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Changing Nature and Changing Humans? A Cross-Cultural Comparative Study of the Human-Nature Relationship and the Role of Technology

Authors: Miao-ling Hasenkamp*, , Zhanli Sun, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural Geography, Sustainability Science
Keywords: Technology and the human/nature relationship, phenomenology and human geography,metaphysics in Confucianism/Daoism,Europe’s Enlightenment modernity project,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 8:40 AM / 9:55 AM
Room: Virtual Track 1
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Technology has changed perceptions of the human-nature relationship in different cultural settings. As humans face unprecedented global challenge of sustainability, it is imperative to examine how different cultural metaphysical imaginations have reacted to technological challenges. We adopt a social constructionist perspective that includes aspects of phenomenology and symbolic interactionism to define the human-nature relationship while thinking about the questions of agencies, ethics, politics, and methodologies. Two cultures are selected for this explorative comparative study: the Asian Confucian and Daoist context and the European modernity project shaped by the Judeo-Christian tradition and Enlightenment thinking. The former represents one of the oldest civilizations which has survived from its past tumults and witnessed the revival of its “harmony” discourse that unites humans and nature. The latter, characterized with the separation of human and nature, constitutes the driving motor in transforming the material world for maximizing humans’ welfare in the contemporary history. The paper presents two arguments: First, the emergence of collective cyberspace that attempts to extend humans’ experience into unknown spaces appears to facilitate cultural convergence of humans’ changing perceptions of themselves. Second, the entailed uncertainty and fear of losing control in a digital environment might prompt nostalgic endeavors to re-map nature through the ideas and methods of dwelling, wu wei/daoism, landscapes, new ecologies, hybridity, and new dialectics.

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