ArgLab • Permanent Seminar

Robert Clowes

Material Engagement and Immaterial Culture: The Internet as Cognitive Artefact

I will present work toward an invited talk I will be giving at Keble College, Oxford University in June for Creativity Cluster Workshop around the theme of Creative Evolution: Mind, biosocial plasticity and material engagement.


I am interested in working through the idea that artefacts allow cognitive innovation. In part, this is to try to develop resources for conceptualizing how the internet might allow creative possibilities for human cognition, rather than, necessarily seeing simply “impacting” upon us (Carr, 2008, 2010). (The impact metaphor is frequently used in current discussions, and suggests that human beings are the recipients and technology the agent).


This talk takes the theory of material engagement (Malafouris, 2004) which was in part developed to interpret the archaeological record of bronze age Greece and explain the role of material culture in developing new forms of human thought. I will present some aspects of Malafouris´ analysis of Mycenaean material culture with an aim to exploring an “archaeology of the present´ with respect to current practices of usage around internet and related technologies. Especially, the talk will focus on the relationship between technology and agency and the specificity of internet technology in interpreting this relationship