Week 2 Summary: Embodiment Relations and mobile technology

Just over half of children in the United States — 53 percent — now own a smartphone by the age of 11. And 84 percent of teenagers now have their own phones, immersing themselves in a rich and complex world of experiences that adults sometimes need a lot of decoding to understand (npr.org)

This week I was intrigued by the concept of embodiment, as it brought to mind some of the school students that I teach. A New Hope questioned ‘at what point do our bodies begin and end. How do we define our most intimate borders?” This has congruence with what Miller defines as embodiment relationship, in that “when technologies are being used, the tool and the user become one” and the object becomes “part of the body image and overall identify of the person” (Miller, 2011, 219). Vincent delves further into the theory of embodiment relation by examining the intimate relationship that many individuals have with their mobile devices. Citing the work of Richardson (2007), he outlines that the close proximity of mobile phones to the body and the manner in which they connect to a number of sensory functions creates a much more powerful connection to humans than any other type of technology we use.

This concept had significant influence on this week’s life-stream and I identified some YouTube clips that explored our increasingly complex relationship with mobiles, and how smartphone dependency has become a rapidly growing epidemic. I was particularly interested in the article that I tweeted from Psychology Today that argued the attachment of a young person to that of their mobile phone is akin to the relationship a child has with a teddy bear. I was further intrigued by the TEDx talks from Jeff Butler and Anastacia Dedykina who respectively delved into discussions of how mobiles phones change the way we think, and whether we could live without them.

In my school, this is particular concern of mine and despite the existence of a ‘silent and invisible’ mobile phone policy, I see youngsters walking around our campus carrying mobile phones as if the device was an appendage to their limb. There is no doubt that these youngsters have a deeply intimate relationship with their mobiles, and any suggestion of their removal can often lead to anxiety, and in some cases despair. As Vincent argues, the devices are very clearly an extension of themselves and the social platforms they are accessing are reflections of their identity and self. Therefore to forcibly remove the technology would be tantamount a technological amputation.

However, the question remains as to how much this increasingly symbiotic relationship humans have with mobile technology, will actually contribute to human development? Does the embodiment relationship enhance our ability to grow into more advanced versions of humanity, or does this desecrate humanity and stymie its potential to flourish?

Miller, V. (2011) The Body and Information Technology in Miller, V. Understanding digital culture pp. 207 – 223, London: Sage

As a teacher in secondary education, this video has resonated with me. Youngsters are increasingly viewing mobile technology as extensions of themselves, and as suggested by Miller (2009) have ‘achieved an intimacy with their users that other technologies have yet to match’