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The Extended Self: Architecture, Memes and Minds

Abel book coverReview of: The Extended Self: Architecture, Memes and Minds, by Chris Abel (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015) ISBN 978-0-7190-9612-9, Pb, pp. 357.

This is both a fascinating and a frustrating book. It ranges freely across a broad intellectual landscape and is rich with philosophical references. For me, the real fascination came from the discussion of architecture as a category of technology, which may at first seem like a reductive move but in fact turns out to be quite the opposite. The trick is to redefine technology in the broadest possible terms…

Please follow the link to read the full review:



About bodyoftheory

Jonathan Hale is an architect and Professor of Architectural Theory at the Department of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Nottingham. Currently Head of the research group Architecture, Culture and Tectonics, within the Faculty of Engineering. Research interests include: architectural theory and criticism; phenomenology; the philosophy of technology; the relationship between architecture and the body; museums, exhibitions and digital technologies. Author of numerous articles and books and co-editor of Rethinking Technology: a Reader in Architectural Theory (Routledge, 2007). Founding Chair of the international subject group: Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA): http://www.ahra-architecture.org


3 thoughts on “The Extended Self: Architecture, Memes and Minds

  1. Regrettably, I must take issue with Jonathan Hale’s disappointing and self-serving review of my book, The Extended Self: Architecture, Memes and Minds, in the Journal of Architecture. The first duty of a reviewer, as I am sure readers will agree, is to explain the author’s ideas as clearly and succinctly as possible in order that they can make up their own minds as to the work’s validity and worth. Only then are reviewers in a proper position to offer whatever comments and criticisms they have on the work.
    Unfortunately Hale seems to have confused his duties as a book reviewer for a professional journal with his personal website platform and blog. At no point does Hale offer a coherent and objective account of my theory of the extended self, a crucial element of which is the role of technically embodied memes – ‘technical memes’ for short – in the attachment of individuals and groups to cultural artefacts, and in the more general coevolution of humans and technology, a clear summary of which is offered in Chapter 8, ‘Technical memes and assemblages.’ Instead, he only offers fragmentary and disconnected comments of his own on the subject, ignoring my explanation of the complex processes of cognition involved, misrepresenting some of the few points he does mention and quoting some of my key references directly as though presenting his own research. For example, he repeats, without acknowledging it, my own argument in Chapter 6 that Dawkins’ original analogy between memes and genes as simple copying mechanisms is erroneous and does not account for the epigenetic and other non-genetic factors of evolution as described in Jablonka and Lamb’s Evolution in Four Dimensions; making no mention at all of my extensive critique of the work of Dawkins and his followers that leads me to make that point and to quote that particular source.
    Similarly, Hale gives much space to Clark and Chalmers’ essay on ‘The extended mind’ (which I discuss myself in Chapter 3), suggesting it covered the self, whereas in fact the authors only hint in conclusion that it might possibly do so, leaving the most important questions concerning the cultural development of the self unanswered, which my book addresses. Hale also briefly mentions my postscript as offering a ‘useful reminder’ of weaknesses in post-structuralist critics handling of issues of meaning but does not mention my explicit purpose in writing the postscript, which was to establish the broader theoretical and critical framework in which the book was written. Instead, neglecting the many other key thinkers an issues discussed in the postscript which support my theory, he presents his own thoughts on the subject based on the work of just one of my references, Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
    Though Hale makes a passing reference to ‘a good amount of original and rigorous argument’ in my book he never expounds any of those arguments. Instead, having failed to adequately explain any of the key ideas in the book he dismisses them without even offering any reasons for his negative conclusion. It is never possible to cover all the possible points to be made in any review of this kind but Hale misuses the space given to him and does no justice at all to my work.

    Chris Abel

    Posted by Chris Abel | January 18, 2016, 8:45 am
  2. hi, got paywalled trying to follow the link is there an OA version somewhere online?

    Posted by dmf | August 17, 2016, 8:24 pm

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