OCAD University

Paula Gardner is an Associate Professor at OCAD University, Toronto, and co-director of the Mobile Experience Lab. As a Media Studies/Science and Technology scholar, Gardner’s work focuses on critical science and feminist research, and mobile art and documentary production, seeking to destabilize expert bionarratives via aesthetics and embodied mobile practices. Gardner most recently leads Biomapping: Experiments in Spatial Aesthetics funded by a SSHRC Research Creation Grant and various projects funded by the GRAND Network, National Centres of Excellence.  Gardner’s published work has addressed gendered critical psychiatric practices, subjectivity and mobility and collaborative new media methodologies. Her work can be found at paulagardner.ca and at mobilelab.ca.

Mobile Mindfulness: Bioinformatics for the Pursuit of Acceptance

New mobile technologies incorporate mindfulness therapies and biometric technologies, such as brain wave monitors, into mobile experiences; these broadly premise that brain-body awareness can produce therapeutic effects, via a range of forms, gaming, meditation, etc.  Each unites common mobile and biometric technologies: mobile apps, gaming (in situ, in field, apps), health monitoring devices, yoga language.  Meshing familiar health practices and everyday mobile habits, consumers easily take up these technologies.  While mindfulness innovations are not striking developments, the premises and uses of these technologies beg analysis.

Mobile mindfulness technologies range from consumerist, user-friendly apps such as mp3 files providing mindfulness exercises by industry or gurus, and gaming apps allowing brain wave control to move avatars, open doors, etc.   Interestingly, culturally familiar mobile technologies become something seemingly remarkable to users when the data in play comes from our brains. This desire to see and use our brains, intentionally and with mindful intentionality, offers a deep well of data for consideration, particularly when in the service of neoliberal productivity aims.

The paper addresses consumer use of new mindfulness technologies, based on the author’s research and creation of mindfulness technology tools. As well, it analyses marketing/promotion discourses of EEG monitors, mindfulness games and therapeutic apps, noting the tension between transhumanist promises of enhanced humanness, and non-telelogical, presentness premises of mindfulness, control over acceptance.   Guided by Katherine Hayles work suggesting that cognitive (machine)-human(body) dualisms can be purged by inserting the flesh, the paper troubles the transhumanism, and the absenced complex body/self-generated by mobile experiences that celebrate constrained movement with data–prizing data recognition over embodied experience. Our fascination with brain mechanics and invisible mobile components rationalizes reductionist brain ontologies, channeling users into the ‘(bio)informatics of domination,’ in this case, via the mobile.