Engineering affect: emotion regulation, the internet, and the techno-social niche

Philosophical Topics 47 (2):205-231 (2019)
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Philosophical work exploring the relation between cognition and the Internet is now an active area of research. Some adopt an externalist framework, arguing that the Internet should be seen as environmental scaffolding that drives and shapes cognition. However, despite growing interest in this topic, little attention has been paid to how the Internet influences our affective life — our moods, emotions, and our ability to regulate these and other feeling states. We argue that the Internet scaffolds not only cognition but also affect. Using various case studies, we consider some ways that we are increasingly dependent on our Internet-enabled “techno-social niches” to regulate the contours of our own affective life and participate in the affective lives of others. We argue further that, unlike many of the other environmental resources we use to regulate affect, the Internet has distinct properties that introduce new dimensions of complexity to these regulative processes. First, it is radically social in a way many of these other resources are not. Second, it is a radically distributed and decentralized resource; no one individual or agent is responsible for the Internet’s content or its affective impact on users. Accordingly, while the Internet can profoundly augment and enrich our affective life and deepen our connection with others, there is also a distinctive kind of affective precarity built into our online endeavors as well.

Author Profiles

Joel Krueger
University of Exeter
Lucy Osler
Cardiff University


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