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Week Five—Media, Minds and Models (Why We Behave As We Do and How Media Influences This)

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Media, Minds and Bodies

[lecture material recordings and pdf provided elsewhere]

Main points for this week!

1. Ideas about how media and communications work and ideas about how minds (and emotions, perception, and more generally humans and animals etc) work are very much entwined. They often influence each other at a very deep level. For example, the most prominent model of mind of the last 70 years is probably the cognitivist. Yet this in turn is based on the idea of communication as inputs, signal or computer processing and outputs (as in the famous Shannon and Weaver model of communication, which some call the “model of the century”). Indeed, the same group of people, most of whom knew each other developed these models together in the 1940s to 1960s.

2Models of, and assumptions about, how minds (and feelings, etc), and how media and communication work, are really, really important. They change how things are done, what is done, and even what the world or “we” actually become, dramatically. You will have in fact worked with a lot of these models and assumptions during your studies.

3. This obviously changes media and communications, from giving speeches and having conversation, to human-computer (and phone etc) interaction to virtual and augmented reality or artificial intelligence.

4. Less obviously, until you think about, it also changes everything that assumes something about media and communications and/or about models of human thinking/feeling/perception that are themselves influenced by media and communications models (and vice versa). So I would argue much (most perhaps) within education, management, psychology, economics, politics is transformed as different assumptions about media and communication/minds and feelings come into play. Science is also affected, as in fact are most areas of activity. For one thing, this means that understanding media and communications is very powerful, beyond communications per se.

5. Many of these models and the way they’re put to use are enabling. However, they can also be used highly manipulatively (in education but also in for example, “internet addiction”, etc). So understanding what’s being done, using various models of how humans work, via media, is also very powerful.

So this week a brief history of major models of media, communications, and of models of how minds and bodies work; of the relation between all these different models: of their real consequences in practice and culture; how they lead us to think and work with media and communications; and possible alternatives. The main point is any model is a way of trying to stabilise all the shifting fields and flows of the world. The never quite do this. However, they do work to an extent, in that, whether these models are right or not, they push things in one direction rather than another. They create situations that induce certain kinds of behaviours and thoughts. Most importantly, they are taken up as the basis for making and engaging with media and communications. They are also important in the many fields in which media and communications play a large role (management, education, psychology, science, law, etc). So knowing your models is really very important! It might explain why you think/what you do what you think/do a lot of the time.

In sum, models and concepts and assumptions, right or wrong, combine to build worlds, make for a large part of experience, enable certain designs and manufactures of technology to assist us, to takeover etc (think here of “interaction design” for one thing). Sometimes we’re caught between old models and new models, old tech and new tech, and the different ways models and tech lead us to engage with the world. There are obviously tensions through all this.

No model is right!!

(please note which of the lecture recordings are required preparations and which are extra and optional—as per below).

For this week you need to:

* listen to the first short audio, that introduces the week.

* listen to the next short audio segment about models that follows it.

* engage with/read the videos and other materials below. I’ve curated them as carefully as I can to take you through a wide range of huge issues in about an hour (including my two audio lectures).

* then, only if you want, there are a series of shorter audio excerpts from the lecture you can listen to, based on the powerpoint (on models, behaviourism, cybernetics, cognitivism, constructivism and newer ideas about embodied, extended and enactive mind).

* the pdf of my longer lecture on these issues, on which my audio is based, is also provided elsewhere (reading this is completely optional, and there are some extra videos below, but those are optional.

Required Materials (45 minutes of materials plus about 21 minutes of Andrew’s two required mini-lectures)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (trailer for this film—if you haven’t seen it it’s interesting on the issues for this week—it’s about at technique that completely removes memories and about a woman and a man who have each other removed from their memories) (you might need to copy this link and go to another tab in your browser in order to watch it, as this is an official trailer)

de Waal, Frans (2016) ‘How Bad Biology is Killing the Economy: The flaws in the competition-is-good-for-you logic’, Evonomics: The Next Evolution of Economics, May 13, (on how a wrong model produced a certain kind of world)

Operant Conditioning (which comes our of behaviourism) and Game Design (only the first 2:30 minutes)

Skinner and his Daughter Video (only the first two minutes—B. F. Skinner is one of the founders of behaviourism)

Paul Pangaro What is Cybernetic? (5 mins)

Vannevar Bush on machines and brains (very short but sums up most of cognitivism in a sentence—and this is one of the key thinkers in our area in the 20th century)

Cognitivism and Learning (first 2 minutes. This is about learning but much of it applies to how you might think about other work with information in media and communication. In fact, you’ll see that the model is very much a computer/informational model of mind and therefore learning. It’s also interesting because this is the dominant model of learning in Australian universities at the moment)

Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism & Learning and Instructional Theory (3 mintues—compares the theories in learning but again this applies to media and communications as well)

Re-orienting into “Embodied Mind” (first 3 minutes)

Embodied Mind (Nora Evett—first 1.45 minutes)

Prof Andy Clark and Prof Barbara Webb: Embodied Cognition and the Sciences of the Mind (first 2.50 minutes)

Andy Clark on Profound Embodiment (3.5 minutes—Clark is one of the main thinkers of “extended mind”)

Alva Noë (first 5 minutes—Noë’s work is both about embodied mind and heading towards enactivism)

read this book description (it will take you about 2 minutes) for the book Radicalizing Enactivism

Abby Kluchin on affect and viscerality (we’ll deal with affect in more detail in week 8 but it’s also important here—the video is on the page linked to)

Extra Lecture Materials if you want to go further are Provided Elsewhere with a couple of video documentaries linked to below

These are

Andrew’s Mini-Lecture: Cognitivism and its Opponents 1

Andrew’s Mini-Lecture on Behaviourism

Andrew’s Mini-Lecture on Cybernetics and Cognitivism

Andrew’s Mini-Lecture on Embodied, Extended and Enactivists Ideas of Mind

Good Spanish documentary on embodied mind critiquing cognitivism (Spanish with English sub-titles)

The Embodied Self: Evan Thompson in Discussion with Krista Tippett (Evan Thompson is one of the main thinkers of embodied mind)


Media, Minds and Bodies

A brief history of models of media, communications, minds and bodies: their real consequences in practice and culture; how they lead us to think and work with media and communications; possible alternatives. This will have been covered very briefly in the lecture material and in some notes below. Consideration of the present and future of these relations. Why does this matter?

* Because it underlies nearly everything that happens in media and communications, enabling and limiting what happens.

* Because media and communications are changing dramatically and older models of minds, bodies, media and communications, and indeed humans and world, might be getting in the way of us adapting to these changes. There are newer (and indeed sometimes older, alternative) and perhaps more exciting ways of thinking about minds, bodies and world that perhaps work better with contemporary media communications.

* And actually, it also explains a great deal of your experience in education over the years.

Questions/discussion: Building on last week’s work on experience and William James’ views of human psychology, today we’re thinking about the very complex relations between different models of mind, media, communication, bodies and worldThe question of which models are right is important but not our main concern today. More important, and our focus for today, is how different models of basic processes such as thinking, feeling, memory and perception are taken up and used in the way we work with media and communications in everyday life. Some of these models have been the most used throughout the last 50 to 100 years. Some are more recent, but now quite prominent, challengers to these models. None of these models are quite compatible with each other. Indeed some of them vehemently disagree about the very basics of thinking, feeling and communicating. Yet in practice aspects of several of them are often taken up at once. Most of these models have close ties to media theory and media practice, or to, for example, HCI or human-computer interaction design. Indeed some of these models borrow directly from models of communication. It’s important that you know a bit about these models—when they’re being used to inform how you might work with producing media, understand audiences, creating campaigns, designing interaction or just using new media technologies, trying to persuade people or in general doing anything to do with media and communications. It’s important to know which models might be assumed in any context and whether these are the best for the occasion.

First up, what are your own assumptions about how thinking processes work? Perception? Memory? “Protention” (projections into the future)? Feeling and being affected by the world? Sensation? How do perception, sensation, thinking and feelings relate? What is consciousness? What is attention?

Second, in a group, talk about how your own (various) assumptions about all the above make for different assumptions about media, media change, society and social change? Try to think through the relations between perception, thinking, memory, protention, etc, in a variety of media/social contexts. What difference do these assumptions make to how your engage with media? To how you work with media and communications, or even just with other people? Can you perhaps begin to identify where some of your own assumptions are informed by models of mind and media in history (for example, some people think of the mind as working liking a computer, or the psyche as “under pressure” like a hydraulic system)?

Thirdly, what do the readings, lecture and videos for this week tell you about minds, perceptions, feelings, and media? Have you changed your understanding of new media, cultural and social change? What can we say generally about this? When do we need to be more specific?

Required Readings/Explorations

[These readings are all quite short, in fact, overall there’s around 25 pages to read, but there are lots of ideas to work with]

[right here] First up, the extra sections in this course outline for this week (below) are important reading, as they ground everything else

{provided in pdf elsewhere] Terranova, Tiziana (2006) ‘The Concept of Information’, Theory, Culture and Society, 23(2-3): 286-288 (this is very condensed but only about a page and a half. You can quickly see how many different models of mind and world run through the changing takes on what information is, and where and how you might find it).

The following Wikipedia references are very short.

[online] ‘Behaviourism’, Wikipedia, <> (you only need to read the opening definition)

[online] ‘Cybernetics’, Wikipedia, <> (again you only have to read the opening definition)

[online] ‘Cognitivism (psychology)’, Wikipedia, <> (you only need to read the opening definition)

[online] ‘Constructivism’, Wikipedia, <> (you only have to read the beginning)

[online] ‘Embodied Cognition’, Wikipedia, <> (you only need to read the opening definition)

[online] ‘Enactivism’, Wikipedia, <> (you only need to read the opening definition)

[online] ‘The Extended Mind’, Wikipedia, <>

Ask yourself what models of how media and communications work might relate to these different understandings of mind/feeling/behaviour. How might media (or other technologies) have perhaps contributed to the development of these models of mind (for example, the computer as symbol processor and cognitivism as seeing mind as the processing of symbols)?

[online] Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <> (you are only required to read some of the beginning, from the start, down to the words ‘which destroys the world heedlessly.’ After that things get complex! Those who enjoy a challenge read the rest. It’s actually pretty interesting. Or, you can skim.)

[online] Noë, Alva (2010) ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, 13:7 Cosmos and Culture <>

[online] Dalton, S. (n.d.) ‘e sense’ [this is a way of using interaction devices to transformation perception involving a ball from sight to vibrations on the body]

[online] Kay, Alan (if you didn’t watch this for the lecture watch it now … about 10 minutes but quite remarkable … may well change your understanding of learning, the body and the mind. Kay is one of the great innovators in interface design and thinking about computers and society. It’s of a woman who has never played tennis before who learns to play very quickly via an interestingly different method of instruction. See <> for more on Alan Kay who is very important in the history of interaction design. 

[online] Pamoukaghlian, Veronica (2011) ‘Mind Games: Science’s Attempts at Thought Control’,, December 28 <>

Extra Resources

[online] If you have time, this is well worth the effort (if not you don’t have to read it) Terranova, Tiziana (2012) ‘Attention, Economy and the Brain’, Culture Machine, 13,

Clark, Andy (2010) ‘Natural-born Cyborgs? Reflections on Bodies, Minds and Human Enhancement’,<> (a great talk on cyborgs and extended mind, etc—actual talk begins around 9 minutes. Clark is a good speaker, and wears great shirts)

Wikipedia (n.d.) <> (Stiegler is a philosopher of technology and culture who thinks the human is defined as that animal that takes up technics.

Stiegler, Bernard (2003) ‘Our Ailing Educational Institutions’, Culture Machine, 5, <> (difficult but key)

Wikipedia (n.d.) Technics and Time 1, <,_1> (even this Wikipedia entry is difficult but worthwhile if you want to give it a go)

Saunders, Alan (2010) “The Extended Mind’, Philosopher’s Zone October 2, 2010 <> (podcast—you can download the audio)

John Sutton’s (philosopher of memory/extended mind) page: <>

Simons, Daniel (1999) ‘Selective Attention Test’ (you will often see something like this in first year Psychology, in which people don’t notice a person in a gorilla suit who clearly comes into the middle of the events because their attention is elsewhere in the scene—see also <>)

Sutton, John ‘Media, Memory and Embodied Cognition’ Scan 2(2), <>

Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Desire and Knowledge: The Dead Seize the Living’, Ars Industrialis:association internationale pour une politique industrielle des technologies de l’esprit, <>

Some Notes on Memory, Media, Time and Perception


Two important (perhaps the most important) aspects of the human in this context are memory and anticipation. Let’s just deal with memory.

Memory is of course much thought about, but still not entirely understood, even by philosophers and scientists. So there are a lot of ways of looking at memory. Let’s consider some of the older ways.

First, you could divide it into short-term and long term memory (with perhaps a medium term in-between, where things are “ready to hand” but not quite conscious). You could think of this in parallel to a conscious, unconscious and pre-conscious form of memory. This finds a parallel in the onscreen, hard drive and RAM aspects of a computer (although I’m not saying that the mind or brain is like a computer). Of course, through all of this is something of a notion of “symbolic processing” – the idea that we can create representations such as symbols or pictures, process them, store them away in an archive of some kind (the brain or the hard drive) and then recall them at will.

A second way of thinking about memory follows the phenomenologist Husserl. Husserl writes about “primary retention” and “secondary retention”. Primary retention accounts for the fact that the past persists in the present long enough for us to have any kind of experience at all—we experience the passing of past in the present. Secondary retention is an act of ‘recollection’ by which we bring the past back, so to speak. All of this seems somewhat “natural” or “human”.

A third famous way of looking at memory is that of the French novelist Proust (in his huge work, Remembrance of Things Past). He wrote of the difference between voluntary and involuntary memory. The first of these—voluntary memory—is a little like the symbolic processing idea. We want to remember something, we consciously put the appropriate techniques into motion, and it comes back to us, though often not very vividly. The second—involuntary memory, is different. We don’t choose to have it, but it comes to us independent of our volition. Normally it is triggered. Somewhat famously in Proust’s novel, the narrator bites into a little cake and memories come flooding back to him. Or he feels a step move under his feet and this triggers several hundred pages of rich memories. Involuntary memories are much more vivid. It is almost as if you are there.

All of this seems somehow essentially human—but what about the technical supports involved (the cake we could say, or the step that moves and upsets our balance)?

This is precisely where things get even more complicated. Indeed, even if one of the things that seems most quintessentially human, memory also starts to look profoundly technical. Here we could think beyond “primary and secondary retention” to what Stiegler calls ‘tertiary memory’ (in Cohen, p245—see note at end). Tertiary memory is a term for the way in which technical supports (whether cake baking or films or photograph albums or iPods) not only trigger “natural memory”, but might provide the context for all memory. This is to say that memory might always in a sense be cultural, and that this might mean that it is always somewhat technical. And of course, media play a huge role in all this (which is probably why media theorists such as ourselves might like this idea a lot!).

The ancient Greek philosophers had already realised this, but did not always like it. They thought that techniques to assist memory (notably writing!) would destroy or undermine “natural” memory (the ability to remember lots without obvious technical assistance). Yet this led them to promote alternative techniques (such as the mnemotechnics or the creation of memory “palaces”) that would assist “natural” memory. They also addressed the problem of where memories came from, if not from culture and technical supports (they realised that if the latter was the case then the idea of “natural” memory was in danger). For them, the most profound memories came basically from ‘elsewhere’ – from past lives, for example. Technologies such as writing would mess this up quite a bit because they would imply that memories could exist outside of the human mind/spirit.

Yet, despite the persistence of the idea that technologies will destroy what is “natural” within us, we have continued to develop more and more technologies and techniques for memory assistance. Perhaps that is what culture is. In this respect, the computer is not just a calculating device. It is a writing device (one that can write programs for behaviours, thereby remembering them). It is also therefore a memory device. Hypertext, the memex, forms of analog and digital storage (tapes, films, disks, files) are all memory technologies. Have we lost our “natural” memories, were they always “technical”, or is the division between natural and technical not as obvious as it sometimes seems?

In sum, when we think deeply about memory, it not only seems quintessentially human; it also fundamentally questions the “human”.

For more on this question see the article by John Sutton in Tofts, Johnson and Cavallero, or his book Philosophy and Memory Traces: Descartes to connectionism (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1998). For an interesting take on the machine/human divide (quite different to Stiegler’s – and easier reading to boot!) in relation to issues to do with cognition see the work by Andy Clark, especially Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World together again (Cambridge, MA:MIT Press, 1997), and Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2003), Clark’s Mindware: and introduction to the philosophy of cognitive science (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2001), is also excellent.

Is there really a Present?

The obvious answer to this question is “yes”. Yet many things complicate this answer – perhaps even contradict it. Two things are as follows.

Firstly, what of the “past in the present” or “the future in the present”? We are always haunted by the past, and pushed on to the future by the past. This implies that the past might be in the present – it would have to be for us to experience its pushing in the present. In what sense is the “past in the present” really the past then? And what does it do to the present (which starts to look like an big assemblages of pasts all pushing us into the future).

We are also, of course, always anticipating the future, and thus the future is “the future in the present”. Media are, of course, very much involved with the “past in the present” and the “future in the present”. Of course, the past that has past (that is, all of it – everything that has already happened) is much larger than the “past in the present” we deal with at any given time. And the real future to come is much more unpredictable than the one we attempt to anticipate. Nevertheless, we constantly (and this is perhaps our primary reason for the ongoing development of media) attempt to work with both past and future. Does this really leave any room for the present as such? Is the present really that important, despite all those injunctions to seize the day and live for the moment?

Second, is it actually possible to experience the present (assuming it does exist)? To put one answer simply, it takes time for us to process experience, even at the smallest level of perception. Thus the present that we experience is really a processed present – in reality, we are literally experiencing the (very recent) past. In fact, Benjamin Libet has calculated that it can take up to .5 of a second to consciously “experience the present” (see Massumi’s Parables for the Virtual, pp29-31). More than that, he has theorised that one of the many tricks of perception that we have developed is precisely to lead us to experience this past as the present. Even better (or worse) he has suggested that often what we think is a conscious decision is only another trick based on the body having already (unconsciously) begun to react to a situation, and then giving us the illusion of having “decided” to do something consciously (there is an ongoing dispute about much of the timing here but the point remains). We get a glimpse of this when we touch something very hot and withdraw our hand before we think about it, then only later tell ourselves that we “decided” to do this. For some theorists, this means that we have to think of a ‘large now’ (Husserl – again see the Stiegler) or a ‘deep now’ (Varela). Brian Eno even has a project called the ‘long now’ (which paradoxically draws attention to how insigificant the present moment is). Other theorists think that the present is always split, paradoxical.  Massumi has a subtle take on Libet’s ideas, suggesting that our sense of the present arises from conscious and non-conscious processes working with each other. Our sense of the present is always being formed and unformed, becoming, shifting in time.

Again, all through this complication of past and present we are also constantly anticipating the future. It arguably also bleeds into our “past/present” actions in very literal forms of anticipation (“fight or flight” reflexes, desires, etc) that are fully embodied.

All of which is to say that although we might think of the present as that which is solid, it is fact the least solid ground on which we stand. Put simply, it is constantly moving on from the past into the future, and we could almost say that the present is by-passed.

So although the present might really be there, it seems unlikely that we experience it that much – at least consciously. You might be able to “seize the day” but it is literally impossible to “live in the moment”.

With delay, feedback, transformation and so on, media might be helping us deal with the complexities of living in the past-future.

Perception, Affect, and Media

Perception is never as simple as we think it is—and how we think of perception is crucial to our understanding of media. In fact, there is still a great deal of disagreement about how perception works, but several things seem likely. First, there is a great amount of individuality to perception. There is not one message that “gets” through in the same way in all contexts. As Bergson puts it, our body is a special image (with regard to ourselves) because it seems the centre of our perceptions. Secondly, this particularity of perception is partly because a great deal of our perception is based upon our individual experience— that, is, our memory of past perceptions (which tend to reflect particular experiences). Thirdly, our perceptions are fairly confused and muddy most of the time, partly because the contexts of perception are so complex. Fourthly, there is little doubt that “reason”, perception and simply being affected by the world are all mixed up together (which includes how we feel about things).

Although there is now a multitude of approaches to media, in part because of the diversity of contemporary media technologies and uses, more traditional media theories (especially communications theories) often tend to assume a fairly simple theory of perception. This is one you’ll be familiar with. In it there is a clear sender, message and receiver. Of course, there is a lot of sense to this (and later versions of this are much more complex), but it is also true that all three aspects of this notion of mediation have been questioned for a long time. For a start, it takes little account of feedback from the receiver into the whole process, or of their own particular modes of reception. And it assumes that media are only about messages—that is, the imparting of information. This makes media events seem to be very much “rational” and predictable approaches—much more so than they probably are.

In fact, rationality may not pre-exist being affected by the world (even if this is usually how we think of it). It is more likely that it is the other way around. That is, rationality (our thoughts), and even our identifiable feelings, may well emerge from the rich complexity of our being affected by the world, and affecting the world in turn (our ability to do both—be affected by the world and affect it in turn—arguably corresponds to our degree of power in the world, as we’ll see in the week in which we focus on affect).

This only makes mediation—the means by which we engage it and the models that inform this—the more important. Yet it also makes media something a bit more complex than a series of messages that are sent and received.

Media’s effects are seldom simple (another common theory of media—media effects theory—proposes as much). As we discussed in previous weeks, the “ecological” contexts are much more complex than this would suggest.

To think about this further (completely optional)

Look at a specific technology in terms of its relation to memory. You could look at an older technology: the encyclopedia, Vannevar Bush’s Memex, Ted Nelson’s plans for Hypertext, films or the walkman. You could look at contemporary media, e.g. the iPhone, a gaming console or Ocular Rift’s VR headset. Think also about the relation of computer memory to “your own” memory. You might ask yourself how much it is “your own”. Also, try preparing a speech using some of the techniques drawn from Greek mnemotechnics

We might also look at some video excerpts today to do with memory and the idea of the human/technical support in relation to memory/past/future. We could look at Chris Marker’s Sunless, his CD-rom, Immemory, or his film La Jetée. In general you should consider specific examples of media that deal with the themes of time, mind, memory, past/future and so on. These might include the Terminator films, Twelve MonkeysFinal FantasyBlade RunnerInceptionBeing John MalkovichEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Memento.

Bernard Stiegler (2001) ‘Derrida and technology: fidelity at the limits of deconstruction and the prosthesis of faith’ in Tom Cohen (ed.) Jacques Derrida and the humanities: a critical reader Cambridge:Cambridge University Press:256-269