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Architecture, memes and minds
Author: Chris Abel

While there is widespread agreement across disciplines that the identities of individuals, groups and places are significantly interrelated, there are equally divergent views as to the nature and origins of those relationships. The first part of the book highlights that the prime importance of the human body in spatial cognition and human perception generally. In stressing the fundamental role of the body as the medium of all personal experience, the concept of the self that emerges thus far retains a strong unitary core. An alternative theory of extended minds which retains the integrity of individual human agents while embracing the extension of personal powers by external devices is also discussed. The second part looks at the scope of inquiry to take in the wider impact of technology on human evolution and the extended self. Selected writings from some of Stiegler's prominent followers and critics were also examined for what they contribute to our understanding of Stiegler's ideas and their possible further applications. He and his followers continue to fall back upon neo-Darwinian concepts and terminologies in elaborating their ideas. Theories of emergence and self-production, or autopoiesis, are investigated as promising alternatives to orthodox evolutionary theory. The subject of design, function of memes, impacts of the coevolution of humankind and technology on the human mind and the self are some other concepts discussed. The third part of the book focuses talk about cognitive roots of classification and combinativity, the relations between form and content, and vernacular architecture.

Chris Abel

10 Recasting the extended self The examples of cross-fertilization between building forms described in Chapters 8 and 9 provide ample evidence that, as previously noted, though cross-breeding in nature between different species is genetically limited, no comparable restrictions apply to the products of human cultures, even when widely separated by time and space. Yet, just as Brian Arthur points out that not all technologies are compatible with each other or make potentially good combinations, so is it also apparent that, once specific assemblages of technical

in The extended self
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Chris Abel

Part II summary Commencing in Chapter 4 with an examination of Bernard Stiegler’s theory of technics, the second part of this book opened up the scope of inquiry to take in the wider impact of technology on human evolution and the extended self. While Stiegler overlooks the making and use of tools by primates and other creatures, he argues convincingly that the accumulative effects of humankind’s technical exteriorization, or what he crisply describes as the coevolution of the ‘who and the what,’ sets our species apart from any other. Selected writings from some

in The extended self
Chris Abel

nature of form and purpose in architecture, as opposed to their isomorphic relations in organic species, the qualities of which inspired much of the theorizing about biological analogies discussed in the previous chapter. It then proceeds to a definition of the technical meme as the primary agent of cognitive extension and cultural transfusion by which the extended self assimilates and interacts with the material and social environment. It is suggested that, with appropriate adjustments, assemblage theory also offers a suitable framework for exploring the grouping and

in The extended self
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Chris Abel

Part I summary The purpose of this summary of the previous three chapters, as it is of each summary of the other three parts of this book, is not to cover all of the points or arguments presented in these chapters, but to focus on whatever ideas and conclusions may be drawn from them that contribute most to a viable theory of the extended self, and to an understanding of the environmental implications. Thus, the first lesson to be drawn from Chapter 1 is that, while there is wide­ spread agreement across disciplines that the identities of individuals, groups and

in The extended self
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Chris Abel

will as autonomous realms of being, it proposes a new theory of the ‘extended self ’ as a complex and diffuse product of that coevolution, comprising both social and material elements, including built habitations and artifacts in general. Given the nature and complexity of the subject matter, in researching this book it has been taken from the outset that no single discipline or school of thought, whether it be within the humanities or any of the sciences, would yield the requisite insights and answers to the range of issues and problems in question, all of which are

in The extended self
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Chris Abel

period of time, thus completing a vital link in the cognitive loop integrating the extended self with the wider world. Given that, as with the elements of any taxonomy, the identity of a given type or meme depends upon which broader series or grouping it belongs to, it was 214  EXSELF.indb 214 The extended self 30/07/2014 13:39:43 further proposed that assemblage theory offers a suitable framework for grouping coevolutionary clusters of technical memes to create artifacts of varying complexity, while still retaining the identity of their components. The term

in The extended self
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Chris Abel

beyond human control, much as Stiegler and some of the other writers cited in this book have argued. Similarly, it was concluded that the popular concept of free will as an un­restricted zone of personal action is an illusion born of confusions between perceptions of a separate physical body (true) and belief in a separate self (false). The reality is that, while people make many everyday choices, both choices and decisions are generally directed by the impacts of place, language and culture on the extended self. Moreover, though consciousness and free will are often

in The extended self
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Chris Abel

humanistic motivations behind the idea, Le Corbusier’s Modulor had little if any impact on the general perception of his urban schemes and has been 28  EXSELF.indb 28 The extended self 30/07/2014 13:39:08 2.4  Diagram of upright human body, space and time, by Yi Fu Tuan ignored by architects at large. Later, as one of the more substantial postmodern designers and theorists, Charles Moore was a leading voice in the movement to restore the body to center stage in architectural theory and practice. In The Place of Houses, he and his co-authors10 attempt to show how

in The extended self
Chris Abel

different purposes. However, while they might confuse anyone 174  EXSELF.indb 174 The extended self 30/07/2014 13:39:22 9.1  Painting of the interior of a Japanese house and its occupants by an unknown artist, 1849 Combinatorial design EXSELF.indb 175 175 30/07/2014 13:39:24 looking for direct, unambiguous connections between form and function, the same phenomena verify the combinatorial theory of architecture advanced here as an assemblage of technical memes, some of which may be shared with other cultures. Moreover, the persistence of such forms in itself is

in The extended self