the survey nature of this essay, topics discussed and examined below touch upon their subjects only in a brief manner. My goal is not to exhaustively explore the nature of textual dualist claims in Imperial Russia, but rather to show that dualist and augmented discourses can be found in periods and locales removed from contemporary observation.
What has to be understood is that these discourses—dualist versus augmented—represent ontological claims to verified reality. Whereas tsarist textual edicts aspired to an ideal reality, something present day digital claims to cyber-utopianism can attest, their sourcing for validation and application stemmed from Enlightenment conceptions that saw in documentation a means to implement governing orders capable of dealing with complexities of the, then, modern era. Written edicts were meant to bring the large Russian empire into closer alignment, juridically, and this ambitious remaking of the social landscape rightly encountered resistance from those who based their lived reality on oral conceptions that, by their very nature, resisted homogenizing efforts documentary technologies asserted. Both issuer and recipient of the edict perceived the assertion of a dualist conception that then had to be reconciled. This leads us to questions concerning the transformative nature of ideas and the disruptive effects their ontological assertion of one verified reality over another can bring.

2. Mobility and Asynchronicity

Underlying my analysis of how Russian subjects framed oral augmented reality claims in the face of textual dualist norms found in written edicts and laws are informational concepts that I term mobility and asynchronicity [5]. Analyzing forms of expressed knowledge is often best served by limiting the scope of inquiry in order to keep one’s interest focused. When looking at augmented versus dualist claims under a “mobility” framework, this essay will ask the following question: to what degree does a knowledge construct allow for modification by the user or transmitter? Constructs that resist modification, like books or printed documents, possess “low mobility” attributes in that its form, even if copied, will remain similar in content and delivery. Constructs that allow modification, such as folktales or rumors, possess “high mobility” attributes that give its content and delivery great mutability between users and/or transmitters. To put it simply: low mobility constructs largely remain the same when transmitted while high mobility constructs largely change when transmitted. This has several implications with regards to interactions between dualist knowledge constructs, which for the Russians meant embracing low mobility textual sources, and augmented constructs, which for the subjects of Russia drew upon folkloric ideals of justice or vagueness of interpretation transliterating names or circulating rumors inherently produced.
Simon Franklin, a noted historian of Russia that focuses on written technologies, made an astute observation in his most recent article, “Mapping the Graphosphere”, regarding the interplay of cultural plurality in technology: “There may be one or several cultures using a given technology, and in each of those cultures the interrelations among technologies may function similarly or differently.” [6] When two different mobility constructs encounter each other in social space (a rumor meets a printed law) it often becomes evident that the knowledge contained in both is asynchronous in relation to each other. For example, a Russian law might stipulate an increase in peasant rents, while rumors circulated in the villages might say the new law applies only to certain peasants or none at all. The low mobility law, making one claim to reality, runs against the high mobility rumor, which makes an alternate claim to reality; thus producing asynchronicity. Unless this asynchronicity is either resolved or transmuted, it will produce disruptive effects in the social sphere. For the period under examination in this essay, asynchronous disruptions could manifest in peasant unrest or state assertion on monopoly of violence, but these were extreme results on a scale that also included compromise between both parties.
Framing an analysis around epistemological concepts like mobility and asynchronicity allow a more meaningful interoperation between differing expressions of knowledge, in this case oral and textual, to be detected. When combined with the ontological implications of dualist versus augmented claims to reality, mobility and asynchronicity demonstrate the depth and level of maneuver oral and textual expressions of knowledge utilized in assertion of one reality over another. This analysis of textual dualism, in turn, possesses implications for how we understand present day claims for digital dualist and augmented realities and all the potentials that lie between.
Because both mobility and asynchronicity inform the operation of epistemological knowledge claims in conflicts between dualist and augmented assertions on reality, there opens up a need to chart the waves of augmentation among enmeshed cultures as they operate in a specific social space and time. Augmented effects ebb and flow based on a participants physical location and technological utilization, which makes documenting permeation of particular cultures into social space a continuously dynamic activity. Gramsci’s short essay “The War of Maneuver to the War of Position” helps to clarify the stakes and processes involved in this dynamism [7]:
“…the war of maneuver subsists so long as it is a question of winning positions which are not decisive, so that all the resources of the State’s hegemony cannot be mobilized. But when… these positions have lost their value and only the decisive positions are at stake, then one passes over to siege warfare; this is concentrated, difficult, and requires exceptional qualities of patience and inventiveness.”
Mobility and asynchronous effects are often the catalyst in moving a particular issue or conflict from the war of maneuver to the war of position; that is, from a non-threatening position to one considered vital to the hegemonic exercise of power for ruling elites. In each of the three examples provided below, Emancipation of peasants in 1861, transliteration of Jewish names into Russian, and Trotsky’s ideal of Soviet smychka, the ruling authorities clearly experienced disruptive, asynchronous effects generated by the conflict between textual dualist and augmented claims to reality. At the center of these asynchronous effects stood questions regarding the hegemonic and ontological influence of one reality over another. Textual sources that reinforced the legal system, such as edicts by the tsar or the recording of births and baptisms in record books, created a textual dualist reality that the State held great hegemonic interest in preserving, despite the fact this dualism often stood in asynchronous juxtaposition to the lived reality documented. Sometimes peasants found ways, some active and some passive, to have their views and desires incorporated into the dualist reality being constructed via the implementation of laws. Other times, local landowning interests trumped peasant or citizen concerns, as economic or authoritarian questions were often at stake in the confrontations between dualist and augmented claims and the Imperial state could always rely upon its monopoly of violence to quell any sufficient protest. As textual laws were called to account for the lived reality of subjects, it became apparent that some disruptions could be tolerated while others could not. Discovering where that tolerable line existed is best suited by use of Gramsci’s methods in tandem with concepts like mobility and asynchronicity. Discovering why the tolerable line existed at all is best suited by the use of dualist and augmented ontological analysis.

3. Emancipation of 1861

Abolition of serfdom in the Russian empire provides an informative example through which to examine dualist versus augmented claims to reality. Fear of peasant “interpretation” of the historic declaration worried many in the tsar’s domains. Whereas previous efforts to reform, but not abolish, serfdom in the decades previous to 1861 made peasant interpretations of freedom a moot, but still dangerous, question (what Gramsci might call a war of maneuver), the new emancipation edict dictating terms of land allotments and mortgage payments made peasant interpretations of “freedom” (seen now in terms of a war of position) a much more important issue to authorities and nobles alike. The new manumission edict upended social realities surrounding both subject and ruler, resulting in a situation in which the terms of the new order were especially susceptible to interpretation from orders both low and high.
This is because the edict would be delivered by a stable, low mobility textual artifact that, while paying lip service to the “rule of law” ideals made more prominent with the rise of liberalistic influences in Russian thought [8,9], in fact only provided a thin veneer to maintain inequalities rife within the absolutist Russian system. Largely illiterate, peasants relied upon easily modified high mobility oral interpretations to challenge edicts they felt were either unfair, unjustified or would otherwise upend established relationships between subject and ruler. Textual dualist edicts were often asynchronous to the lived, augmented reality of the Russian peasant worldview because documentation asserted a homogenizing force that often contrasted against local understandings of justice and fairness, in addition to other ethical concepts. Peasants understood rhetorical shifts of the “social contract” introduced by textual modifications even though they themselves did not, generally, utilize textual technologies during the first half of the nineteenth century. Thus the increasing trend introduced by Peter the Great at the beginning of the 18th century towards asserting western textual dualist norms was not only noted but also challenged by peasant communities through patient and inventive means [10].
Beyond the precautions taken by the governor of the Kaluga province, there were other measures enacted by the government to quell any potential unrest or ill behavior stemming from peasant interpretation of the new law. Military planners deployed 80 regiments across European Russia in order to provide speedy relief should peasant emotions become too difficult for the massively understaffed rural presence of Tsarist authority to manage. Bishops were instructed to tell their subordinate clergymen that peasants should be reminded of their obligations to the state and local landowner alike, because the real fear was not necessarily peasant insurrection but rather that peasants would not sow/harvest the 1861 crop [1].
In effect, the Tsarist government knew emancipation would evolve from a war of position towards a war of siege as outlined by Gramsci. Their fears, while not realized on the scale imagined, did find some justification. Daniel Field, a prominent scholar of Russian peasants, noted this description from the Khar’kov provincial governor regarding the difficulty of getting peasants to accept the new laws [1]:
“Some squires, assisted by the mediators, have managed, with considerable sacrifice of their own advantage, to persuade the peasants to accept some kind of deal, but it very often happens that after an insignificant amount of time has passed the peasants renounce their adherence and the promises they have made, acting under the influence of some kind of absurd rumor which happens to reach them through passersby or which is even deliberately thought up by one of their fellows in order to dissuade the community from the agreement it has made.”
There is much to decipher in this gubernatorial statement. First, success has not been total for Khar’kov governor—only “some squires” managed to get peasants to agree to the new land charters (the emancipation edict stipulated that peasants were to sign “charters” acknowledging their acceptance of the new legal terms) and even then only at “considerable sacrifice of their own advantage”—which was still considerable even after making concessions. Next, after an “insignificant amount of time” the peasants have changed their minds. This was actually a tried and true tactic for peasants, who often performed delaying actions by withholding signatures or posing endless questions over the terms of new agreements. [11,12] The governor states that recalcitrant peasants were either “influenced” by an “absurd rumor” transmitted via passerby or “deliberately” thought up by one of their own. No matter what “considerable sacrifice” was made by the squires, the circulation of rumor could undo it all.
The textual document, a low mobility construct unable to be easily changed on the fly, found itself at the mercy of high mobility oral rumors. While the authorities may have believed their new laws would ameliorate the myriad problems associated with serfdom, they could not hope to negate the asynchronicity between peasant ideals of just and fair treatment and the values of supposed greater “equality” espoused by the tsar’s edict. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, the production of textual artifacts relied upon printing technologies that could not possibly keep up with the pace of oral rumors or challenges that called into question the validity of the edict or law presented. Second, presentation of a dualist construct shifted power, temporarily, to those interpreting the edict, a fact that many peasants were keen to acknowledge and challenge through their oral interpretations. Emancipation was only one of many edicts to come down through the Imperial hierarchy to impact peasant life. While they could not exercise their power in the hallowed halls of tsarist power, they could challenge the interpretation of that act or propose an alternative viewpoint on the ethical considerations underlying the new legal declaration.
Even more interesting is that the governors stance, mentioned above, invoked the stereotypical “Myth of the Peasant”—essentially, that peasant attitudes could only be changed by either an outside force (the passerby) or an inside agitator. Looking at the quote again, it is not entirely clear what provoked the peasants depicted here to “renounce their adherence and the promises they have made”—was it a passerby or was it an inside agitator? One thing is clear—“rumor” derailed everything. But on a deeper level, the invocation of the “peasant myth” demonstrates a paradoxical understanding on both the power and obstinacy of peasant populations. Peasants could create their own rumors, but this was often written off (quite literally) as the act of a solitary agitator and not the act of a determined populace, while many attempts to change peasant behavior were seen as only applicable if a “certified” passerby (recall the “heralds of liberty” mentioned before?) engaged the peasant population. In effect, the peasant was not deemed capable of making their own interpretation—they had to be acted upon by an outside force or “rouge” element within.
We have only to look at some common refrains to get an idea how peasants utilized “augmented reality” claims to dispute textual sources:
“The tsar wants it, but the boyars resist [13].”
“We belong to you, but the land belongs to us [1].”
“You discuss the law, but we know the law [14].”
“The tsar is merciful, but the psar (clerk) has no mercy [1].”
What gives these refrains power is that the peasants make tacit acknowledgement regarding portions of an authority’s textual claim, while at the same time turning that original request on its head. Field [1] called these peasant phrases “an expression of submission entwined with an assertion of right.” Yes, the tsar wants a new law passed but the method through which it is being carried out, that is the local nobility (boyars were the antecedents to landed nobility of the 19th century), perverts the true meaning of the law. Serfdom binds the peasant to the land, but who exactly owns the land and should not the one who works the land the most be able to claim some degree of ownership in it? Laws can be discussed, even validated, so long as the interpretation meets our standards of justice and integrity. Best of all, and most pertinent to the investigation of this essay, is the idea that the tsar is the source of mercy but even he cannot make up for the power of the clerks pen. “I don’t rule Russia,” Tsar Nicholas I once remarked, “a thousand clerks do,” yet, as the peasant expressions above demonstrate, high mobility oral claims representing augmented reality could challenge both tsar and clerk on a level not easily matched by low mobility textual means.
In his study of land charters, created between 1861–1863, that measured land allotments and mortgage repayments as stipulated by the Tsarist Emancipation edict, Alan Wildman noted that peasant resistance to such charters often seized upon “absurd rumors” or showed indifference to argument or persuasion in the face of wide-ranging textual reshaping of social relationships between subject and ruler [12]. Wildman’s summation [12] of the larger aims behind peasant and landowner conflicts over new terms of land ownership and indebtedness brought about by Emancipation echoes the thoughts of Gramsci quoted above: “Each party was testing the other, seeking the limits achievable through bold actions and drawing back when those limits were reached. In other words, theses were ritualized occasions when the symbolic acts were understood by both parties and from which future behavior could be governed.”
One important point to keep in mind when evaluating conflicts between peasants and landowners is that the laws afforded peasants protection or right of challenge in courts or other settings of authority that few of this class could approach, much less meaningfully participate in. Any other peasant act outside of these venues was considered illegal. Even though the new law sought to bring a liberalistic-infused sense of equality for all under the law by doing away with the bondages of serfdom, its methods of implementation and the terms of its execution could easily be seen by peasants as precipitation of a new order of serfdom. In this way the land charters and emancipation edict together represented a coherent dualist system predicated on textual representations of reality. Consequences of this textual dependence will be examined further below, but for the present it should be noted that while the edicts and charters represented an ideal reality to which authorities hoped others would adhere, it nonetheless represented to many peasants a continued insistence on textual dualist norms that held the augmented experience in clear disdain. Unless authorities used military force or found representative peasants to sign away community rights, persistent use of high mobility rumors or “willful” claims by peasants in seeking parcels of land of their own choosing or a reduction in the cost of the mortgage loan they had to repay often achieved limited results [12]. Local authorities simply could not uphold, without force, the assertion of a dualist reality espoused in the low mobility Emancipation edict and pursuant land charters. In many cases, augmented approaches outlined above yielded small, but measureable, gains.
Increasing reliance by the Imperial regime upon textual sources for not just laws but also documentation over the course of the 19th century meant that textual sources continued to clash disruptively with the augmented experience in Imperial Russia. As we shall see with the case of transliterating names into Russian, the stroke of the pen created asynchronicity between textual claims to reality and the lived augmented reality of Jewish subjects.

4. Recording Jewish Identity

While peasants would increasingly deal with the textual dualist reality of the Imperial government in the post-emancipation period, another significant population of the Russian domain, Jews, also experienced asynchronous disruptions when attempting to assert their augmented reality claims in the face of textual dualist documentation records. As Avrutin writes in his book [15], Jews and the Imperial State: Identification Politics in Tsarist Russia: “While Jews could be easily identified visually as a collective group or defined in legal terms, authorities found it much more challenging to document Jews as individuals.”
Avrutin states that one of the more significant changes the Russian government made in documenting its population occurred in the middle of the 19th century with a shift from “tax census revisions” to that of passports, city census records (considered far more accurate in identifying a growing urban population) and confession specific metrical books. Metrical books recorded the births, baptisms, marriages and deaths that occurred in a community, delineating identity through an individual’s denomination, legal status, ethnic origin and place of residence [15]. While this low mobility documentation provided greater insight on the population, building a panoptic gaze of greater efficiency, it also created growing asynchronicity between individuals documented and the high mobility lives those individuals actually lived. The individual and the panoptic gaze the state held on that individual became separated under this textual dualist interpretation of reality.
For members of the Jewish population, who could possess multiple legal and religious claims to identity in an empire that found it difficult to categorize those located on ill-defined ethnic and sectarian boundaries, the sometimes painful realization that the low mobility documented self did not match the high mobility lived self exposed additional asynchronous effects generated by the presumption of a dualist system on an augmented social landscape.
Confusions arose when Jewish names were improperly transliterated into Russian, confounding draft registrations or admission into higher education. Gendered gaps in metrical books arose when Crown Rabbis failed to attend a females naming ceremony—the event at which registration of birth occurred. Because the Imperial state placed great confidence in the veracity of information collected by the Crown Rabbis (a process that began in 1835), Avrutin notes that this allowed authorities to view the Jewish population as a distinct religious community comprised of individual, distinct civil identities. The documentation followed an individual as they moved across the time and space of the Russian empire, and for some the inaccuracies contained within this textual specter proved difficult to exorcise. Correction of the “identity” record was almost impossible, especially for those without means of seeking direct judicial or legislative intervention. Once an entry was made, amending that entry required submitting a petition to the Imperial bureaucracy which was often slow to respond and weary of allowing the records to be amended [15]. As Avrutin notes [15], “a change in the document—however small or inconsequential it may have appeared—undermined the integrity of the entire record-keeping system.” While the low mobility, stable document provided panoptic power to the Imperial state, it could not readily adapt to the high mobility, augmented lives of subjects and thus reported only an asynchronous textual dualist reality.
Of course, embracing the power of textual dualist norms gave the Imperial regime increased ability to perceive their populations, even control them to a certain extent, and it was these benefits that made the “asynchronous” disruptions produced tolerable. Yet within this stance there is a trace of self-delusion that Field [15] hit upon in the following quote on the larger implications of the textual dualist Emancipation edict:
“Because the reform deliberately perpetuated so many of the social and economic characteristics of serfdom, it may be that the regime was indulging in wishful thinking or placing hopes in the power of words, supposing great benefits must accrue simply because it had found the courage to declare that serfdom, the basic institution of Russian life, was abolished.” (Emphasis mine)
Compare this to Avrutin’s observation on the presence of the document for an individual in the Imperial system [15]:
“As a fundamental marker of identity, the document followed individuals as they changed place of residence, marital status, and even religious denomination. The document’s civic importance—as the most important tool by which the state obtained knowledge of its population ensured that officials took much time in enforcing proper registration while continuing to devise new administrative methods to improve record—keeping practices.”
Under the Imperial regime, Russian rulers utilized textual dualist discourses for the power potentials they brought in governance and observation of far-flung populations. As noted above, one of the goals of documentation is to promote homogeneity among a diverse population located across vast distances. For the 19th and early 20th centuries, no technological innovation matched print in its scope to project power and continuity. Yet chronic shortages of trained civil servants, not to mention extreme economic and social disparities between populations, meant that documentation technologies of the period were woefully inadequate to overcome augmented challenges brought by subjects. This trend was compounded by the fact that Russian Imperial authorities never came up with a convincing and unifying conception of what defined a Russian citizen, a common issue with multi-ethnic empires of the 19th century. Examples like the Jewish situation described above demonstrate the nigh-impossible task textual dualist claims to reality took on when trying to assert a new social order in augmented space. Tsarist dependency on crude documentary efforts informed by an absolutist driven categorization of society necessarily tied its hands when attempting to resolve inevitable asynchronous conflicts. Introduction of new ideologies and new technological potentials brought about by the demise of the Imperial regime and the eventual rise of the Soviet regime in Russia, however, did little to diminish the allure of dualist discourses for the new, modern ruling state.

5. Soviet Smychka

The Bolshevik revolution unleashed in Russia a spirit of modernism built upon a feeling that socialist understandings of history and progress would usher in a new age for humanity. One early project the Bolsheviks pursued was resolution of the persistent and intractable cultural separation between urban and rural populations in the Russian territories. Consider Trotsky and his desire to achieve Soviet smychka, or collaboration/union, among the peasants and workers through new communication technologies. In the early 1920’s he asked [16], “What will transform the country into a unitary economic and cultural whole?” His question went to the heart of dualist versus augmented claims to reality and the disruptive asynchronicity their conflation produced. When the Bolsheviks took power, what they found was a country split with sincere disaffection between those who lived in the countryside and those who lived in the city. The Russian Civil War that followed, with its use of “War Communism” and forced grain requisitions, did little to ameliorate that disaffection. What plagued the previous Imperial regime, in part, was an obvious temporal discord between oral, high mobility, constructs and the textual, low mobility, sources the empire utilized to govern. The government simply could not print new documents, new textual dualist claims, at a rate commiserate with the pace of developing rumors or interpretations or lived experiences pointing towards an understanding of reality based on augmented claims. Bolshevik idealists, and in particular Trotsky, felt they had a modern solution to the traditional problem.
Trotsky believed he could give the Soviet regime an ability to overcome this temporal discord through significant spending on the post, telegraph, telephone and other technologies that would bridge the great space and time of the Soviet Empire and create true smychka. His desire to develop enhanced communications networks hints at a recognition that older methods and older protocols simply could not keep up with augmented reality constantly developing on the ground. New, advanced communication technologies of the early 20th century allowed Trotsky to see in newspapers and other media forms a means of achieving “cultural construction”, a process of both dictating desired ideas from above and absorbing criticisms and opinions from below. Embodying this principle in practice, Trotsky, as commissar or war, utilized a special train outfitted with a printing press, telegraph, telephone and movie cameras for use in his propaganda efforts [16]. Instead of printing one decree or newssheet, Trotsky could print new editions rapidly and thereby reduce the amount of asynchronicity between low mobility dualist constructions and the high mobility augmented realities they encountered.
Unfortunately for Trotsky, technology did not prove to be the panacea desired for curing the numerous social and ethnic legacies left behind by the Imperial system. Even as enhanced communications technologies developed, Soviet utilization of these technologies never achieved the desired symchka dreamed of by the regimes founding architects—they only perpetuated dualist norms that became increasingly asynchronous with the lived reality of many citizens. Despite a brief flirtation with utopian ideals, the Bolshevik and, later, Soviet governments continued to embrace perhaps the most complete textual dualist system yet created, with the five year plans, Stakhanovism, and “Dizzy with Success” campaigns that marked the early Soviet period providing only a prelude to the continuing divergence in Soviet life of the lived augmented reality against the espoused dualist claims to reality found in the pages of Pravda or official bureaucratic reports.

6. Conclusions

In conclusion, while this essay scratched the surface on an empirical potential for examining implementation of textual dualist configurations and the augmented realities that challenge them, I want to stress that even in an era where digital networks did not exist one can find many historical examples worthy of deeper examination when investigating the development of dualist ontological discourses. Interplay between textual dualist conceptions of identity and the augmented reality those conceptions measured up against framed many social conflicts experienced by the Russian empire over the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries, conflicts that have strong parallels to many digital dualist understandings propagated today. While it is easy to highlight conflict or clear differences of opinion, it is important to remember that this interplay contains significant variance along the spectrum between dualist and augmented perspectives.
Epistemological concepts like mobility and asynchronicity help break down the complex question of what is at stake in conflicts involving dualist and augmented claims to reality to something concretely manageable. Taken together, they do not supplant the role of subaltern studies or suggest that previous analyses misunderstood the conflicts encountered by oral and textual artifacts. They are also not monolithic in their potential to understand these conflicts. Rather, this limited investigation is meant to suggest one specific analytical framework on how textual sources of reality interacted with understandings based on the lived, augmented experience. This is especially important considering the primacy of textual sources in implementing liberalistic inspired law codes and the increased transition of Russian society during the 19th century from communal to legalistic rule. Studies on the interplay of orality and text demand new methodologies and analytical approaches in order to probe this relationship further. Outlining the dichotomy of dualist and augmented frameworks operating through high and low mobility is but one route by which this might be accomplished.
Yet beyond positing a new understanding of how dualist and augmented frameworks operated in Imperial/Soviet Russia, the examples described above also help us to understand the interplay of dualist and augmented ontological frameworks in present day digital terms. Jurgenson’s introduction of digital dualism [2,3] as a descriptive concept should promote further debate as to the term’s proper scope, granulation, and applicability. Elaboration, by this essay, of textual dualism provides the first steps towards a necessary genealogical perspective required for such broader debate. How is informational mobility altered by the architectural design of modern day data platforms, like Facebook or Twitter? What form and for how long can asynchronicity exist in a digital medium where the communication speeds greatly surpass that of the period examined above? How are these epistemological concepts used in ontologically asserting a digital dualist reality or an augmented reality? A textual dualist analysis may do little to specifically answer these modern questions, but it does demonstrate that such questions need to be asked.
Just as Trotsky sought to implement symchka between the working class and peasants through technological amelioration of asynchronous effects, digital platforms today strive to integrate the high mobility demands into their stable, low mobility structures without being disrupted by similar effects. Further investigation may yield insight into both genealogical and architectural forms of dualist and augmented interactions with high/low mobility constructs. While the digital dualist conflicts of today are unique in their approach, they nonetheless draw upon a storied history that places the dualist/augmented understanding of reality amidst a broader scope of human experience.


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Antley, J. Textual Dualism and Augmented Reality in the Russian Empire. Future Internet 2012, 4, 1037-1048.

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Antley J. Textual Dualism and Augmented Reality in the Russian Empire. Future Internet. 2012; 4(4):1037-1048.

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Antley, Jeremy. 2012. "Textual Dualism and Augmented Reality in the Russian Empire" Future Internet 4, no. 4: 1037-1048.

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