The “Other Side” of Scaffolding and Niche Construction

May 23, 2024 - May 24, 2024
Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä

Seminaarinmäki, Lyhty


VU University Amsterdam
University of Exeter
University of Jyväskylä
University of Exeter
University of Jyväskylä
Universität Osnabrück
Macquarie University
University of Stirling


University of Jyväskylä

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The “Other Side” of Scaffolding and Niche Construction

 Inn current philosophy of mind, scaffolding and niche construction theories explain how we engineer and interact with our environments to influence our thinking, feeling, and behavior. This discussion has typically focused on the ways in which external resources are intentionally used for individual or collective benefit – for example, when one navigates with the help of Google Maps or when urban design provides city inhabitants with equal access to public goods. To counterbalance this positive view, researchers have recently begun to investigate how environmental resources can likewise be engineered and employed to undermine, subvert, or take advantage of people (see, e.g., Slaby, 2016; Coninx & Stephan, 2021; Carvalho & Krueger, 2023; Timms & Spurrett, 2023). Such hostile or negative scaffolding may be found, for instance, in social media use that ostensibly promotes feelings of belonging but is simultaneously utilized by its owners to exploit the platform’s users. Another promising strand of research in this area examines the significance of the unconscious mind (see, e.g., Saarinen, 2024; Taipale & Saarinen, forthcoming). Indeed, if we grant that both unconscious contents (like fantasies, wishes, and amorphous experiential elements) and unconscious operations (like repression, splitting, and other defenses) can play a crucial role in our scaffolding and niche construction activities, the overall picture becomes much more complicated than previously assumed.  

The workshop focuses on these and other underexamined aspects of scaffolding and niche construction phenomena: on their “other side”, as it were. The aim is to diversify and enrich our understanding of the various factors that shape how we – as embodied and environmentally situated beings – come to think, feel, and behave as we do. The event is open to everyone but is in-person only; no registration is required. For more information, please contact Jussi Saarinen: [email protected].  


Thursday, May 23  

10.15–10.30  Opening words (Jussi Saarinen & Joona Taipale)  

10.30–11.30  Achim Stephan (Osnabrück University): Complexities of Mind Invasion

11.30–12.30  Sabrina Coninx (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): Narrative Niches and the Construction of Suffering  

12.30–14       Lunch  

14–15            Joel Krueger (University of Exeter): Affective Scaffolding and Affective Injustice  

15–16            Giulia Piredda (& Jacopo Pallagrosi) (IUSS Pavia):Affectivity on Four Legs: Dogs as Affective Scaffolds  

16–16.30       Tea and coffee  

16.30–17.30  Ida Rinne (University of Jyväskylä): Affective Niche Construction and Children’s Agency in Childhood Communities    

Friday, May 24  

10.30–11.30  Michael Wheeler (University of Stirling): Designing for Disruption: Smart Scaffolding, Intrusive Spaces and Art that makes you Think  

11.30–12.30  John Sutton (University of Stirling): Place and Memory: Disruptions and Constructions  

12.30–14       Lunch  

14–15            Tom Roberts (University of Exeter): Negative Aesthetic Niche Construction  

15–15.30       Tea and coffee  

15.30–16.30  Jussi Saarinen & Joona Taipale (University of Jyväskylä): Scaffolding in the Dark: On the Unconscious Dimensions of Affect Regulation  

16.30–16.45  Closing words    

The workshop is co-organized by Jussi Saarinen and Joona Taipale, and funded by the Academy of Finland projects “Asymmetric Encounters: Intersubjectivity and the Sense of Boundaries” and “Situated Mind and Artistic Creativity”, and the Kone Foundation project ”Experiential Demarcation: Multidisciplinary Inquiries into the Affective Foundations of Interaction)”:

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