Transmission in Motion

Seminar Blogs

“Reading Issho Through Verbeek’s Composite Intentionality” – Anthony Nestel

In a paper titled “In Touch With The Now: Stimulating Mindfulness Through a Smart Denim Jacket” (2019) Pauline van Dongen and Lianne Toussaint delineate the effects that van Dongen’s smart denim jacket called ‘Issho’ produces on embodied experience. With ‘Issho’, they distance themselves from other smart garments that commonly perform as an intermediary between screen and body. “Instead of encouraging people to attend to data that merely quantify physical experiences, van Dongen and team explored the possibility of stimulating wearers to be more mindful of their body and environment” (van Dongen and Toussaint 2019). In opposition to mindfulness associated with notions of the therapeutic, spiritual, or meditative, the authors make abundantly clear that by mindful they mean “a more mundane and down-to-earth state of embodied awareness” (van Dongen and Toussaint 2019). In other words, Issho metamorphoses the ways in which people relate to their own bodies, their surroundings, and/or their clothes (van Dongen and Toussaint 2019).

With this in mind, I wish to apprehend this continuous interaction between body, Issho and surrounding as what Peter-Paul Verbeek calls “composite intentionality” (Verbeek 2001). In the phenomenological tradition, intentionality refers to the connectedness, the entanglement of humans and the world. It, therefore, should not be interpreted as a conscious goal-oriented activity the human engages in. This (popular) interpretation would entail that the human possesses the capability, voluntarily, to decide whenever she desires to relate to the world or not. As if there exists the possibility to simply think, see, and feel without always thinking, seeing, feeling something of the world. Consequently, we are what we are with regard to our connections to the world and all the things we have encountered as things that constitute a perspective of the world.

Composite intentionality, according to Verbeek, is when the intentionalities of technological objects interact with the intentionalities of the human beings utilizing these devices. “Technological intentionality here needs to be understood as the specific ways in which specific technologies can be directed at specific aspects of reality” (Verbeek 2001, 392). This intentionality doesn’t only represent the world, it constructs a reality, a reality that can only be experienced by a distinct technological artifact. In the words of Verbeek, “There is [in “composite intentionality”] a double intentionality involved; one of technology toward ‘its’ world, and one of human beings toward the result of this technological intentionality.” Composite intentionality, in my opinion, describes appropriately the experience that van Dongen and Toussaint illustrate as the engenderment of a new experience, a new embodied reality, something that was prior to this inaccessible, or non-existing to our human intentionality: “The jacket not only changes what this wearer experienced (the object of experience itself) but also affects how she behaves and relates to the world around here. [T]he jacket’s haptic feedback has the potential to positively affect the wearers’ state of mind, causing them to feel more mindful, relaxed, or comfortable” (van Dongen and Toussaint 2019).


  • Van Dongen, Pauline & Toussaint, Lianne. 2019. “In Touch with the Now: Stimulating Mindfulness through a Smart Denim Jacket.” Apria, Issue #00, May 12, 2021.
  • Verbeek, Peter-Paul. 2001. “Don Ihde: The Technological Lifeworld.” In American Philosophy of Technology: The Empirical Turn edited by Hans Achterhuis, 119-146. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.