Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Stadt- und Regionalsoziologie

Prof. Engin Isin at the Think and Drink Colloquium

Montag, 13.06.2016 Prof. Engin Isin, The Open University, UK Cyberspace and Mental Life ISW Urban and Regional Sociology
  • Wann 13.06.2016 von 18:00 bis 20:00
  • Wo Raum 002: Universitätsstr. 3b, 10117 Berlin
  • iCal

Prof. Engin Isin, The Open University, UK

Cyberspace and Mental Life


In 1903, just over a hundred years ago, Georg Simmel (1858-1918) asked questions about the relationship between life in the metropolis and mental life. Observing that city life was being rapidly transformed into a different kind of social and technical arrangement that demanded different mental capacities from but also created a new type of individual. This metropolitan type, Simmel argued, ‘creates a protective organ for itself against the profound disruption with which the fluctuations and discontinuities of the external milieu threaten it.’ This protection, Simmel thought, created an intellectual disposition or habitus, we would call after Pierre Bourdieu, that was different from an emotional disposition that non-metropolitan life had demanded. The blasé disposition was both the condition and consequence of calculability, precision, and timeliness that characterised the metropolis. Although these traits produced a strange type, it also afforded new kinds of freedom. Although I will assume that all of this is quite well known, I will still refresh our memory and then proceed to ask similar questions about cyberspace and mental life. Simmel could never have imagined the emergence of cyberspace but his questions are as probing today as they were then. After discussing the kind of space that cyberspace is I will proceed to ask similar questions about the kinds of dispositions and habitus cyberspace has engendered and whether these types are supplant or supplement blasé and indifferent types and whether we can assume a fundamental distinction between emotional and intellectual outlooks in cyberspace, I will draw some examples from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Airbnb, Uber and other platforms such as Reddit, GitHub, and Wikipedia to consider whether cyberspace has become both the condition and consequence of a new type of individual in the twenty-first century.




Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
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Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Universitätsstraße 3b
10117 Berlin