Critical, creative and digital writingEcriture critique, créative et numérique

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Interactional experience

If interactional thinking was a way of thinking of one's embeddedness in the world as a dynamic process and thus of thinking of one's life as a continuous interaction, interactional experience is the application of that principle to everyday matters. In other words, interactional experience is a way of actually experiencing the world as an interaction rather than as an action. The problem with conceiving life as the sum of one's actions upon the world is precisely that it entails a disembedded intentionality, as if the cause of your actions, your motivation, were detached from the material world. Thinking that you act upon the world is an illusion that conceals the fact that you are also reacting to the world. Ultimately, action and reaction are separated only in language; in actuality, only interaction exists. Interactional experience is thus the process of interacting and being conscious of it. It implies that when you do something, you keep in mind your involvement in a process of interaction with the world. For instance, imagine that you are hungry and decide to grab something to bite. If you consider that being hungry is a purely biological need, then you are wrong. The fact is that hunger is tied to your embeddedness in the environment, eating food being a way of acquiring energy to enable the interaction inherent to life–movement for instance. In that context, thinking that you have decided to get some food unilaterally to achieve satiety is also wrong. The motivation behind your action here is part of the process of interaction. You have decided to get some food because you were hungry, and you were hungry because at the moment your body needed energy to keep on the process of interaction. This example also shows that we are constantly in interaction with the environment: in this case, the human organism absorbs parts of its environment (food) and expels parts of its body (skin cells, hair, feces). In the same vein, all trivial actions of our daily lives are in fact interactions. Interactional experience is the recognition of that fact. Breathing, blinking, sighing, and so on all belong to the process of life. *** We are all more or less conscious that everything we do is in some way tied to our environments. The problem is that the contemporary Western mindset is so powerfully directed towards separating the human interior from the environmental exterior that our spontaneous awareness of being in the process of living is counterbalanced with the belief that we are in a state of being alive. Another conceptual problem that undermines interactional experience is the tendency that some languages have to reduce everything into static binaries: dead or alive, acting or reacting, natural or cultural. This stasis–often explained by a wish to simplify the world into a comprehensible object–does not account for the dynamic and complex reality of interactional experience. Therefore, realizing interactional experience is really about acknowledging the complexity of living, and then learning about it. In that way, the sciences, whether they be social, psychological, human, or physical, all contribute to expand one's knowledge of the world and one's place in it. Interactional experience cannot be realised without an extensive knowledge of the world! The problem is then to get the most people to think interactionally so that they can then experience interactionally. One way of doing that is to teach people at a very young age about their involvement with the world, for instance by explaining how each of their actions is actually part of a process of interaction. The purpose of that would be to allow the next generation to escape the fallacious dichotomies that reign over some of our contemporary societies. If we do that at a large scale, then a new generation of human may manage to regain control of their impacts on the global ecosystem.