The Extended Self: Architecture, Memes and Minds

Manchester: Manchester University Press (2014)
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In his wide-ranging study of architecture and cultural evolution, Chris Abel argues that, despite progress in sustainable development and design, resistance to changing personal and social identities shaped by a technology-based and energy-hungry culture is impeding efforts to avert drastic climate change. The book traces the roots of that culture to the coevolution of Homo sapiens and technology, from the first use of tools as artificial extensions of the human body to the motorized cities spreading around the world, whose uncontrolled effects are fast changing the planet itself. Advancing a new concept of the meme, called the 'technical meme', as the primary agent of cognitive extension and technical embodiment, Abel proposes a theory of the 'extended self' as a complex and diffuse outcome of that coevolution. Challenging conventional ideas of the self as a separate and autonomous being, the extended self, he explains, encompasses material and spatial as well as psychological and social elements, including the built environment and artifacts, and now reaches out into the virtual world of cyberspace. Drawing upon research into extended cognition and embodied minds from philosophy, psychology and the neurosciences, the book presents a new approach to environmental and cultural studies. N.B. This book was the winner of the International Committee of Architectural Critics 2017 Bruno Zevi Book Award by unanimous decision of the international jury.

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