From Virtual to Embodied Extremism: An Existential Phenomenological account of Extremist Echo Chambers through Ortega y Gasset and Merleau-Ponty

Acta Academica 54 (3):208-228 (2022)
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This paper explores the existential motivation for the formation of extremist echo chambers through a phenomenological analysis. We advance two claims. Firstly, following Ortega y Gasset, that virtuality is a constant framework for experience. And secondly, following Merleau-Ponty, that there is persistent embodiment in online spaces. On this account virtuality is a permanent feature of embodiment, existing prior to technological intervention while at the same time being modifiable by technological artefacts. Understanding virtuality in this way allows us to analyse the existential phenomenological characteristics of extremist echo chambers online. We argue that due to the persistence of embodiment throughout, and the restructuring of the virtual axes of experience, such online spaces can and do influence political praxis in offline spaces.

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