The aim of this interdisciplinary (conceptual-philosophical, media-theoretical, and qualitative-empirical) program is to investigate if, and if so, to what extent and in what way, digital information and communication technologies are transforming the (construction of) personal and cultural identity. To that end we will develop a theory of ludic identity that critically elaborates on Ricoeur's theory of narrative identity. In this theory play and games are not only appropriate metaphors for human identity, but they are also conceived of as means by which people reflexively construct their identity.
The theory of ludic identity, the outlines of which have been sketched in some of the principal applicants previous publications, will be further developed and critically evaluated in three case studies (three PhD projects) focusing on (the domestication of) three different media, respectively: 1. mobile phones, 2. websites, and 3. computer games. Each case study will examine the way the medium-specific characteristics shape and are being shaped by the participation of the user, and on the implications of this for the reflexive construction of personal and cultural identities.
By way of dialectical counterpoint, in each of the case studies the practice of reflexive identity construction will be confronted with a specific development that threatens to subject this reflexive self-construction to the logic of an external system (respectively processes of commercialization, globalization and homogenization). The applicants will not only act as the supervisors of the PhD projects, but will also write a synthetic monograph in which the results of the case studies will be integrated and situated in a wider context of historical and philosophical approaches to culture.
This program has been completed in 2010
In this five year programme, funded by NWO, a group of researchers of Utrecht University, Leiden University, and Erasmus University Rotterdam investigate how diverse contemporary perspectives on what it means to be human interact with each other, and ask which role the humanities could play in the integration of these diverse perspectives
Human beings constitute the research domain of many different disciplines. The natural sciences study the human body and the material basis of human behaviour and mental activity. The social sciences establish regularities in individual and social behaviour. The humanities study artistic, literary and cultural expressions of human beings. Finally, there are normative disciplines like law and ethics that see human beings as agents with responsibility and dignity.
The human being is therefore studied as an organism, as a being that creates meaning and culture and as an accountable agent. Apart from those academic perspectives, each of us operates with an implicit understanding of him- or herself in different practical roles. Although all these perspectives on what it means to be human interact with each other, the question how to deal with this diversity remains insufficiently reflected.
The goals of the programme are 1) to identify those academic debates where there is an urgent need to transcend the boundaries of a discipline towards a more general perspective on the human being, and 2) to examine the theoretical and methodological resources of the humanities for articulating and developing forms of practical self-understanding. By 'practical self-understanding' we refer to the reflective capacity of human beings to integrate the diverse ways in which they can think about themselves into a coherent (or even consistent) perspective that is able to offer normative orientation. This capacity forms the basis of not only a large part of our everyday experiences, but also of many of our social, cultural and political institutions.
In ten subprojects, the research group, which consists of scholars from different disciplines, will:
(1) examine tensions between different perspectives on self-understanding in important contemporary debates in the natural sciences (such as in evolutionary biology, genetics, and psychiatry) and examine possible contributions of the humanities to those debates;
(2) investigate possible contributions of traditional humanities (literary theory, history, theology) to practical self-understanding;
(3) examine the relevance of normative conceptions of the human being both in the history of philosophy as well as in contemporary discourse in a bid to establish their relevance;
(4) analyze these three lines of research in order to achieve a provisional synthesis which would show the various ways in which those perspectives are connected.
The aim of the programme is not only to develop a contribution to practical self-understanding but also to provide an impulse for discussion on the meaning and purpose of the humanities, their relation to other disciplines, and their role in society.
The sub-projects I participate in are:
In addition, Düwell, Prof. Dr. Marcus and I will write the synthesizing monograph.