JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Alex de Guzman

March 24, 2022 by Sonja Johnston

Alex de Guzman is a 2021-22 JHI Undergraduate Fellow (Jukka-Pekka Saraste Undergraduate Award in the Humanities). He’s completing a specialist in Philosophy. His project at the JHI is titled “Aesthetic Boredom: Heroic Higher Pleasure”.

JHI: What are your main research interests?

AdG: My main research interests are philosophy of action, aesthetics, ludology (as the intersection between those first two) and now, most significantly, the study of attention.

JHI: What research project(s) are you working on now at the JHI and why did you choose it?

AdG: My research project started with the goal of analyzing boredom and attention as a way of refining philosophical distinctions between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ pleasures, but I eventually realized that diagnosing the specific phenomena I was interested in—the technological arms race in ‘the attention economy’—required attention to really take center stage. The meteoric rise of unbelievably addicting apps such as TikTok (and its subsequent clones), in a time when our attentions spans are dwindling into nothing, drove me to analyze how exactly these technologies addict us by design, and what they may be doing on a subtler, deeper level to our capacities as autonomous agents and deliberators of value.

JHI: What experiences are you hoping for while you’re at the JHI?

AdG: Getting to work in a lively interdisciplinary environment has been a delightfully unique experience. The weekly research presentations and discussions not only gave me much to think about in regard to my own project, but moreover gave me the privilege to peer into fields I would have never looked into otherwise.

JHI: Share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by.

AdG: C. Thi Nguyen’s recently published book “Games: Agency as Art” is something I recommend to anyone familiar or brand new to philosophy. His discussion of games and gamification left me awed by its lucidity and analysis of how the values we set subtly shape our lives, and wonderfully reminded me that aesthetic philosophy is as relevant and important as ever.

JHI: What is a fun fact about you?

AdG: I am a huge fan of the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons and have been the Dungeon Master (essentially the game’s referee and storyteller) for a number of campaigns. That all may sound like nonsense if you haven’t the slightest clue what this is, but I assure you: at its best, D&D is the best game on the planet.