Unembodiment on the Internet. Part 1: Theoretical Basis and Construct



Disembodiment of digital media users, known as the loss of their physical bodies in cyberspace is among the least-studied psychological consequences of the use of information technologies. In the digital era such kind of disembodiment might limit the development of a person’s individuality. That’s why in present study we aim to create its theoretical construct. The construct is based on the clinical conception of unembodiment of schizoids by the British psychiatrist R. Laing. There is an evidence to suggest that constant split between self and body, that digital media users demonstrate, creates conditions for disembodiment similar to the one of schizoids. This existential position is associated with feelings of loss of reality, self-substantiality and elusiveness of being. In the same way that the disembodiment of schizoids and inherent to it sense of self and view of the world are determined by their ‘shutupness’ in the inner world, the disembodiment of media users is determined by the extent to which their life is limited to the artificial computer environment. The theoretical construct was measured according to this hypothesis. Three measurements, which unites factors that stand against the disembodiment are presented in the article: Disembodiment as Virtualization, Preference of the Internet and their alternative Vitality of the Embodied Self.

General Information

Keywords: existential position of the unembodiment, psychological effects of the use of information technologies, disembodiment, unembodiment on the Internet, experience of the unembodiment

Journal rubric: Theoretical Research

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/cpse.2021100303

Funding. The reported study was funded by RFBR, project number 19-29-07046.

For citation: Kopteva N.V., Kalugin A.Yu., Dorfman L.Y. Unembodiment on the Internet. Part 1: Theoretical Basis and Construct [Elektronnyi resurs]. Klinicheskaia i spetsial'naia psikhologiia = Clinical Psychology and Special Education, 2021. Vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 31–48. DOI: 10.17759/cpse.2021100303. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Antsyferova L.I. Razvitie lichnosti i problemy gerontopsikhologii [Development of Personality and Problems of Gerontopsychology]. Moscow: Institut psikhologii RAN, 2006. 512 p. (In Russ).
  2. Asmolov A.G., Asmolov G.A. Ot My-media k Ya-media: transformatsii identichnosti v virtual'nom mire [From We-media to I-media: transformation of identity in the virtual world]. Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta. Seriya 14. Psikhologiya=Moscow University Bulletin. Series 14. Psychology, 2010, no. 1, pp. 3–21. (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  3. Baeva L.V. Ekzistentsial'nye riski informatsionnoy epokhi [Existential risks of the information age]. Informatsionnoe obshchestvo=Information Society, 2013, no. 3, pp. 18–27. (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  4. Belinskaya E.P. Vzaimosvyaz' real'noy i virtual'noy identichnostey pol'zovateley sotsial'nykh setey [The relationship between real and virtual identities of social networks users]. Obrazovanie lichnosti=Personality Formation, 2016, no. 2, pp. 31–39. (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  5. Belinskaya E.P. Chelovek v informatsionnom mire [A person in the data world]. In G.M. Andreeva, A.I. Dontsov (eds.) Sotsial'naya psikhologiya v sovremennom mire=Social Psychology in the Modern World]. Moscow: Aspekt Press, 2002. pp. 203–220. (In Russ).
  6. Bogdanova M.V., Dotsenko E.L. Samoregulyatsiya lichnosti: ot zashchit k sozidaniyu [Self-regulation of a personality: from defenses to creation]. Tyumen': Mandr i Ka, 2010. 204 p. (In Russ).
  7. Vlasova O. Fenomenologicheskaya psikhiatriya i ekzistentsial'nyy analiz: Istoriya, mysliteli, problem [Fenomenological psychiatry and existential analysis: history, thinkers and problems]. Moscow: Territoriya budushchego, 2010. 640 p. (In Russ).
  8. Voyskunskiy A.E. Psikhologiya i Internet [Psychology and the Internet]. Moscow: Akropol', 2010. 439 p. (In Russ).
  9. Vystuplenie Marshalla Maklyuena na seminare professora Forsdeyla 17.07.78 [Marshall McLuhan's speech at professor forsdale's seminar on 17.07.78]. Tichers- Kolledzh, Universitet Kolambii, N'yu-York. URL: http://www.mcluhan.ru/quotations/ marshall-maklyuen-na-seminare-professora-forsdejla/ (Accessed 05.09.2021). (In Russ).
  10. Deri M. Skorost' ubeganiya: Kiberkul'tura na rubezhe vekov [Escape velocity. Cyberculture at the end of the century]. Ekaterinburg: Ul'tra. Kul'tura, 2008. 478 p. (In Russ).
  11. Dorfman L.Ya., Kalugin A.Yu. Sootnoshenie resursov, potentsialov i akademicheskikh dostizheniy studentov. Soobshchenie 1. Differentsiatsiya resursov i potentsialov [Resources, potentials and academic achievements of students. Part 1. Differentiation of resources and potentials]. Obrazovanie i nauka=The Education and Science Journal, 2020, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 64–88. DOI: 10.17853/1994-5639-2020-4-64-88 (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  12. Dorfman L.Ya., Kalugin A.Yu. Sootnoshenie resursov, potentsialov i akademicheskikh dostizheniy studentov. Soobshchenie 2. Ot differentsiatsii k integratsii resursov i potentsialov akademicheskikh dostizheniy studentov [Resources, potentials and academic achievements of students. Part 2. From differentiation to integration of resources, potentials and academic achievements of students]. Obrazovanie i nauka=The Education and Science Journal, 2020, vol. 22, no. 5, pp. 90–110. DOI: 10.17853/1994-5639- 2020-5-90-110 (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  13. Karr N. Steklyannaya kletka. Avtomatizatsiya i my [The Glass Cage: Automation and Us]. Moscow: KoLibri, Azbuka-Attikus, 2015. 256 p. URL: https://libking.ru/ books/comp/computers/536943-nikolas-karr-steklyannaya-kletka-avtomatizatsiya-i- my.html (Accessed 05.09.2021). (In Russ).
  14. Kin E. Nichego lichnogo. Kak sotsial'nye seti, poiskovye sistemy i spetssluzhby ispol'zuyut nashi personal'nye dannye [Nothing personal. How social networking sites, research engines and secret service use our personal data]. Moscow: Al'pina Pablisher, 2020. 224 p. (In Russ).
  15. Leyng R.D. Raskolotoe «Ya». Ekzistentsial'noe issledovanie «normal'nosti» i bezumiya. Fenomenologiya perezhivaniya i Rayskaya ptichka [The divided self. An existential study in sanity and madness]. Moscow: IOI, 2017. 350 p. (In Russ).
  16. Maklyuen M.G. Ponimanie media. Vneshnie rasshireniya cheloveka [Understanding media. The extension of man]. Moscow: Kuchkovo pole, 2018. 464 p. (In Russ).
  17. Neysbit D. Megatrendy [Megatrends]. Moscow: ACT; Ermak, 2003. 380 p. (In Russ).
  18. Orekh E.A., Sergeeva O.V. Tsifrovoe litso i tsifrovoe telo: novye yavleniya v vizual'nom kontente sotsial'nykh setey [Digital face and digital body: new phenomena in the visual content of social networks]. Vestnik SPbGU. Seriya 12. Sotsiologiya=Bulletin of St. Petersburg University. Series 12. Sociology, 2015, no. 2, pp. 137–145. (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  19. Rasskazova E.I., Emelin V.A., Tkhostov A.Sh. Diagnostika psikhologicheskikh posledstviy vliyaniya informatsionnykh tekhnologiy na cheloveka [Diagnostics of psychological effects of the impact of information technologies on a person: a teaching guide for psychology students]. Moscow: Akropol', 2015. 115 p. (In Russ).
  20. Sapogova E.E. Ekzistentsial'naya psikhologiya vzroslosti [Existential psychology of adulthood]. Moscow: Smysl, 2013. 767 p. (In Russ).
  21. Smartfon: soedinyaet s dal'nimi i raz"edinyaet s blizhnimi [The Smartphone connects us with the strangers and disconnects from the fellow men]. Konsul'tativnaya psikhologiya i psikhoterapiya=Counseling Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2019, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 197–210. DOI: 10.17759/cpp.2019270312 (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  22. Soldatova E.L., Pogorelov D.N. Fenomen virtual'noy identichnosti: sovremennoe sostoyanie problemy [The Phenomenon of virtual identity: the contemporary condition of the problem]. Obrazovanie i nauka=The Education and Science Journal, 2018, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 105–124. DOI: 10.17853/1994-5639-2018-5-105-124 (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  23. Khoruzhiy S.S. Rod ili nedorod? Zametki k ontologii virtual'nosti [The kind or underkind? Notes on the ontology of virtuality]. Voprosy filosofii=Questions of Philosophy, 1997, no. 6, pp. 53–68. (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  24. Chudova N.V. Osobennosti obraza «Ya» «zhitelya Interneta» [Aspects of the self- image of an “Internet inhabitant”]. Psikhologicheskiy zhurnal=Psychological Journal, 2002, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 44–52. (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  25. Bell D. An introduction to cybercultures. London, New York, NY: Routledge, 2001. 246 p.
  26. Chayko M. Superconnected: The internet, digital media, and techno-social life. Los Angeles, LA: Sage Publications, 2017. 270 p.
  27. Hasseldtrom L. A Real workout: our bodies are designed for more than pushing pencils. Utne Reader. 1992. May/June. P. 62–63.
  28. Itten T. Laing in Austria [Elektronnyy resurs]. In D. Burston (ed.), Janus Head. Special Issue: The Legacy of R.D. Laing, 2001, vol. 4. no 1. P. 69–89. URL: https:// www.ittentheodor.ch/hintergrund/r-d-laing/ (Accessed 05.09.2021).
  29. Laing R.D. The divided self. An existential study in sanity and madness. UK: Penguin Books, 2010. 218 p.
  30. Marwick A.E. Selling yourself: Online identity in the age of a commodified internet. Doctoral Diss. University of Washington, 2005. 188 p.
  31. Orzack M.H. Computer addiction: What is it. Psychiatric times, 1998, vol. 15, no. 8, pp. 34–38.
  32. Rheingold H. The virtual community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, 1993. 325 p.
  33. Stone A.R. The war of desire and technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996. 228 p.
  34. Suler J.R. Identity management in cyberspace. Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 2002, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 455–459. DOI: 10.1023/A:1020392231924
  35. Turkle S. Life on the screen: identity in the age of the Internet. New York: Simon &Schuster. 1995. 247 p.
  36. Turkle S. Who am we? We are moving from modernist calculation toward postmodernist simulation, where the self is a multiple, distributed system. Wired, 1996, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 148–152, 194–199. URL: https://www.wired.com/1996/01/turkle-2/ (Accessed 05.09.2021).

Information About the Authors

Natalia V. Kopteva, Doctor of Psychology, Associate Professor, Professor of the Department of Practical Psychology, Perm State Humanitarian-Pedagogical University, Perm, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1466-9453, e-mail: kopteva@pspu.ru

Alexey Y. Kalugin, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Theoretical and Applied Psychology, Perm State Humanitarian Pedagogical University, Perm, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3633-2926, e-mail: kaluginau@yandex.ru

Leonid Y. Dorfman, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Professor, Head of the Department of Humanities, Perm State Institute of Culture, Perm, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8494-5674, e-mail: dorfman07@yandex.ru



Total: 519
Previous month: 18
Current month: 9


Total: 174
Previous month: 6
Current month: 13