Simmel’s concept of the “Stranger” elucidates on the processes of assimilation that inform the socio-psychological phenomenon of collectivity and belonging. Simmel is careful to clarify that the stranger is not necessarily a newcomer, but can also be understood as a visitor. From this perspective, the stranger can be assumed to exist outside of the local ecology (local in the sense of general membership), and as resident within but still alien to a particular sub-group. This is an important feature to interrogate as it challenges the boundaries of agency and perceptivity as they relate to this idea of assimilation. Simmel’s argument, similar to Schutz, assumes a temporal and physical localization of the relationship. Where Simmel seems to differ is with regard to his focus on the externalized processes of assimilation (forces acting from the outside in to the individual).
When framed in the context of the information ecology, where one’s membership in a group does not necessarily imply their understanding, agency or perceptivity… what an be said of the assimilation processes here? Does the performance of identity beyond the agency of the individual obviate or undermine Simmel’s concept of the stranger? Or does it add a socially constructed technology dimension to it? McLemore describes how the existing order of an apparatus can be disrupted with the arrival of a stranger, again reflecting a very perceptible, temporal awareness of that individual. Yet in the hidden systems of the information ecology, that disruption serves a very particular, commodity driven goals. The disruption that McLemore describes, is more likely to be evidenced as a result of those hidden systems becoming visible to users on the outside. This phenomenon is apparent wherever a privacy limitations are exposed, or when systems managing personal information come under attack.