Meditation in the age of its technological mimicry

A dispositif analysis of mindfulness applications

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.7146/irtp.v1i1.127079

Keywords:

Dispositif analysis, mindfulness applications, digital health, gamification

Abstract

In recent years, mindfulness meditation has become a popular technique to reduce stress or anxietyrelated problems and to enhance happiness and wellbeing. Apart from specific real-life mindfulness
programs in schools, hospitals, military, and business environments, there is a strongly expanding
field of digitally mediated mindfulness. From a critical psychological, ‘Foucauldian’ perspective,
we analyse popular mindfulness apps as dispositifs of power that contribute to aligning the selfgovernance of individuals with the requirements of neo-liberal governance. Our analysis exposes
them as sociocultural artefacts fostering exactly such forms of subjectification that fit the neoliberal
state of affairs. By freely amalgamating and interweaving psychological, Buddhist, and economic
‘knowledge’ (their ‘meditations’ being inspired, apart from alleged Buddhist sources, from
cognitive behavioral therapy, positive psychology, and management literature), such apps orient
self-government towards competition, optimization, enhancement, and acceleration, i.e., towards a
happiness conflated with productivity – probably not quite what the Buddha had in mind.

Author Biographies

Thomas Slunecko, Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, Austria.

Thomas Slunecko works at the Department for Basic Psychological Research at the
University of Vienna. Starting with his habilitation treatise in 2002, he has developed an
approach to cultural psychology which is inspired by media theory, phenomenology,
systems theory, and cultural philosophy and, thus, quite interdisciplinary in nature. Thomas
Slunecko has a long-standing expertise in qualitative research methods, especially in
metaphor, discourse, dispositif, and picture analysis. He is the scientific head of the Viennabased independent Institut für Kulturpsychologie und qualitative Sozialforschung (IKUS),
has held functions in the steering committee of the Gesellschaft für Kulturpsychologie, is
an editorial board member of Journal für Psychologie, Culture & Psychology, and
Integrative Psychological & Behavioral Science, co-editor of a book series in social
scientific image interpretation (publisher: Barbara Budrich) and of another book series on Meditation in the age of its technological mimicry psychotherapy (publisher: facultas/UTB), a licensed psychotherapist and full member of the Austrian Psychotherapy Council

Laisha Chlouba

Laisha D. Chlouba, MSc, studied Psychology at the University of Vienna. Her research
interests in Indian psychology and qualitative methods, such as dispositif analysis, have
been influenced by an early desire to understand the psyche, consciousness, knowledge and
the meaning of life and love in order to free herself from any limiting forms of
subjectification. This has further led her to become an independent scientist and to deeply
study the art of meditation. Dedicated to keeping the relation of theory and practice close,
she works as a healing practitioner and meditation teacher.

References

Arendt, H. (1951). The origins of totalitarianism. Schocken Books.

Arthington, P. (2016). Mindfulness: A critical perspective. Community Psychology in Global

Perspective, 2 (1), 87-104.

Benjamin, W. (1969). The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. In H. Arendt

(Ed.), Illuminations. Schocken Books. https://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/benjamin.pdf

(Original work published 1935)

Bröckling, U. (2016). The entrepreneurial Self. Sage.

Burgess, J., & Baym, N.K. (2020). Twitter. A biography. NYU Press.

Chlouba, D.L. (2018). “Performing Enlightenment” – Meditation im Zeitalter ihrer technischen

Reproduzierbarkeit [Unpublished master thesis]. University of Vienna.

http://othes.univie.ac.at/55025/1/58215.pdf

Fochler, L. (2021). Psyche gut, alles gut. Eine kritische Dispositivanalyse digitaler Applikation

von Psychotherapie. [Unpublished master thesis]. University of Vienna.

Foucault, M. (1988). Technologies of the self. In L.H. Martin, H. Gutman, & P.H. Hutton (Eds.),

Technologies of the self: A seminar with Michel Foucault (pp. 16–49). University of

Massachusetts Press.

Girstmair, S. (2010). “The Entrepreneurial Poor”. Das Subjekt im Anti-Aid-Entwicklungsdiskurs

[Unpublished diploma thesis]. University of Vienna. http://othes.univie.ac.at/12388/1/2010-12-

_0305480.pdf

Hayes, S.C., Strosahl, K.D., & Wilson, K.G. (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: The

Process and Practice of Mindful Change (2nd edition). Guilford Press.

Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology. Harper & Row (Original work

published 1954).

Hristova, D., Dumit, J., Lieberoth, A. & Slunecko, T.(2019, November 14). Snapchat Streaks:

How adolescents metagame the gamification in social media.

https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/nszexMeditation in the age of its technological mimicry

Illouz, E. (2019). Emotions as commodities. Capitalism, consumption and authenticity. Routledge.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living. Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face

stress, pain and illness. Delta.

Klinger, S., & Kagerbauer, L. (2013). (De-)Thematisierungen und neoliberale Verdeckungen am

Beispiel feministischer Mädchen_arbeit – ein Zwischenruf. Gender, 2, 129-138.

Kuziemski, M. (2020). The False Promise of “Ethical AI”. Project Syndicate.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/onpoint/false-promise-of-ethical-ai-by-maciejkuziemski-2020-04

Light, B.A., Burgess, J.E., & Duguay, S. (2018). The walkthrough method: An approach to the

study of apps. New Media and Society, 20(3), 881-900.

Lupton, D. (2016). The quantified Self. A sociology of self-tracking. Polity Press.

Meister, M. (2020). Sich verbiegen, ohne zu brechen. Dispositivanalyse der Resilienz-App

„SuperBetter“. [Unpublished master thesis]. University of Vienna.

McRobbie, A. (2010). Top Girls: Feminismus und der Aufstieg des neoliberalen

Geschlechterregimes. VS-Verlag.

Müller, D. (2016). Citius, altius, fortius. Self-tracking als Regierungstechnologie – Eine

Dispositivanalyse [Unpublished master thesis]. University of Vienna.

Niebel, V., & Straub, J. (2019). Die allgegenwärtige Aktivierung innerer Ressourcen. Diskurse

der Achtsamkeit in westlichen Gesellschaften. psychosozial 4(4), 5-17.

Nietzsche, F. (2005). Thus spoke Zarathustra. A book for everyone and nobody (transl. By

Graham Parkes). Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1885)

Purser, R.E., Forbes, D., & Burke, T.A. (2016). Handbook of mindfulness. Culture, context, and

social engagement. Springer International Publishing.

Pritz, S.M. (2016). Mood Tracking: Zur digitalen Selbstvermessung der Gefühle. In S. Selke

(Ed.), Lifelogging (pp. 127-150). Springer VS.

Przyborski, A. & Slunecko, T. (2009). Against reification. Praxeological methodology and its

benefits. In J. Valsiner, P. Molenaar, M. Lyra, & N. Chaudhary (Eds.), Dynamic Process

Methodology in the Social and Developmental Sciences (pp. 141-170). Springer.

Rey, P.J. (2014). Gamification and Post-Fordian capitalism. In S. P. Walz, & S. Deterding (Eds.),

The Gameful World: Approaches, Issues, Applications (pp. 277-285). MIT Press.

Rose, N. (1989). Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self. Routledge.

Rose, N. (1996). Inventing our Selves: Psychology, power, and personhood. Cambridge

University Press.

Schaupp, S. (2017). Digital self-evaluation and the cybernetic regime: A sketch for a materialist

apparatus analysis. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for

a Global Sustainable Information Society, 15(2), 872-886.

https://doi.org/10.31269/triplec.v15i2.912

Schmidt, J. (2020). Achtsamkeit als kulturelle Praxis. Zu den Selbst-Welt-Modellen eines

populären Phänomens. transkript. https://www.transcriptverlag.de/media/pdf/47/04/b4/oa9783839452301S4idM3I8wjR8m.pdf

Schmid, M. (2013). Venus Oeconomica – Liebe und Kalkül. Eine kulturpsychologische Kritik

zeitgenössischer Beziehungsökonomik am Beispiel der technischen Herstellung romantischer

Intimität [Unpublished diploma thesis]. University of Vienna.

Schmid, M. & Slunecko, T. (2014). Die gewusste Liebe. Aspekte einer wissensförmigen

Herstellung romantischer Intimität. In: K.-J. Bruder, C. Bialluch, & B. Lemke (Eds.),

Machtwirkungen & Glücksversprechen. Gewalt und Rationalität in Sozialisation und

Bildungsprozessen (pp. 285-303). Psychosozial-Verlag.

Schröter, J. & Heilmann, T.A. (Eds.). (2016). Medienwissenschaft und Kapitalismuskritik.

Navigationen. Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturwissenschaften, 16(2).

Slunecko, T. (2008). Von der Konstruktion zur dynamischen Konstitution. Beobachtungen auf der

eigenen Spur (2nd edition). Wiener Universitätsverlag.

Slunecko, T. (2017). Beobachtungen auf der eigenen Spur. Bemerkungen zu einem für die Wiener

kulturpsychologische Schule charakteristischen Motiv. In T. Slunecko, M. Wieser, & A.

Przyborski (Eds.), Kulturpsychologie in Wien (pp. 27-54). facultas.

Slunecko, T. (2020). Tracking one’s own path. A methodological leitmotif of cultural psychology.

Integrative Psychological & Behavioral Science, 54(1), 196-214.

https://doi.org/10.1007/s12124-019-09479-2

Till, C. (2019). Creating ‘automatic subjects’: Corporate wellness and self-tracking. Health: An

interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness, and Medicine, 23(4) 418-435.

https://doi.org/10.1177/1363459319829957

Waquant, L. (2015). For a sociology of flesh and blood. Qualitative sociology, 38, 1-11.

https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-014-9291-y

Werthner, H. (2019). Vienna Manifesto for Digital Humanism.

https://www.informatik.tuwien.ac.at/dighum/index.php

Whitson, J.R. (2014). Foucault’s Fitbit: Governance and gamification. In S.P. Walz, & S.

Deterding (Eds), The Gameful World: Approaches, issues, applications (pp. 339-358). MIT

Press.

Zuboff. S. (2019). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. The fight for a human future at the new

frontier of power. Public Affairs.

Downloads

Published

2021-10-11

How to Cite

Slunecko, T., & Chlouba, L. (2021). Meditation in the age of its technological mimicry: A dispositif analysis of mindfulness applications. International Review of Theoretical Psychologies, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.7146/irtp.v1i1.127079