Accepted Paper:

Bodies and screens: imagined affordances and metaphors in the pursuit of wellbeing  


Theodora Sutton (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines intersections between technology, body, and health in a digital detoxing community. It discusses how metaphors shape imagined affordances of the digital, as well as material ecologies of body, personhood, and wellbeing.

Paper long abstract:

In 2008, the founder of digital detoxing was critically ill. Attributing his injuries to digital "burnout" in his job at a technology company, he organized the first digital detox event in the San Francisco Bay Area as an intervention for himself and others who use devices in an "unhealthy" way.

This paper focuses on the ways that human bodies and digital technology are conceived of in the now several-thousand-strong digital detoxing community. It examines the ways in which metaphors shape "imagined affordances" (Nagy & Neff, 2015), material ecologies, and notions of self, and how these, in turn, place digital technology as detrimental to wellbeing.

Digital detoxers conceive digital technology as a disruption to the natural order of things: toxic and manipulative. They fashion themselves as healthy subjects against technology, by piecing together a bricolage of pseudo-medical digital ills. They describe how before they found digital detoxing, "the internet was coursing through my body," and still fear "what it's doing to our brains."

How does this community explicate the interface of body and device? How do metaphors shape their understanding of technology and health? What embodied and discursive strategies do they employ to maintain a sense of wellbeing while under continual digital threat? And how do they ultimately judge whether wellbeing has been attained? These questions hope to enable a rich panel discussion of the topic of material ecology and wellbeing, at the intersection of human and non-human matter.

Panel Body03
Corporeality & material ecology: the affordances of stuff and wellbeing