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Infomateriality: Whitehead and Digital Experience amongst the Over 65s

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Presentation Given at EASST 2018, Lancaster as part of a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship project

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Infomateriality: Whitehead and Digital Experience amongst the Over 65s

  1. 1. INFOMATERIALITY WHITEHEAD AND DIGITAL EXPERIENCE AMONGST THE OVER 65S Photo: Northumberland National Park, NE England
  2. 2. PROJECT • British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship : 1.1.18 - 31.12.18 • “Understanding Digital Events: A philosophical and sociological study of virtual experience in the everyday” A. Sociological research B. Colloquium - essay collection to be published by Routledge C. Monograph • www.concrescence.org.uk/
  3. 3. SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH • Spring/Summer 2018 • Four week Diary studies, three entries per week - using a bespoke app - Six ‘research cases’: 1. Silver Surfers: digitally literate over 65s who are engaged with several digital devices on a day-to- day basis and confident in their use 2. Senior Explorers: over 65s with the means to engage who are gaining experience in paying bills, talking to their grandchildren on Skype, getting recipes off the web, etc 3. Senior Leapers: over 65s attempting to cross the digital divide, acquiring the means to do so and learning the skills to engage 4. Digital Young Professionals: student 18-25s doing IT/IS related courses at University, immersed in and training to become professionals in the digital economy 5. Digital Natives: student 18-25s doing non-IT related courses at University, using learning technologies and social media on a day-to-day basis as part of their studies and social lives 6. Digital Naturals: non-student 18-25s whose engagement with the digital is almost entirely through their smartphone • nVivo, Grounded Theory coding and themes; RA and PI separately; then together.
  4. 4. WHITEHEAD • Events rather than things • Non-bifurcated concept of nature - blurring dualities • Fallacy of misplaced concreteness / abstractions • Four-dimensional geometry - the process of concrescence of Actual Occasions into Objective Data Achnabreck, Kilmartin, Argyll & Bute, Scotland Alfred North Whitehead 1861-1947 British Mathematician and Philosopher
  5. 5. INFOMATERIALITY • More durational than ‘sociomateriality’ • Philosophic assemblage rather than system : importance/matter-of-fact : how we select, categorise and conceive significance : “Interest, involving that intensity of individual feeling which leads to publicity of expression” • The activity of finitude impressing itself on its environment : unity/multiplicity : wherever there is a region of nature (a body, a tree) which is itself the primary field of the expressions issuing from each of its parts, that region is alive [a molecule enters and exits the body…] • Understanding understanding is a hopeless task : never a completed static state of mind : There are snippets of understanding, and there are snippets of connections between these snippets : confusion and order both exist • “As we think, we live. This is why the assemblage of philosophic ideas is more than a specialist study. It moulds our type of civilisation” • Digital virtuality / infomateriality / cyberspace - exemplary of Whitehead’s non-bifurcated view of reality : we express ourselves in bytes and pixels; this defines our era • Latour references Whitehead repeatedly Importance Expression Understanding Infomateriality
  6. 6. GROUNDED THEORY • The aim of the sociological research is to generate theory that is grounded in the data • The monograph will then compare the process philosophy approach with the theory generated from the data : inductive/deductive interweaving in keeping with Whitehead • Do people’s interactions with the digital express / reveal / imply the infomaterial picture that arises from Whitehead’s ideas? The Ringing Stone, Isle of Tiree, Scotland
  7. 7. FIELDWORK: FIRST RESULTS • “Usually at weekends I try to stay away from my smartphone, laptop, tv etc. Those blue light screens are quite tiring” • “I use what is immediately to hand - desktop laptop iPad iPhone” • “it is inevitable that our data will be used to assist marketing… it’s fake news and lies that I object to” • “I used WhatsApp and received pictures of my granddaughters which made me happy” • “Eventbrite gave me a lot of grief” • “how emails are located when they’re in a reply chain”
  8. 8. TENTATIVE FIRST FINDINGS • importance of expression of personal connection to increase understanding through communication • embeddedness in sharing networks • concerns about privacy are little more than talk about closing the stable door • silos blinker us to multiplicity, but boundary blurring can crush diversity into a soup of union, rather than unity
  9. 9. THANKS WWW.CONCRESCENCE.ORG.UK DR DAVID KREPS D.G.KREPS@SALFORD.AC.UK DAVID.KREPS.ORG JESSICA MUIRHEAD J.MUIRHEAD@EDU.SALFORD.AC.UK IMAGERY: ALL PHOTOS, TAKEN BY DAVID KREPS, OF NEOLITHIC MARKED STONES IN THE UK - SHOWING HOW INFORMATION EMBEDDED IN MATERIALITY IS ONE OF THE EARLIEST SIGNS OF HUMAN ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ENVIRONMENT Long Meg, Penrith, NW England

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