Training day Overview: Introduction to researching embodiment in digital environments

Author: Mona Sakr

Yesterday’s training day on embodiment in digital environments was brimming with ideas, approaches and contexts. They all stemmed however, from the central concept that the body plays an essential role in human experience – so essential that theoretical divides between mind and body are difficult, if not impossible, to make.

Digital environments highlight the need to prioritise the body and help to explain why embodiment as a framework has become increasingly popular over the last twenty years. But these environments also call into question the very idea of the body (ie. what we mean by ‘body’) and its role in learning and experience. They enable us to grapple in new ways with old ideas about embodiment, and at the same time they demand that we ask new questions about embodiment as a concept and theory.

New and old questions about embodiment were explored through a wide range of research contexts as represented by the day’s speakers and in the mini-workshops:

  • Caroline Pelletier questioned what it means to represent the body realistically in the context of surgical simulation, and the different genres of representation that can be invoked in such environments.
  • Carey Jewitt and Sara Price looked at the positioning of the body in children’s scientific inquiry using tangible technologies. Using multimodal analysis, they demonstrated the importance of the body for setting the rhythm and pace of social interaction and learning.
  • Anton Franks and Andrew Burns introduced the concepts of frame, affect, action, role and voice in analysing the computer games that young people construct.
  • Niall Winters introduced the possibility that individuals’ tactical spatial practices are changed through their use of mobile technologies. Participants in the seminar had hands-on experience of how this might happen by exploring the area surrounding the London Knowledge Lab while using apps that encourage users to engage with space differently.

The diversity of those involved in delivering the seminar was mirrored by the diversity of the participants attending the day, who ranged from artists to psychologists, from film theorists to linguists. Discussion was lively and characterised by an abundance of exciting ideas that all beg further exploration. Below are contributions from participants explaining the relationship between embodiment and their particular research contexts.

Victoria Grace Walden –Embodiment and Non-Historical Realist Holocaust Films

James Booth – Embodiment and Academic Socialisation via New Social Media

Penny Lancaster – Think with your hands

Agnieska Knas – Embodiment in text-messages

Cécile Chevalier – Rendezvous & Untitled#21

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