Module 5: Embodied Thinking

Gut Reaction

Embodied thinking includes both a conscious and an unconscious awareness of how the body reacts to external stimuli, a sense of muscle, movement, balance, and touch, not to mention visceral and emotional sensations that may lack a specific physical correlate, incorporating empathic understanding of what it feels like to be someone (or even something) else. It is, to my mind, an underused method for exploring the depths of what it means to be, and thereby an excellent tool for building one’s own creativity.

When considering Digital Citizenship, it was challenging coming up with physical actions associated with the topics such as literacy, access, commerce, rights and responsibilities, security, law and etiquette. Certainly all of these had correlates in the physical world, but the very concept of transferring them to the digital world removed them from that physical space and concomitantly limited the physical behaviors associated with them.

However, as the fifth grade class at our school came together to record their own rendition of the Common Sense Media song, “Pause & Think Online” for Digital Citizenship week, I heard the verse about listening to one’s gut and immediately recognized the “embodied thinking” they were advocating with their song. (Actually, nearly all of the song is about embodied thinking, and I highly recommend it as an excellent way to get students thinking and talking and singing about digital citizenship.)

Building on the idea of “trusting one’s gut” I wanted to illustrate how the anonymous nature of the net can lead to inappropriate sharing of information in texting and social media and highlight the importance for everyone to rely on their instincts during online interactions. By placing what might otherwise be harmless questions within a text message bubble and morphing them into a graphic of a stomach with a scared face in it, I am attempting to characterize how a seemingly innocuous online interaction might generate (sometimes subtle) feelings of unease, feelings that should be recognized as a warning sign of potential danger.

The digital world, the world of computers and programming, seems more frequently associated with logic and reason and thinking than it does with emotions and feeling and empathy. And yet, it was humanity that created logic and reason, that created the digital world. And, at the core of humanity, before logic, before reason, and long before computers, sensation, emotion and feelings ruled our behavior. Certainly logic and reason have brought us far. They have enabled the development of civilization and society and, ultimately, the development of a digital world. But we need not abandon emotion and feeling in the digital world. Rather, we should embrace that which is at our core and use it to our greatest advantage as we progress in the new digital world that our logic and reason have enabled. The digital need not and indeed does not preclude emotion so long as we remember (in the words of e.e. cummings) that “feeling is first.”

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