Homo Prostheticus? Intercorporeality and the emerging adult-smartphone assemblage

Caroline Marchant, Stephanie O'Donohoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Young people’s attachment to their smartphones is well-documented, with smartphones often described as prostheses. While prior studies typically assume a clear human/machine divide, this paper builds on posthuman perspectives, exploring intercorporeality, the blurring of the human/technology boundaries, between emerging adults and their smartphones.

Drawing on assemblage theory, this interpretive study uses smartphone diaries and friendship pair/small group discussions with 27 British emerging adults.
Participants in this study are characterised as homo prostheticus, living with and through their phones, treating them as extensions of their mind and part of their selves as they navigated between their online and offline, public and social lives. Homo prostheticus was part of a broader assemblage or amalgamation of human and non-human components. As these components interacted with each other, the assemblage could be strengthened or weakened by various technological, personal and social factors.

These qualitative findings are based on a particular sample at a particular point in time, within a particular culture. Further research could explore intercorporeality in human-smartphone relationships among other groups, in other cultures.

Although other studies have used prosthetic metaphors, this paper contributes to understanding of smartphones as a prosthesis in the lives of emerging adults, highlighting intercorporeality as a key feature of homo prostheticus. It also uses assemblage theory to contextualise homo prostheticus and explore factors strengthening or weakening the broader human-smartphone assemblage
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation Technology & People
Early online date5 Sept 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Sept 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • emerging adults
  • smartphones
  • posthumanism
  • assemblage theory
  • intercorporeality
  • technogenesis
  • extended cognition
  • prosthesis


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