“I’m going to talk about everything in the world:… self and technology.” 10 minutes on nothing about technology, then 10 minutes connecting the first 10 to mobile communications.

Humans are “designed to operate with objects:” we’re the only species who also engage in conceptual blending, to take things that are complex and diffuse, and to integrate them into familiar frameworks.

Take cause-motion constructions: I threw the ball through the window, but “England pushed France to war” is a cause-motion construction at a vastly different scale, and even though they’re different phenomena, we use the cause-motion construction to make sense of it. This allows us to turn unfamiliar things into familiar ones, make big phenomena into ones at human scale, develop and evolve culture, etc..

Ironically, we’re not built to understand ourselves: we’re built to understand our world well enough to avoid being eaten and to find things to eat, but self-consciousness is an accident rather than an evolutionary advantage. We can describe ourselves in terms of stable identities, even though we vary greatly over our lives. We explain our actions in terms of desires or rationality, even though we often act first and “make” the decision a few milliseconds later.

What has all this to do with technology?

We have always blended our selves with our technologies. Writing and language are technologies, and are especially powerful ones. (The metaphor of communications is especially powerful in cause-motion constructions: we think of the self as converser, talk about “peoples of the book,” etc.) These days, we think of ourselves in terms of our communications technologies, by blending our general concept of ourselves with our understanding of how the communications technology works. In a sense, we know our technologies better than we know ourselves.

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This matters because of the addictive power of communications technologies; the ease with which we can create avatars or online identities radically different from the ones we have in real life; the opportunities it creates to merge with others (or at least to engage in collective action), to differentiate or contextualize our identities (e.g., having different SIM cards that work in different countries, have different contacts).

[ Posted from Hungarian Academy of Sciences via plazes.com ]

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