Towards a Merleau-Pontian account of the phenomenon of digital technology: from disembodiment to the Embodied Screen
Du Toit, J.
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Digital technology is a contemporaneous, encompassing phenomenon that necessitates philosophical investigation, particularly with regard to how the individual relates to digital technology artefacts. However, contemporary methodologies in Philosophy of Technology, that became prominent after the empirical turn, such as pragmatism and social constructivism, reduce the phenomenon of digital technology to a form of social epistemology far removed in scope from the individual. On the other hand, posthumanism as approach towards technology questions the inherent embodied facticity of the individual by speculatively postulating a modification and alteration of the human being in such inquiries. These methodological approaches suggest a rationalistically motivated disembodiment that underlies descriptions of the phenomenon of digital technology - in such accounts there is little recognition of the individual beyond the social, little recognition of facticity in terms of the individual's embodiment, and little understanding of the digital technology artefact beyond the artefactual. A full understanding of the richly intertwined and mutable dialectical relation between the embodied individual and the digital technological artefact is absent. Embodiment, per the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty, presents an alternative methodological approach for seeing this relationship within the phenomenon of digital technology anew. The facticity of the individual's body serves as vital framework for perception of the world and for interpersonal interaction, while also presenting a crucial point of access to the phenomenon of digital technology (which is itself continually changing and which may become hidden through continued use). Merleau-Ponty's concept of embodiment (and his later ontological concept of flesh) suggest the potential for a re-conceptualization of the phenomenon of digital technology by means of the concept of the Embodied Screen, which encompasses the embodied individual and the digital technology artefact to enlighten unique emergent characteristics in the phenomenon of digital technology that arise in this relation. These characteristics, rather than being tangential, must vitally be accounted for to allow a foundational, encompassing and multimodal description of the phenomenon of digital technology. Digital technology artefacts challenge the individual's perceptual faith through the constant immersion of the individual by digital technology artefacts. This challenge to perceptual faith necessitates imaginative signification, but through the Embodied Screen a continual and prominent level of imaginative signification is revealed that alters the individual's perception and behaviour. Furthermore, language use is revealed to be an ontologically concretizing force by means of the Embodied Screen. Such emergent characteristics fundamentally alter the individual's sense-making of the self, the world and the other, through the phenomenon of digital technology. The Embodied Screen thus also allows a re-evaluation of the digital technology artefact itself, which is seen to function as conduit for the individual's sense-making of the world by its capacities for latticing storytelling.
- Humanities