creatural existence for human beings is about maximizing meaning, but through the operation of sensuous embodiment including, these days, through the technological extension of the senses. (Embodiment and Education pg 75)
So the sensitive body, deeply in communion with its environment, is not a body over which mind has control. In other words, it is not that body which educational theorising has assumed — a separate entity in a wold of material objects–but rather is of the very same stuff of its environs, living and non-living bodies. As such it is never fixed but rather emerges again and again out of a constantly changing web of relations to an environment of things, people, projects, demands and the earth with its species and features (pg 75)
In Marjorie O’Loughlin’s philosophical exploration of the body and learning, she presents an ecological model of subjectivity, which she describes as “creatural living” (Embodiment and Education)
Creatural living challenges dualist notions of mind and body by presenting the body as the locus of knowing and action, the site where meaning making occurs via multisensorial embodiment with ones environment. Yet, O’Loughlin extends this multisensorial experience beyond that of the traditional senses of vision, aural, touch, taste, etc. to the sensations made possible through activities and practice within systemic collaborations between bodies and technologies (pg 66-67). As O’Loughlin clarifies:
So it might be said not that we are what we do, but rather that the doing itself is governed by what we have, so to speak, in our hands at the moment of action. Technologies therefore cannot be characterised either as mere tools for human use on the one hand or as uncontrollable forces which ultimately take control over all aspects of human life, removing from it any real sence of agency. Rather to the extent that actors are altered by what they use (what they do with what they have at hand, so to speak), they extend the boundaries of their individual bodies beyond the skin. (pg 67)
In this sense, the practices we take up in partnership with technological hardware and software not only extend the boundaries of the body beyond the skin, but also envelop activity as a practice of embodiment.
O’Loughlin goes on to describe these practices as “tied inextricably to a vast repertoire of bodily dispositions, which also bear the imprint or shape of the resident technologies inhabiting various sites which are the particular places in which those bodies are niched” (p.70) This repertoire then becomes the basis from which “individuals make themselves corporeally,” a set of practices that not only “expresses who they are” but also ” “affords them a wealth of opportunity for creative endeavors” (p. 70). In other words, these practices are potent in their ability to reproduce or create anew opportunities to speak and make meaning. Repeated, ritualized, and patterned, these practices form repertoires, which become the crux of making meaning, the site of body building.
It is important to keep in mind, that the body does not harness and command the technologies as tools for its own individual doing, rather the technologies are senses that expand the body’s capability for knowing.
As O’Loughlin describes
It is the body (not simply a guiding consciousness) that understands its world, and it is the body which holds within it those intentional threads that run outward to the world: the body’s grasping of the world is like a set of invisible but intelligent threads streaming out between body and the specific world wth which each body is familiar.” (p. 81)
In other words, it is the body that understands the world, not the consciousness. Via its extended multisensorial network, the body is able to sense, interpret, and create beyond its abilities otherwise.
In this networked sense of the body, agency is thus constructed across networks of relations between animate and non-animate objects and not housed within individuals. (p. 67). For example …
What then does this mean for education?
Well, according to O’Loughlin, our current educational systems and culture at large have a “fear of idleness” and thus over-regulate children’s lives with activities and tasks. This in turn, limits children’s embodied knowing by hindering their “instinct to roam” and learn via engagement and entanglement with a variety of objects animate and inanimate (p. 91)
How then might hybrid learning experiences promote more embodied awareness and effective agency?