Screen Time, Temporality, and (Dis)embodiment

Screen Time, Temporality, and (Dis)embodiment

Eduardo J. Santos, Ralph Ings Bannell, Camila De Paoli Leporace
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8163-5.ch003
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In this chapter, the authors will attempt to answer two related questions: How is our cognitive experience with time enacted and extended? Has the cognitive dimension of the experience of time lost its reference in the body? The background reviews relevant literature and shows the motivation for the main discussion of the chapter, especially the contrast between the authors' approach and the traditional symbolic-representational view. The principal argument will be that the dimension of the organism's coupling with the environment that can be called engagement with material culture—or things—has been undertheorized in the literature. Bringing this dimension into the analysis can, the authors argue, help explain how we experience psychological time. What's more, it can help understand the kinds of extra-bodily extensions that might explain why the use of technologies does not threaten disembodiment.
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Human beings are living in the digital age. One perceives an avalanche of events during a few hours or a day; communicates with a number of people at the same time, sending and receiving dozens of messages and e-mails; faces and solves different issues simultaneously. Humans are connected to a world of rapid changes, and this connection occurs through different screens, in a multitasking way.

Screen time is a concept that reflects contemporary reality, especially the quantity and modalities of time in the use of digital technologies. It is something that is recent and therefore still involves much discussion. The importance of temporality in the construction of human experience and the organization of social systems is well known. Is screen time qualitatively different from the temporalities experienced so far? And, what is its impact on our psychological and social functioning? Are there thresholds for good use, abuse and misuse?

Since the 1950s, when television was born and became a revolutionary phenomenon in the Western world, the discussion of the effects of technologies on the human mind and society has grown, especially with regard to the mental health of children. The time they spend watching television programs, and nowadays in front of other screens, and the impact that this has, for example, on the quality of sleep and the balance of circadian rhythms (Lissak, 2018; Moffat, 2014; Parent, Sanders, & Forehand, 2016; Wiecha et al., 2006), has been a constant theme of debate. With the great development of the Internet since the 1990s, and digital technologies in general, this discussion is exacerbated and also extends to its use by adolescents and adults. An important question here is how our temporality and cognition are intimately linked, through a circular causality, to our corporality. There are a variety of ways to analyze this relation in cognitive and developmental psychology and within the broader interdisciplinary area of cognitive science. The authors will review some of this literature below.

What the authors want to focus on in this chapter are two basic issues. The first is the relationship between technology use and our experience and perception of time. The second is the suspicion that the use of digital technologies can negatively interfere with the embodiment of mind. Is it possible that screen time can provoke a disembodied effect in our temporal and developmental architecture?

The authors will look at these issues through the prism of the embodied mind. The concept of embodied mind (Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1991; Shapiro, 2011, 2014) has developed extensively over the past few decades. Many different approaches can be included within this broad label, including enactive (Gibson, 1979; Noë, 2004, 2012; Gallagher, 2005, 2017; Hutto & Myin, 2013; Gallagher & Zahavi, 2008), embedded (Piaget, 1968; Triphon & Vonèche, 1996; Vygotsky, 1978) and extended (Clark & Chalmers, 1998; Clark, 1997, 2003, 2008, 2014, 2016; Menary, 2010; Wheeler, 2005) conceptions. In what follows the authors will refer mainly to the enactive and extended mind theses, because these approaches have specifically tied cognitive experiences to our active coupling with the environment and, in the case of the extended mind thesis, incorporated technologies into its analysis of cognition. These approaches are already interdisciplinary but the authors will include in our discussion work from philosophy and cognitive science, cognitive and developmental psychology and cognitive archeology and anthropology.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Enactive Mind: An approach to mind that puts the body in movement at the center of the explanation of how it works.

Agency: The capacity of a cognitive system to act.

Extended Mind: An approach to mind that understands external artifacts as component elements of its architecture and functioning.

Affordances: Things in the environment that enable cognitive functions such as perception.

Material Engagement: An approach to cognition that emphasizes the constitutive role of the physical engagement with things.

Embodied Mind: An approach to mind that sees the body as a constitutive element of its architecture and functioning.

Intentionality: A basic characteristic of mental states as always having objects.

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