Conceptualizing Materiality in the Digital Age: Examining the Relationship Among Humans,Technology and Language (Blog 1)

Our initial direction was to examine the fidget spinner, an analog toy that has gone viral in recent months, to conceptualize distraction and productivity in the Digital Age. After sifting through scholarly databases, we became fixated on exploring the role of touch and materiality in our digital-saturated generation. Thus, we have titled our project, “Conceptualizing Materiality in the Digital Age: Examining the Relationship Among Humans, Technology and Language.” The purpose of this project is to gain broader insights on the ways humans cope and adapt to technological advancements.

First, we will define materiality, a term whose primary meaning was limited to the notions of matter and tactility. The rise of digital culture expanded the definition of materiality due to the birth of cyberspace, a supposed intangible place. During a time in which screens mediate interaction, there is a heightened desire to fulfill the basic need for connection or to be in touch with others. We will examine words that are specific to the Digital Age such as “touchscreen,” which suggests that a technological component is now needed to achieve connectivity. Through our analysis, we will show that the expansion of language coincides with imperative to preserve a firm sense of self in an increasingly digitized era.

During this process, I will gain the experience of working with advanced qualitative research practices that will help me develop more effective methods for future studies. Moreover, I hope to hone my skills in analytical reading, academic writing and organization. We will use the database, JSTOR, to locate secondary sources including scholarly and academic journals on media philosophies. We will filter searches based on keywords including ‘materiality’, ‘phenomenology,’ ‘media technology,’ ‘tactility,’ and ‘touch.’ By reading the abstracts of related searches we can determine which readings are relevant to our project.

The theoretical frameworks for this project will stem from the perspectives of media theorists, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Marshall McLuhan and N. Katherine Hayles. To explore similar perspectives or to help clarify complex ideas, we will refer to other media theorists that appear in the articles. Once we gather foundational theories on materiality and human-technology interaction from JSTOR, we will use Google Scholar to find primary sources on fidget spinners. Then, we will draw connections among our sources to pose our own arguments about the changes in the relationship among humans, language and technology.

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