School-based mindfulness training and the economisation of attention: a Stieglerian view
Educational theorists may be right to suggest that providing mindfulness training in schools can challenge oppressive pedagogies and overcome Western dualism. Before concluding that this training is liberatory, however, one must go beyond pedagogy and consider schooling's role in enacting the educational neurofuture envisioned by mindfulness discourse. Mindfulness training, this article argues, is a biopolitical human enhancement strategy. Its goal is to insulate youth from pathologies that stem from digital capitalism's economisation of attention. I use Bernard Stiegler's Platonic depiction of the ambiguousness of all attention channelling mechanisms as pharmaka-containing both poison and cure-to suggest that this training is a double-edged sword. Does the inculcation of mindfulness in schoolchildren empower them; or is it merely an exercise in pathology-proofing them in their capacity as the next generation of unpaid digital labourers? The answer, I maintain, depends on whether young people can use the Internet's political potentialities to mitigate the exploitation of their unpaid online labour time. That is, on whether the exploitative 'digital pharmakon'-the capitalistic Web-can at the same time be socio-politically curative.