Enacting Media. An Embodied Account of Enculturation Between Neuromediality and New Cognitive Media Theory

This paper argues that the still-emerging paradigm of situated cognition requires a more systematic perspective on media to capture the enculturation of the human mind. By virtue of being media, cultural artifacts present central experiential models of the world for our embodied minds to latch onto. The paper identifies references to external media within embodied, extended, enactive, and predictive approaches to cognition, which remain underdeveloped in terms of the profound impact that media have on our mind. To grasp this impact, I propose an enactive account of media that is based on expansive habits as media-structured, embodied ways of bringing forth meaning and new domains of values. We apply such habits, for instance, when seeing a picture or perceiving a movie. They become established through a process of reciprocal adaptation between media artifacts and organisms and define the range of viable actions within such a media ecology. Within an artifactual habit, we then become attuned to a specific media work (e.g., a TV series, a picture, a text, or even a city) that engages us. Both the plurality of habits and the dynamical adjustments within a habit require a more flexible neural architecture than is addressed by classical cognitive neuroscience. To detail how neural and media processes interlock, I will introduce the concept of neuromediality and discuss radical predictive processing accounts that could contribute to the externalization of the mind by treating media themselves as generative models of the world. After a short primer on general media theory, I discuss media examples in three domains: pictures and moving images; digital media; architecture and the built environment. This discussion demonstrates the need for a new cognitive media theory based on enactive artifactual habits—one that will help us gain perspective on the continuous re-mediation of our mind.

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