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robertogreco : self-consciousness   2

The Convivial Society, No. 5: Action
"In any case, we occupy a perplexing place, it seems to me, given the nature of the world constituted by digital media. By "world" I mean something like the interpretation of reality that we inhabit. It is within these worlds that our action derives motive force and intelligibility. Human beings have always shared the same earth, but we have lived in very different worlds.

The shape of our world in this sense is molded by a number of factors, some of which are felt by others and some which may be unique to us. Invariably, however, our technology and media come into play. They sustain the symbolic and conceptual infrastructure of our worlds. They nourish and constrain the imagination. They generate habits and patterns of thought. They not only supply the contents of thought, they condition what is thinkable. And our actions are meaningful within these worlds and the implicit narrative frames they provide for our lives.

It seems to me that one consequence of digital media is the proliferation of such worlds and the emergence of a public sphere in which these worlds become unavoidably entangled, for better and, very often, for worse. Under these conditions, our worlds fray and shear. Motivation is sapped, purpose depleted. Regrettably, one result of this is reactionary violence. But another result is nihilism. Another still is apathy or paralysis. Ironic detachment is yet another. This is just one way the conditions for meaningful action are undermined.

Action also requires a context in order to be intelligible and meaningful. It requires a time and a place. But we are alienated from both time and place, so we are often at loss as to what we are to do. This dynamic was already identified by Kierkegaard in the mid-nineteenth century as the telegraph contributed to the emergence of "the news" as we have come to know it: daily dispatches of happenings from around the globe.

Kierkegaard, in Hubert Dreyfus's summary, believed "the new massive distribution of desituated information was making every sort of information immediately available to anyone, thereby producing a desituated, detached spectator. Thus, the new power of the press to disseminate information to everyone in a nation led its readers to transcend their local, personal involvement . . . . Kierkegaard saw that the public sphere was destined to become a detached world in which everyone had an opinion about and commented on all public matters without needing any first-hand experience and without having or wanting any responsibility." Perhaps that very last line holds an important clue. Perhaps action demands responsibility and that is precisely what we are unwilling to take.

Hannah Arendt, too, had a great deal to say about action, which for her was a deeply political phenomenon in the sense that it was made possible by the plurality of the human condition. "Action, the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter," she wrote, "corresponds to the human condition of plurality … this plurality is specifically the condition — not only the conditio sine qua non, but the conditio per quam — of all political life." Action, as she noted, happened "without the intermediary of things or matter." She imagines, thus, the face-to-face encounter where action is speech and speech is action. It was through action that we disclosed ourselves before others and received in return the integrity of the self.

She distinguished between the private and the public realm, an ancient distinction, of course. The private realm was the realm of the family, the household. The public realm was the realm where individuals appeared before one another and where their words and their deeds counted for something. She also introduced a third category, the social realm. A more recent development, it was the realm of mass society. A realm of a diminished plurality that also entailed anonymity. Individuals are aggregated in the social realm, but they do not appear before one another and thus action, in her sense, was undermined.

Much of her analysis, it seems to me, can be applied to what has become the realm of our appearance: social media. It is where most of us turn to be seen and to make our mark, as it were. But we find that the technological intermediary that constitutes this space of our appearing works against us. The scale is all wrong. Rather than returning to us the gift of integrity, it amplifies our self-consciousness. It disassociates word and deed. It discourages responsibility. It tempts us to mistake performative gestures for action.

Arendt, however, was also the theorist of new beginnings, of natality, and with this I will bring these comments to a close: “But there remains also the truth that every end in history also contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise, the only ‘message’ which the end can ever produce. Beginning, before it becomes a historical event, is the supreme capacity of man; politically, it is identical with man’s freedom. Initium ut esset homo creatus est– 'that a beginning be made man was created' said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.”"
conviviality  lmsacasas  2018  tools  toolsforconvivilaity  zoominginandout  morality  purpose  reality  understanding  violence  digital  socialmedia  kierkegaard  apathy  hubertdreyfus  hannharendt  action  intgrity  self-consciousness  michaelsacasas 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Why You Never Truly Leave High School: New science on its corrosive, traumatizing effects. -- New York Magazine
"Our self-image from those years, in other words, is especially adhesive. So, too, are our preferences. “There’s no reason why, at the age of 60, I should still be listening to the Allman Brothers,” Steinberg says. “Yet no matter how old you are, the music you listen to for the rest of your life is probably what you listened to when you were an adolescent.” Only extremely recent advances in neuroscience have begun to help explain why.

It turns out that just before adolescence, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that governs our ability to reason, grasp abstractions, control impulses, and self-­reflect—undergoes a huge flurry of activity, giving young adults the intellectual capacity to form an identity, to develop the notion of a self. Any cultural stimuli we are exposed to during puberty can, therefore, make more of an impression, because we’re now perceiving them discerningly and metacognitively as things to sweep into our self-concepts or reject (I am the kind of person who likes the Allman Brothers). “During times when your identity is in transition,” says Steinberg, “it’s possible you store memories better than you do in times of stability.”"

"Until the Great Depression, the majority of American adolescents didn’t even graduate from high school. Once kids hit their teen years, they did a variety of things: farmed, helped run the home, earned a regular wage. Before the banning of child labor, they worked in factories and textile mills and mines. All were different roads to adulthood; many were undesirable, if not outright Dickensian. But these disparate paths did arguably have one virtue in common: They placed adolescent children alongside adults. They were not sequestered as they matured. Now teens live in a biosphere of their own. In their recent book Escaping the Endless Adolescence, psychologists Joseph and Claudia Worrell Allen note that teenagers today spend just 16 hours per week interacting with adults and 60 with their cohort. One century ago, it was almost exactly the reverse.

Something happens when children spend so much time apart from adult company. They start to generate a culture with independent values and priorities. James Coleman, a renowned mid-century sociologist, was among the first to analyze that culture in his seminal 1961 work, The Adolescent Society, and he wasn’t very impressed. “Our society has within its midst a set of small teen-age societies,” he wrote, “which focus teen-age interests and attitudes on things far removed from adult responsibilities.” Yes, his words were prudish, but many parents have had some version of these misgivings ever since, especially those who’ve consciously opted not to send their kids into the Roman amphi­theater. (From the website of the National Home Education Network: “Ironically, one of the reasons many of us have chosen to educate our own is precisely this very issue of socialization! Children spending time with individuals of all ages more closely resembles real life than does a same-age school setting.”)"
adolescence  adolescents  childhood  culture  argentina  photography  identity  highschool  society  socialization  social  memory  memories  stability  change  transition  neuroscience  ervinggoffman  brenébrown  shame  self-consciousness  tavigevinson  kojiueno  winnieholzman  kurtvonnegut  deborahyurgelun-todd  popularity  facebook  keithhampton  breakfastclub  peers  self-image  paulfeig  robertfaris  irinawrning  patlevitt  laurencesteinberg  deborahcarr  robertcrosnoe  jamescoleman  unschooling  deschooling  development  sociology  psychology  agesegregation  teens  parenting  vonnegut 
april 2013 by robertogreco

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