July 2, 2022 | University of Freiburg

The ubiquity of digital connectivity and the subsequent diminishing of human connection have become truths of our timeThis conference starts with the assumption that digital overload takes a toll on people’s ability to connect meaningfully with themselves or with others. As many studies have shown hyperconnectivity can lead to self-centered thinking, narrow-mindedness, and a lack of empathy. The attendant mindset can and often does propel contemptuous forms of social interaction.

While the downsides and risks of hyperconnectivity are well known and widely lamented, contemporary media criticism explores moments of “digital disentanglement,” i.e. users’ deliberate strategies to disconnect. This would constitute a resistance or alternative to hyperconnectivity. The “other” of hyperconnectivity then does not only refer to forms of othering (e.g. cyberhate and populist vitriol), which drive polarization and undermine democratic and civil culture.

In this conference we will examine already existent counter-strategies such as digital minimalism, digital self-defense and the digital detox movement as well as the booming mindfulness movement and the emerging academic field of critical digital literacy that train (mental) skills to curtail the harmful effects of hyperconnectivity.