Psychology challenged

Refocusing our conceptual endeavors when culture-nature and technology kick in




Acceleration and psychology theorizing, Material-discursive psychology ethics, Psychology complexity, Social media, Digital agency


The challenges that psychology encounters when studying the human and the social in times of accelerating and heterogeneously composed processes of becoming, call for theorizing of and analytical attention to complexity at multiple levels. This attention needs to focus a comprehensive horizon of intra-acting elements and agencies, while still maintaining the human as an important focus of research. In this article I discuss how the efforts to pursue this ambition may find inspiration from some of the analytical perspectives offered by poststructuralist and new materialist frameworks. While surpassing orthodoxy in all versions I encourage a continuous diffractive reading of such perspectives with those of other theoretical traditions to maintain theorizing as a vital, processual and curious endeavor that remains relevant and sensitive to an always moving and surprising empirical reality. My reflections on psychology theorizing is nurtured by brief empirical examples from my own and my colleagues’ research. These examples include different versions of technologically involved human relating and agency, e.g., linked to children and young people’s use of social media, computer gaming among children, and young people’s involvement in digital sexual practices. The technologically mediated, formative processes entailed in digital participation among children and young people constantly open new horizons of potential identities, positionings, and body cultures that call for analytical sensitivity. In the last part of the paper, I discuss the ethical implications of a complexity sensitive psychology theorizing. I argue that the ethics of psychological empirical research must embrace the apparatuses that enable and enact social and subjective being, becoming, and agency as mattering and discursively entangled processes. Without losing sight of the individual, a retuning of research ethics therefore implies working on the vitalization and response-ability of the apparatus in its heterogeneous composition and the agential entanglement that produces the phenomena in focus.

Author Biography

Dorte Marie Søndergaard, Department of Educational Psychology, Danish School of Education, Aarhus University Copenhagen, Denmark

Dorte Marie Søndergaard is a professor in social psychology at the School of Education, Aarhus University in Denmark. Her research includes poststructuralist analyses of sex/gender and feminist theory, bullying among children and young people, and entangling of technology and the human. She was head of the research project eXbus: Exploring Bullying in School 2007-2012 and has published extensively on bullying and the dynamics of in- and exclusion and marginalization. Søndergaard’s research covers children and young people, imaginaries, avatars and violent digital gaming practices, digital-analogue involvement and intra-agency. A more recent study analyzes technological imitations of the human and of gender formations in the production of avatars and robots – focusing also on the formative effects on humans of their interaction with these new ‘fellow species’. Currently, she is involved in research on sexualized digital practices among young people. She is inspired by poststructuralist theory, new materialist thinking and postphenomenology, and works with digital ethnography and a wide range of other qualitative methodologies. Recent publications include ‘On humanoids, avatars and the rest of us: gender and the designing of our new Others’ (2020), ‘Traveling imagery: young people’s sexualized digital practices’ (2020, co-authored with P. Rasmussen), and ‘Psychology, Ethics, and New Materialist Thinking - Using a Study of Sexualized Digital Practices as an Example’ (2019).




How to Cite

Søndergaard, D. M. (2021). Psychology challenged: Refocusing our conceptual endeavors when culture-nature and technology kick in. International Review of Theoretical Psychologies, 1(1).