Analysing the science and art of communication by considering interactions between humans and machines in Iain M. Banks’ The Player of Games.
Communication between humans and machines in Banks’ The Player of Games, as well as in his writings about the Culture presented outside of this and other novels, is framed as largely reliant upon the use of a shared synthetic language called Marain. This language is characterised as being culturally inclusive, able to support the technical and representational needs of its users in all different contexts, while also being as concise and unambiguous as possible.
This idea of a precise and all-encompassing language in support of Culture society can be analysed through various communication theories many of which are associated with scientific models and the use of quantitative measurement. These scientific analyses of communication using Marain can be related to Banks’ suggestion that, in Culture society, the mind itself is far more important than the way in which that mind is embodied.
However, a consideration of the details of communication between humans and machines in The Player of Games draws attention to the value of nonverbal signs in their interactions, and thus to the importance of their bodies. Attending to the complex and changing nature of relations between specific humans and machines in the novel suggests a need to analyse their communication in terms that consider more than the precise transmission of information in the language Marain, and that recognise the art of communication, using both language and body in interactions with others.
My contention is not that communication need be thought of as either a science or an art, but rather that an analysis of communication practice that recognises its complexity can only be supported by embracing pluralism in communication theory.