Under the supervision of David Douyère and Gustavo Gomez-Mejia, I am conducting a doctoral research entitled: “Meditation and technological mediations“.
I am interested in mindfulness meditation mobile applications and in this context I am trying to determine what their nature and purpose is.
How can we use the potential of digital technology to sincerely support the teaching of meditation? What does this mean? How can we avoid turning meditation into yet another “gadget”? How can we use the smartphone to restore mental calm rather than agitation?
Over the last fifteen years, meditation and mindfulness have embraced digital interfaces, rapidly colonizing smartphone applications. Calm, Headspace or Buddhify among many others have played an important role in the democratization of this technique consisting in training the mind. Far from being neutral, this mutation is changing the very way meditation is taught. Belonging to the economic space of the application market (App Store and Play Store), meditation has become more of a mental fitness tool than a true support for a demanding spiritual practice. To this end, it has been adapted to the needs of a cognitive capitalism, precisely the one responsible for generating stress and inability to find rest for beings constantly plunged into an attention warfare. In this perspective, meditation has become a biopolitical object, where the usual techniques of the digital industry are being used: gamification, tracking, and use of scientific discourse for legitimization purposes have become the norm.
From a Buddhist angle, is there still a perspective to use technological possibilities for truly emancipatory purposes and not only for revenue generation and growth hacking?
As part of my research activities, I am the organizer (with my colleague Ghizlane Benjamaa) of the conference “Spiritual Applications“where researchers sharing our themes meet.
In 2021, I gave a paper on “How to evaluate spiritual performance? – A study of gamification within meditation applications”.
The transposition of meditation into digital interfaces induces a rearrangement of the ancient forms of the practice with digital tools and modes of expression. Over the past fifteen years, meditation has been appropriated through a variety of digital mediums, resulting in the evolution of an initially mostly oral and text-based transmission into audio and visual formats, particularly video. Smartphone applications such as Calm, Headspace, and Petit Bambou have played a significant role in this shift, tailoring meditation to individual user preferences through the use of specific digital interfaces and technical advances in audio delivery. This has resulted in a richer aesthetic experience, while at the same time offering a new gradation in the level of difficulty of the teaching by using allegorical and humorous registers, characteristic of forms present in digital culture.