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Category Archive for 'Media'

Lost in the Current

excerpt from Chapter 11 of “The Digitally Divided Self : Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet

Human beings evolved with a terror of predators, so that visual or audio signals are associated with something potentially dangerous. When threatened, the instinctual brain mechanisms, located especially in the amygdala, become activated.

First described by Ivan Pavlov in 1927, the “orienting response” is our instinctive reaction to any sudden or novel stimulus, visual or auditory. This ancient survival mechanism is one of the reasons why it’s difficult to sit in front of a TV and ignore the moving images. Each time we attend to a new stimulus, the mechanism of reward is activated. On the neurophysiological level, dopamine is released, leading to a sense of well-being and euphoria – thus reinforcing our reaction and improving our chances of staying alive. Though we rarely encounter predators any more, the mechanisms remain in the brain. Whatever facilitates survival of the species is gratifying – like the pleasure of sexual engagement.

Attend to This!

The events on the Net which anticipate and activate the reward system are numerous: new email announcements, instant messages, Twitter or Facebook updates, new articles in blogs, video games, news. The amygdala is stimulated by all the media. And the Internet has multiplied the stimuli by concentrating the textual, visual, auditory, and interactive channels in a single medium.

The inner reward system makes us attend to information. By interacting with it we produce new information ourself. The reward system is activated even when we anticipate a reward. So a simple sound that signals an incoming email or IM text releases dopamine – even when a spam message is delivered.

A research presented to the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology Conference in January 2012 found that some people are so obsessed about checking their email and social networks that they experience “phantom” vibrations of their phones when no message had actually been received.

Any action that activates the reward mechanism also activates another mechanism: that of addiction. Even if they are not badly addicted, many people – myself included – experience difficulty stopping online activity. Stimuli which previously evoked a certain neural response, over time produce less effect. So, it’s necessary to have more stimuli that are more intense, more varied, and more frequently.

To achieve this, we need more computing power and faster Internet to manage the increasing number of events running simultaneously on the screen. Technological development is pushed by the greed for “more” and “faster.” The brain, particularly the amygdala and the hippocampus, mistakes the continuous stimuli with survival, so it becomes difficult to turn away from the source of stimulation.

While it’s difficult to ignore a nearby TV, the computer is even more powerful and complex, because it adds the frenzied activity of chasing and producing information to the passive staring at a screen. Besides the neurological triggering of the survival mechanism, much web content actually relates to survival – being sexual or financial, including online gambling, auctions and stock investing – which activates the dopamine shots.

Seeking social stimulation is not traditionally considered compulsive or addictive, but as technology co-opts social life as one more window present on the screen, it is possible to become a Facebook addict because of the dopamine reaction.

Fundamentally, both TV and computer screens are about moving images. Seeing something new moving activates the orienting response. While TV editors increase the number of cuts and effects in order to hold attention, the Internet generates an even larger number of interruptions as we open multiple windows, run several programs simultaneously, and communicate by instant messaging.

Since it would be nonsense to react physically to an image on a screen as if a beast were threatening us, like we did in ancient times when a potentially threatening change took place in our surrounding, we have learned to suppress emotions and inhibit our reactions. But they aren’t really gone, building up as tension in the nervous system. In bioenergetic terms, there’s a charge but no discharge. In other words, stress and frustration build, even though it’s often not perceived consciously.

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When the iPhone replaces the syringe: communication as a form of pathology

Sorry this is a guest post only in Italian.

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The Real Freedom is in Paper Books

In recent years, for various reasons, I have had to pack my books several times (moving residences or moving some of them to the basement to occupy less space at home). Having thousands of books means lengthy related tasks and heavy boxes to carry.

If all of my printed books were digitally squeezed into an ebook reader, I would carry minimal weight and could access them wherever I went; I would have my complete library at my fingertips. I could also free some space in my house. Nonetheless, I do not regret having purchased and carried my paper books.

Recently, I wanted to try an ebook reader and bought a number of ebooks, especially for traveling. However, I ended up also buying the printed edition, even though this meant carrying they physical books back and forth between Europe and Asia.

Printed books offer a freedom that is still unsurpassed by digital technology. Now that summer is approaching, I can leave my printed books on the beach without fear that they will be damaged by sand or a ball, or be stolen. Coffee and other liquids can stain a paper book but the book will not be completely damaged.

Having a baby around paper books is not a problem. The baby may tear a few pages, stain or step on the book, or use the book as a toy, but the usefulness of the paper book remains. A paper book as an “analogical” technology degrades gracefully, but digital technologies either work or do not work.

Reading a printed book in the sun is easier than reading a screen, despite the best and most impressive advances in screen technology.
When electricity will be interrupted because of energy prices, and I cannot recharge my electronic gadgets, my paper books are still available for reading.

When the failure of only one electronic component jeopardizes an entire ebook reader, my paper books are still around, even though they may be yellowish, damp, or have torn pages.

If I cannot afford to upgrade to ever more sophisticated iPads and Kindles, my paper books will not need an upgrade. When the rare earth metals required for electronics are gone, paper books will be cheaper than their electronic counterparts, when considering the price of the hardware. Paper is a highly renewable resource if used with the right criteria.

A few companies control the ebook market and governments are able to know and potentially control the types of books we read by deciding on what’s good and what’s not good and by interfering with our uploads. If this happens (we are not that far from its occurrence), I will still be able to read my preferred paper books. Prohibited or controversial paper books have always been available, even under the most repressive regimes (though with greater difficulty), whereas electronic information can be easily traced and blocked.

My printed books simply need to be carried, whereas an electronic reader requires the right lighting conditions, electricity or batteries, cables, and often an Internet connection.

My printed books age with me, whereas an ebook reader becomes obsolete and needs to be replaced at regular intervals. My paper books do not blink, do not require Internet connections, do not see others’ annotations and comments, do not connect with readers’ social networks, do not talk, and do not do anything except exist to be read.

Thus the words from a printed book can resound inwardly because of the surrounding emptiness, like the beats from a well-tuned drum.

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L’ideologia della macchina

This is a guest post only in Italian.

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Publishing News

I am delighted to receive the IndieReader Discovery Award in the psychology category for The Digitally Divided Self: Relinquishing Our Awareness to the Internet. The winners, judged by top industry professionals, were announced at Book Expo America (BEA) in New York City.

In addition, I announce that The Digitally Divided Self will be translated into Italian by Bollati Boringhieri. I am honored to be published by such a prestigious publishing house so rich in history.

Special thanks to Stefano Mauri, chairman of GeMS, who in the last twenty years has tirelessly sustained the independence and high quality of Italian publishing. He has also strengthened the dissemination of book culture and the defense of the freedom of the press in Italy. I would like to say an additional thank you to Michele Luzzatto of Bollati Boringhieri for believing in The Digitally Divided Self and for helping with the structure of the Italian edition.

Finally, for several weeks in April and May, my free ebooklet titled Facebook Logout: Experiences and Reasons to Leave It was the number-one free bestseller in the General Technology & Reference area of Amazon’s Kindle Store. For reasons beyond my understanding, in some countries Amazon charges a VAT tax (a bit less than one Euro) on my “free” ebook while on Smashwords is completely free.

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Melatonin, screen media, light and sexuality

Melatonin is a very important hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain (the seat of the soul, according to Descartes).  Since melatonin controls nearly every other hormone produced by the body, it is often defined as the master hormone.

Melatonin is involved in many physiological functions and has varied therapeutic applications: It acts as a neuroprotective; improves headache, bipolar disorders and ADHD symptoms; protects against Alzheimer’s disease; offers antioxidant properties; strengthens memory; improves cancer survival; protects from radiation; improves autism, and much more.

A 2012 study on obesity and diabets concludes that “epidemiological studies link short sleep duration and circadian disruption with higher risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes” and “prolonged sleep restriction with concurrent circadian disruption alters metabolism and could increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.” (Buxton, 2012).

The popular use of melatonin supplements is for jet-lag symptoms, promoting sleep. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in darkness; thus, production takes place at night and is more pronounced in winter than in summer.

Being continually exposed to screen media and the light associated with it makes our brains believe it is still daytime.  Being exposed to such light during nighttime can disturb sleep patterns and trigger insomnia. While modern civilization has always used artificial light, the introduction of light-emitting laptops, tablet computers and smartphones created what Mercola (2011) defines on his website as “a state of permanent jet-lag.”  The light emitted by gadgets is much closer to us than ambient lights, which makes their melatonin-inhibiting action stronger.

Also, the type of light the screens emit makes a difference: Screen media mostly emit blue light, covering only a portion of the visible spectrum.  Our eyes are especially sensitive to blue light because it is the type of light normally found outdoors.  That way, gadgets can stop the production of melatonin needed for sleeping and for other health functions.  Among other risks, prolonged exposure to light can increase the risk of cancer.

Melatonin is also essential for healthy brain function, being one of the main endogenous brain antioxidants protecting the brain from free radicals.  Furthermore, there are connections between melatonin production and cognitive capabilities. Technology use, other than subtly affecting our psyches, has a direct physiological impact on our bodies, which, in turn, leads to changes in our inner attitudes.

Melatonin also has a strong connection with sexuality and sexual hormones. When melatonin levels rise in the body, usually in winter, testosterone levels drop, reducing sexual desire and frequency of mating.  For females, estrogen is also reduced. Just before puberty, melatonin levels drop suddenly by 75%, giving strong hints about the involvement of the hormone in the onset of puberty.

The last couple of decades saw a significant growth of precocious puberty, which, considering the concomitant massive use of screen media (video games, computers, Internet) by kids, can lead us to wonder whether there is a correlation between melatonin-inhibition by screen light and hormonal changes triggering early puberty.

Melatonin levels are inversely proportional to sexual desire and to the levels of sexual hormones.  Less melatonin, as when the production is inhibited by natural or screen light, increases sexual desire.  That’s probably good news for porn producers.

References

Mercola, F. (2011, January 10). The “sleep mistake” which boosts your risk of cancer.

Buxton, O.M., S. W. Cain, S. P. O’Connor, J. H. Porter, J. F. Duffy, W. Wang, C. A. Czeisler, S. A. Shea, Adverse Metabolic Consequences in Humans of Prolonged Sleep Restriction Combined with Circadian Disruption. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 129ra43 (2012).

See also:

Close, Closer, Closest to the Screen

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Facebook Logout: Experiences and Reasons to Leave it

Ivo Quartiroli - facebook logoutFacebook Logout: Experiences and Reasons to Leave it is available to download as a free eBooklet in different formats at Smashwords. Also is available at different ebook stores as Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

A special thank you to the contributors.

This is the Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Musings about Facebook
The Quality of Relationships
Privacy Issues
Children
Facebook Changes the Concept of Friendship
The Inner Reasons to Leave
The Logout Process
Chapter 2: Logout Experiences
All Your Time or Nothing
This Time I Really Want to Leave it for Good
Bad Energy
Amplifier of an Inner Discomfort
Looking Through the Keyhole
An Affection-Compensating Tool
Boring to Death
Obsessive-Compulsive
From Village to Global Village
Reliving my Earlier Nightmares
Political Control
Not a Broad Communication
You Always Have to Feed the Beast
A Narrowed Down Tunnel-Vision Style of Contact
References

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Cybersocialità: la morte della socialità

This is a guest post in Italian only. The English version will be available in the future.

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Reasons to Leave Facebook

We are all familiar with active music bands, politicians, and actors, but we know much less about them after they change or stop their careers, resign, or retire. Often, however, the most interesting stories happen after someone consciously chooses a new life path.

Similarly, while participating in Facebook, we know almost everything about the people who are active, but we do not know much about the people who have slowed down their participation or left the site. There are at least as many reasons to slow down our commitment to or leave Facebook altogether than to be part of it.

If you are one of those who have chosen to not participate, to step down or take the full exit route from Facebook, please share your experience. Why did you leave Facebook? What were your concerns? Did anything happen to trigger your decision? I am collecting such experiences for an e-book about Facebook and about people’s attitudes toward social networks.  The e-book will be free.

I am especially interested in exploring your story and the inner motivations that made you step away from Facebook. I will quote your words without exposing your name or email address. I only need to know your gender, approximate age, and nationality (which can be as generic as “Southeast Asian,” “South American,” “Northern European,” or “Middle Eastern”). Of course, you will receive a copy of the e-book. In some cases, I will edit your words for stylistic reasons, but will always respect your content.

Please send your experience to ivotoshan (at) yahoo (dot) it. It can be few lines or several pages long as you like. Anyway I will give it my full attention. In case I need greater clarification, I will ask you. Also, if you know somebody who might contribute to my research, please forward this message to them.

You can see my opinion about Facebook on the following articles,

Resisting Facebook

After a Few Months on Facebook

The Game of Facebook

Thanks for any help you might give to ths project.

Ivo

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Reading Aloud

“The printed or mass-produced book discouraged reading aloud, and reading aloud had been the practice of many centuries. Swift, silent scanning is a very different experience from manuscript perusal, with its acoustic invitation to savor words and phrases in many-leveled resonance. Silent reading has had many consequences for readers and writers alike, and it is a phase of print technology which may be disappearing” (Marshall McLuhan in a 1972 interview, from Understanding Me, MIT Press, 2005).

If nowadays we see somebody reading aloud, we may think that he is not fully literate. But we are not surprised to see people talking aloud on their mobile phones on the streets.

The advent of silent reading, according to McLuhan, had consequences both for privacy and for developing an individual point of view. Through Internet technology, we are back reading louder and louder. When we share our readings on social media, we read as loud as to the whole world, but what is weakening is the connection of words to our inner selves. It seems that, to hear our voices, we have to hear it in the echo of other people’s feedback through social media.

We no longer feel an inner resonance of what we read but need it to be bounced back to us by the infinite reverberations of the Net.

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The Digitally Divided Self: Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet

The Digitally Divided SelfThe Digitally Divided Self: Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet is on Amazon.

ISBN 9788897233008
274 Pages – Format: 6″ x 9″ – $17.90 (discounted on Amazon)

It is nearly half a century since Marshall McLuhan pointed out that the medium is the message. In the interim, digital technologies have found an irresistible hook on our minds. With the soul’s quest for the infinite usurped by the ego’s desire for unlimited power, the Internet and social media have stepped in to fill our deepest needs for communication, knowledge and creativity – even intimacy and sexuality. Without being grounded in those human qualities which are established through experience and inner exploration, we are vulnerable to being seduced into outsourcing our minds and our fragile identities.

Intersecting media studies, psychology and spirituality, The Digitally Divided Self exposes the nature of the malleable mind and explores the religious and philosophical influences which leave it obsessed with the incessant flow of information.

I am deeply touched and extremely grateful to the people who took the time to read, support and endorse The Digitally Divided Self. Being my first English book, and basically self-published, I didn’t expect to receive many reviews, much less from such leading thinkers and writers – nor such positive responses.

It was also a surprise to find common interests around eastern spirituality with so many people into technology and media. This makes me hopeful for an evolution of the information society – from chasing external stimulation to inner explorations and silence.

Detailed table of contents, introduction and chapter 1.

Order on Amazon.

Praise for Digitally Divided Self

 “Quartiroli’s The Digitally Divided Self is a must read for anyone seeking to understand the ever-increasing hegemony of the digital world in the individual psyche. Drawing on diverse fields and traditions, the author analyzes numerous mechanisms by which IT separates us from ourselves. Readers stand to benefit from such an understanding that is a prerequisite for mounting a defense of one’s individuality.” —Len Bracken, author of several novels and the biography Guy Debord—Revolutionary

 ­“With great insight, Ivo Quartiroli captures the subtle as well as the gross impact that media use has on our individual and collective psyches. The challenge before all of us is how to adapt to the new technology in a healthy way that allows us to retain our essential humanity. He offers us a solution born of his experience and confirmed by neuroscience. This is a must read.” —Hilarie Cash, PhD, co-founder of reSTART: Internet Addiction Recovery Program

 “It is difficult to offer a spiritually based critique of today’s network culture without sounding like a nostalgic Luddite crank. Immersed in the tech, but also in various meditative traditions, Ivo Quartiroli is the perfect person to offer integral wisdom-tech with clarity and bite.” —Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis and Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica.

  “Aware of the profound and rapid psychological and social metamorphosis we are going through as we ‘go digital’ without paying attention, Ivo Quartiroli is telling us very precisely what we are gaining and what we are losing of the qualities and privileges that, glued as we are to one screen or another, we take for granted in our emotional, cognitive and spiritual life. This book is a wake-up call. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates should read it.” —Derrick de Kerckhove, Professor, Facoltà di sociologia, Università Federico II, Naples, former Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology.

 “The Digitally Divided Self alerts us about the insidious dangers of our growing dependence on Information Technology. Ivo Quartiroli warns us that Internet can easily develop into an addiction that undercuts our connections with nature, with other people, and with our deeper inner reality. The spiritual nourishment coming from genuine relationships is then replaced by the empty calories of fake relationships, with the resulting deterioration of our personal and social lives. Using an incisive style, Ivo Quartiroli can be provocative, iconoclastic, at times exaggerated, but never boring. Behind each observation there are pearls of wisdom that are guaranteed to make you think.” Federico Faggin, designer of the microprocessor.

 “Global culture is not only the latest step in the human evolutionary journey. It is also, as Ivo Quartiroli shows in The Digitally Divided Self, a critical opportunity to apply non-Western techniques of awareness to ensure healthy survival in the 21st century.” —Michael Heim, author of The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, Virtual Realism, and Electric Language.

 “Question the merits of technology in the past and you’d be called a Luddite. But now technologists are leading the way toward a new, more balanced view of our gadget-driven lives. Drawing from his fascinating expertise in computer science and spirituality, Ivo Quartiroli presents a compelling critique of the corrosive impact of the Net on our humanity. It’s a warning we must heed.” —Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.

“A profoundly premonitory vision of the future of the 21st century, The Digitally Divided Self unlocks the great codes of technological society, namely that the very same digital forces that effectively control the shape and direction of the human destiny are also the founding powers of a new revolution of the human spirit.” —Arthur Kroker, author of The Will to Technology and Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Theory.

 “People today, especially young people, live more on the Internet than in the real world. This has subtle and not-so-subtle effects on their thinking and personality. It is high time to review these effects, to see whether they are a smooth highway to a bright interconnected future, or possibly a deviation that could endanger health and wellbeing for the individual as well as for society. Ivo Quartiroli undertakes to produce this review and does so with deep understanding and dedicated humanism. His book should be read by everyone, whether he or she is addicted to the Internet or has second thoughts about it.” —Ervin Laszlo, President, the Club of Budapest, and Chancellor, the Giordano Bruno Globalshift University.

 “The Mind-Body Split is a pervasive condition/affliction in the developed world, wholly un-recognized; yet fundamental to the great worldwide problems of health, environment, and economic inequity. Ivo Quartiroli’s Digitally Divided Self masterfully examines the effects of the insulated digital experience on the mind and the body self: exacerbating illusions and the Mind-Body Split; and contrasts it to the processes of self-discovery, growth, and healing: true inter-connectedness with nature, each other, and our selves. If the digital age is to solve our real problems, rather than create them, it will be with the knowledge contained in The Digitally Divided Self. Well done!” —Frederic Lowen, son of Alexander Lowen, Executive Director, The Alexander Lowen Foundation

 “Ivo Quartiroli here addresses one of the most pressing questions forced upon us by our latest technologies. In disturbing the deepest relations between the user’s faculties and the surrounding world, our electric media, all of them without exception, create profound disorientation and subsequent discord, personal and cultural. Few subjects today demand greater scrutiny.” — Dr. Eric McLuhan, Author and Lecturer

 “The internet is an extension of our central nervous system. When you operate a computer, you are extending yourself, through its interface, potentially all over the world, instantaneously. Extending yourself in such a disembodied, discarnate fashion only further entrenches your separateness, your ego self. In contrast, the introspective freeing from the physical through meditation also has the effect of creating a discarnate, disembodied state. That state is one that is progressively less identified with the ego self. This is the dichotomy that Ivo Quartiroli explores in The Digitally Divided Self. This book is well worth investigating.” —Michael McLuhan

 “We should all be asking the questions Ivo Quartiroli asks in this bold and provocative book. Whatever you think right now about technology, The Digitally Divided Self will challenge you to think again.” —William Powers, author of the New York Times bestseller Hamlet’s BlackBerry

 “It isn’t easy to find an informed and critical look at the impact of digital media practices on human lives and minds. Ivo Quartiroli offers an informed critique based in both an understanding of technology and of human consciousness.” —Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community and Smart Mobs.

 “Ivo Quartiroli is mining the rich liminal territory between humans and their networks. With the integrity of a scientist and the passion of artist, he forces us to reconsider where we end and technology begins. Or when.” —Douglas Rushkoff, Media Theorist and author of Cyberia, Media Virus, Life, Inc. and Program or Be Programmed.

 “You might find what he writes to be challenging, irritating, even blasphemous and sacrilegious. If so, he has proven his point. The Internet, Ivo suggests, might just be the new opium of the masses. Agree with him or not, no other book to date brings together the multitude of issues related to how the seductions of technology impinge upon and affect the development of the self and soul.” —Michael Wesch, Associate Professor of Digital Ethnography, Kansas State University

 The Digitally Divided Self is a refreshing look at technology that goes beyond the standard, well-worn critiques. Ivo Quartiroli charts new territory with a series of profound reflections on the intersections of computer science, psychology and spirituality.” —Micah White, Senior Editor at Adbusters magazine.

Detailed table of contents, introduction and chapter 1.

Order on Amazon.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: From Awareness of technology to technologies of Awareness .. 1
Chapter 2:“It’s only a tool” .. 17
Chapter 3: The Roots of It .. 39
Chapter 4: The Digitization of Reality .. 53
Chapter 5: Intimacy and Sexuality.. 73
Chapter 6: Commoditizing and Monetizing.. 89
Chapter 7: Politics, Participation and Control .. 97
Chapter 8: Come together: the Rise of Social networks.. 115
Chapter 9: Digital Kids ..125
Chapter 10: Literacy and the Analytical Mind.. 133
Chapter 11: Lost in the Current .. 143
Chapter 12: The Digitally Divided Self.. 165
Chapter 13: The Process of Knowledge .. 189
Chapter 14: Upgrading to Heaven .. 205
Chapter 15: Biting the Snake.. 223
Appendix: The People of Contemporary It and what Drives them.. 233

Introduction

Like many people nowadays, much of my personal and professional life is related to technology: I use the Internet for keeping the connection with my work projects and friends wherever I am in the world. I published the first book in Italy about the Internet. I run a blog and a Web magazine, do my investments online, shop on the Net, do interviews by email and Skype, and have even indulged in cybersex. Right now I’m in Asia developing this book – which is full of references to Web articles, blogs and material found only on the Internet – with online support: an editor and writing coach in California, copy editor in India, book designer in Italy, and a printing and distribution service with multiple locations in USA. My life is immersed in the digital loop.

I have been involved in IT since I was a student. As I learned meditation and explored spiritual paths, I developed an inner observer and discovered states beyond the mind. Thus, I found myself going back and forth between processing consciousness and information. Slowly my focus has shifted from what we can do with technology to what technology does to us. As a first-hand explorer, I’ve observed the subtle changes of our massive use of the Net.

Just as a spiritual researcher can go beyond the mind only after having observed and mastered it, it is necessary to enter the digital world to step beyond it. We can’t become aware of its effects without being engaged in it. Since digital technology is unavoidable now, we need to master it without becoming lost in it, using its tools with our full awareness.

In this time, the intensification of mental inputs is a phenomenon that must be kept in balance. Our contemporary culture does not acknowledge anything beyond the mind, but in other traditions the mental world is just one of the aspects of our wholeness. In the West a sort of Cartesian “pure thinking” has been given priority. Although the mind is the best-known organ of thought, it is not the only cognitive modality. Nervous systems have been discovered both in the heart and in the belly, and the global awareness that can be accessed by spiritual practitioners is pervasive and non-localized. Yet these modalities cannot be represented digitally, so they are relegated to the sidelines.

Our technological society militates against uninterrupted conscious attention. Several authors have documented the effects of IT on attention, literacy and intellectual skills. It also intrudes on the silent time needed to be aware of inner transformations. We don’t realize we have become servomechanisms of IT – precisely because IT has weakened the inner skills of self-understanding. Shrinking of the rich range of human qualities to privilege only those which can be represented and operated digitally arises from the nature of the ego-mind and our particular Western history which has engendered – then valued – mental representations of reality. My focus here is to understand why the mind can be lured by the magic of the tools, while forgetting the person who is using them.

We believe we are empowered individually and politically as we post articles on our blogs and participate in social networks. In actuality, we feed the machine with our “user-generated content” which becomes candy for advertisers who then design ads based on what we say on Twitter, Facebook, and even our emails.

Jumping from information to self-understanding is necessary if we are to regain real freedom, a freedom from conditioning of our mind and the manipulation by information – whether self-created or from external sources. We mistake the transmission of gigabytes of data for freedom.

In our advanced technological society there is a reticence to acknowledge the inner, spiritual or metaphysical dimensions of life. What cannot be calculated – which is, thereby, “not objective” – is considered unworthy of investigation. Even more strongly denied is the relationship between technology and the impact on our psyche. Technophiles declare that it’s only a tool, as if our psyche could remain untouched by continuous interaction with digital media, and as if we could control its impact on us. We can indeed be in control of digital media – but only after we become fluent in those cognitive modalities which can’t be reached by such media.

To be unaffected by digital media, we need a Buddha-like awareness with sustained attention, mindfulness and introspection. Yet these very qualities which are needed to break out of the automated mind are especially difficult to access when we are drowning in information – information that is predominantly ephemeral and transient, and which lacks a broader narrative. Awareness is what gives meaning and depth to information, but for awareness to expand we need to empty our mind. A story will illustrate this. A university professor approached a master to learn about Zen. Tea was served, but when the cup was full, the master did not stop pouring. The cup, like the professor’s mind with its concepts and positions, was full. It must first be emptied to understand Zen. So, too, for the digital world.

The world over, people using the Internet click on the same icons, use the same shortcuts in email and chats, connect with people through the same Facebook modalities. This is the globalization of minds. In the process of the digitization of reality, regardless of content, we use predominantly the same limited mental channels and interact with the same tools. We bring the same attitudes, gestures and procedures to working, dating, shopping, communicating with friends, sexual arousal, and scientific research. And most of these activities are impoverished by this phenomenon. Everything is seen as an information system, from the digitization of territory (like Google Earth and augmented realities software) to our biology.

Judeo-Christian culture places nature and the world of matter at man’s disposal. Acting on them is a way to garner good deeds and regain the lost perfection of Eden. In this culture that has considered miracles as proof of the existence of God, we have developed technologies that resemble the miraculous and the divine. We are compelled to welcome the advent of new technological tools with the rhetoric of peace, progress, prosperity and mutual understanding.

The telegraph, telephone, radio, TV and other media have been regarded as tools for democracy, world peace, understanding and freedom of expression. The Internet is just the latest in a succession of promising messiahs. Yet we don’t have more democracy in the world. In fact, big media and big powers are even stronger, while freedom of expression has ceded to control by corporations and governmental agencies. The Internet, like TV, will be entertaining, dumbing people in their own separate homes where they will be unable to question the system. The Internet might already be the new soma for a society experiencing economic and environmental degradation. But with the huge economic interests connected to it, criticizing its effect is akin to cursing God.

Many technological developments appeal to people because they answer psychological and even spiritual needs – like the quests for understanding and connection with others. Already digital technology has taken charge of truth and love – the drives which are distinctly human. Those primordial needs have been addressed, on the mental level, with information. Reflected only at that level, our soul is left empty with craving for the real qualities, and our mind is left restless, craving more information and chasing after satisfaction in vain.

The need to extend our possibilities through technology derives from the need to recover parts of ourself that were lost during the development of our soul – the states of sharp perception, fulfillment, and peace. Information technology (IT) also satisfies our ancient drives for power and control, even giving us several options with a simple click or touch of a finger.

The endless multiplication of information can keep the ego-mind busy – and thus at the center of the show. IT is the most powerful mental “pusher” ever created, feeding the duality of the ego-mind (which is symbolically mirrored by binary technology). More than TV whose attractions are framed between the beginning and ending time of a show, the Internet, video games, and smartphones have no structural pauses or endings. Hooked on a “real-time” stream of information, they take us farther away from both the real and the appropriate time frames.

The computer charms us by reflecting our mind on the Net. Like Narcissus, we mistake the reflected image and enter a closed loop, charmed by our reflection. The Internet, since the beginning, has been considered a technology which could crumble central governments and organizations. Perhaps that forecast was an external projection of what can happen inside us: disturbance of the integration of our psyches.

Meditation helps us recognize that we construct reality and that the mind leads us astray. Meditation is a path back to reality, to truth, to knowing and mastering our minds – instead of mastering the computer as a way to outsource our mind’s skills. It is a way to expand our awareness and join the other global “Net” – of awareness that permeates everything.

Though I am Italian, I am publishing this book for the English market because it is a post-digital book which can be better appreciated in countries where digital culture has spread throughout society. In Italy, one politically powerful tycoon owns most of the media, and uses it to demonize the Net. In that setting, being critical of the Net invokes the accusation of aligning with power to castrate freedom of expression, which is the polar opposite of my intention.

I welcome every medium which expands our chances of expressing ourselves, but I am aware that true self-expression can happen only when there’s a true self, which can hardly be shaped by screen media.

I am grateful to my spiritual teachers who opened new dimensions for my soul in my journey toward awareness, especially the intensity of Osho and the brilliant clarity of A. H. Almaas. I thank my copy editor Dhiren Bahl (www.WordsWay-Copyediting.com) for his painstaking corrections of my English text and my editor David Carr (www.MovingWords.us) for his clarifications and stylistic improvements. I’m grateful to my friends, too many to list here, for the numerous talks bringing together heart and mind in sharing our passion for truth.

Detailed table of contents, introduction and chapter 1.

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The Digitally Divided Self. Table of Contents, Introduction and Chapter 1

The Digitally Divided Self

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: From Awareness of technology to technologies of Awareness .. 1
The Limits of Technology.. 3
What’s Not Computable Isn’t Real .. 4
The Promises of the Early Internet .. 5
From Information Processing to Consciousness Processing.. 6
All in the Digital Mincer .. 7
Technology Can’t be Challenged.. 8
Technology Uses Us .. 10
Feeding the Soul with Bytes .. 11
The Immortal Mind .. 12
Inner Prostheses and Amputations through Technology .. 13
Beyond the Mind.. 14
The Fragility of Beliefs and Information Technology.. 15

Chapter 2:“It’s only a tool” .. 17
Technology is not Questionable .. 18
Knowing through the Body .. 18
Technology “Does” Us .. 19
Technology is a Matter of Life and Death.. 21
Binary and Inner Duality.. 21
Knowing through the Heart.. 22
Our Identity With Tools – from Chimps to Chips .. 25
Reconnecting with the Inner Flow.. 26
From Spectator to Witness .. 28
Inner Holes and Techno-Fills .. 28
Pure Thinking Without the Body.. 30
Tools for Inner Growth.. 31
The Mind Itself is a Medium.. 34
IT Weakens Our Presence .. 36
Constrained to Produce .. 39 (more…)

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This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0.