Civilization and its disconnects


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Paper presented to 2012 New York regional meeting of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations.

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  • Electronic media such as the internet provide an environment that facilitates communication of private ‘content’ that can no longer find expression through the public institutions of civilized society
  • Case of hospital: Nurses inappropriately sharing material about patients Patients wanting to be friends with nurses
  • Maybe an inbuilt tension - practice suits electronic age but theory grounded in industrial age
  • Media provides a way of thinking and feeling - kind of filters for experience
  • Two ways of filtering the world (similar to PS and D? or Ba and W?) Or oral and anal phases of development??
  • The keyboard as an example of repeatability and standardization. (To do with how they are manufactured). With touch screens, no need for same order of letters - no need for phonetic alphabet either (swipe typing and predictive text) Importance of correct spelling and correct grammar and punctuation is new - conformity to allow repeatability. Very few spaces between words, or punctuation, prior to printing
  • Think of touch screens and voice controls Digitisation allows translation of all senses into each other - synthaesthesia
  • Civilization and its disconnects

    1. 1. Civilization and its disconnects:Privacy, publicity and electronic mediaPrivacy, publicity and electronic media Dr David Patman University of Melbourne 1
    2. 2. Overview• Privacy versus publicity• Historical, cultural, psychoanalytic perspectives• McLuhan and media effects• Privacy in tribal, industrial and electronic media cultures• Media containers and media content• Future possibilities for media and psychoanalysis• Social media as symptom 2
    3. 3. Privacy vs Publicity• A central dilemma for users of electronic communications technology.• Some feel that electronic media are intruding into our lives - CCTV, television, mobile phones, email.• Yet, many people seem prepared to share the most personal (and often most mundane) aspects of their lives via social media.• For other users this too can feel like an annoying invasion of ‘personal’ space. 3
    4. 4. Why I gave up Facebook“Online, social networks instructus to share whenever theressomething on our mind, nomatter how ignorant or illconsidered, and then help usbroadcast it to the widestpossible audience. Every day eachof us is bombarded by otherpeoples random thoughts. Westart to see such effusions asnatural.”Sherry Turkle, Alone Together) 4
    5. 5. Over-sharing is NSFW 5
    6. 6. Social media management is big business“Social media offers temptingopportunities to interact withemployees, business partners,customers, prospects and a wholehost of anonymous participants onthe social Web…However, thosewho participate in social media needguidance from their employer aboutthe rules, responsibilities, normsand behaviors expected of them”(Gartner, Seven Critical Questions toAsk Before Developing a Social MediaPolicy, 2011) 6
    7. 7. "Publication is a self- invasion of privacy"In a society which appears toplace such a high value onprivacy and the protection ofpersonal information, why isthat so many people seemwilling, if not eager, to publiclyshare intimate details of theirprivate lives via social media? 7
    8. 8. A (very) brief history of privacy• Property: Physical space can be owned by private individuals emerged with English Enclosure Acts in 1700s – removed access to ‘the commons’ and assigned to private landowners. Laws to protect the ‘right to be let alone’ (e.g. Fourth Amendment)• Personal: Parts of the body that might be ‘private’ (and indecent, offensive or shameful) a feature of ‘civilized’ society. Protected by architecture, clothing, manners, some decency laws.• Both depend on the ability to define and control access across a boundary - associated with ‘power’• Violation of boundary between public and private evokes anxiety, outrage and moral panic: felt to be unlawful, improper, indecent, pathological (e.g.‘exhibitionism’ and ‘voyeurism’) 8
    9. 9. Privacy across cultures• No agreed definition – from Latin privatus – to separate/deprive• No word for privacy in some languages (e.g. Russian).• Public toilets and public hospitals in China really are ‘public’• In medieval Europe, the poor lived together in one room• Privacy associated with phonetic literacy 9
    10. 10. Information privacy“Instantaneous photographs andnewspaper enterprise haveinvaded the sacred precincts ofprivate and domestic life; andnumerous mechanical devicesthreaten to make good theprediction that ‘what iswhispered in the closet shall beproclaimed from the house-tops’” Warren and Brandeis,Harvard Law Review (1891) 10
    11. 11. Information privacy• Concept relatively new - emerged in response to ‘yellow journalism’ based on telegraphic wire services which deliver information instantaneously• Focus of present day privacy statutes• Extends principles of private property to idea that we should have rights over information about us• Various statutes to protect information: mail tampering, surveillance, identity fraud, government records, intellectual property• Also extended to unsolicited information entering private realm that might be offensive or dangerous, e.g. Spam 11
    12. 12. Privacy - game over?"If you have something you dontwant anyone to know, maybe youshouldnt be doing it in the firstplace"Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google"The age of privacy is over"Mark Zuckerberg, CEO andfounder of Facebook 12
    13. 13. Privacy andpsychoanalysis 13
    14. 14. Privacy and psychoanalysis“Some say [loss of privacy] is anonissue; they point out that privacyis a historically new idea. This istrue. But although historically new,privacy has well served our modernnotions of intimacy and democracy.Without privacy, the borders ofintimacy blur. And, of course, whenall information is collected, everyonecan be turned into an informer”Sherry Turkle, Alone Together 14
    15. 15. Privacy and psychoanalysis• Norman Holland: The pseudonymity of identity protects users from real consequences, encouraging over-sexualized and overly aggressive behavior (flirting and flaming) – ‘the internet regression’• Sherry Turkle: The ability to ‘broadcast the self’ lures one into narcissistic self-absorption. We become dependent on our devices. Virtual, machine-mediated relationships become substitutes for the real thing – users are ‘alone together’.• Bonnie Litowitz: Electronic media undermines authority, giving the pleasure principle free rein – the return of the repressed.• Aaron Balick: Permanence and hyper-availability of searchable data on people disrupts stable sense of self - virtual impingement. 15
    16. 16. Privacy and psychoanalysis• Common theme is regression• There are cases of dependence, obsession, ‘cyber-bullying’ and other pathological behavior online• But also cases where the internet has been used creatively (e.g. sharing knowledge, building virtual communities, taking collective action, peaceful revolution – see Philip Boxer and Clay Shirky) 16
    17. 17. McLuhan and media effects“The printing press, the computer, andtelevision are not ... simply machineswhich convey information. They aremetaphors through which weconceptualize reality in one way oranother. They will classify the world forus, sequence it, frame it, enlarge it, reduceit, argue a case for what it is like. Throughthese media metaphors, we do not seethe world as it is. We see it as our codingsystems are. Such is the power of theform of information.”Marshall McLuhan, Understanding media 17
    18. 18. McLuhan and media effects• Mental life has its origins interplay of material deriving from the physical senses (e.g. Beta elements?)• We have a ‘sensory ratio’ – when one sense is stimulated, the others are dulled (e.g. dentists use ‘audiac’ as anaesthetic)• Media extend and amplify the physical senses. If one sense is stimulated or flooded, the others are dulled to ‘unconsciousness’ (e.g. as in hypnosis, or sleep)• The sensory ratio – and therefore experience - in any society is related to its media mix• Media are the means of reproduction of particular ways of being 18
    19. 19. Audio-tactile immersion in the collective mind• Media: speech, songs, dreams, dance, touch (grooming)• Images and words have magical resonant quality• Experience is immersive, everyone involved with everyone else (village)• Communal rather than individual identity• Space is acoustic (surround) - motif is mosaic• Time cyclic rather than linear• Common areas, but no privacy as we know it• Associated with ‘tribal’ cultures, primitive - like Ba group? 19
    20. 20. Visual culture and civilized society• Media: written and printed word• Phonetic alphabet splits meaning from symbols• Experience is split into public and private domains, subject and object• Individual subjects with points of view, related to each other through systems, specialist roles, institutions, laws• Space is optic (directional, individual-centric) - motif is hierarchy• Time is uniform and sequential• Associated with civil society, rationality, science 20
    21. 21. Visual culture and civilized society 21
    22. 22. The privatized self - alone together• “Where the whole man is involved there is no work. Work begins with the division of labor”• The main effect of print technology, according to McLuhan, is to split off the public individual as a distinct, and self-aware entity.• Private individuals relate to each other through logic and rationality and, together, constitute a kind of social machine.• However, for the components of the machine to work in harmony, the messy parts of experience (associated with sound, touch, taste and smell) must be split off into an area which cant be seen - the realm of the private’.• Civilization enacts a kind of repression 22
    23. 23. Electronic tribes and the global village• McLuhan: The speed of electricity extends the whole central nervous system outside the body• Electric media are reversing the process of splitting enacted by visual culture, returning us to audio-tactile culture• Begun with telegraph and telephone, amplified by radio and TV• The motif is again the mosaic (or matrix): the organic web as opposed to the mechanical system• Parallel with difference between classical and quantum physics 23
    24. 24. Electronic tribes and the global village 24
    25. 25. Electronic tribes and the global village• OMG she got FB frnds tatts on hr arm LOL• WTF?? :0• asdkfdksdhslk!!!• HAHA Pwned :-) 25
    26. 26. Media containers and content• “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which we communicate than by the content of the communication” (e.g. electric light)• Media are containers for the externalization (‘extension’) of parts of the self• These parts (‘content’) are misrecognized (‘repressed) as ‘other’ in a kind of projective identification• Media content exerts a narcissistic fascination which blinds us to the unconscious effects of the medium itself• The internet is the medium - social media is one aspect of its content 26
    27. 27. Social media is contentThe internet is the mediumThe internet is the medium• The internet allows people to be involved in each others lives (as do other electronic media such as TV, radio, the telephone).• Fast networks, cheap memory, increased processing power have sped up this involvement• Social media are like TV programs on the internet – they offer a kind of ‘plot structure’• Structure is often consistent with the patterns of the old print-based media (e.g. Facebook timeline is like sands through the hourglass) 27
    28. 28. Future possibilities• “If the nineteenth century was the age of the editorial chair, ours is the century of the psychiatrists couch”• Psychoanalysis adopted on the cusp of the electronic age.• Consulting room restores the auditory (speech) and tactile (couch) qualities of experience. The analyst provides an imagined and responsive audience for the users emotional projection/communications.• Perhaps Internet users seeking a parallel experience through social media - to get back in touch with split off parts of the self?• Can we discover a form of electronic media which offers a parallel opportunity for collective reflection on, and reconnection with, what has been repressed by ci-visualization? 28
    29. 29. The interpretation of memes• Patterns and rhythms in internet content which express and amplify shared feelings and preoccupations• These are magnified or amplified through content which goes viral, or becomes a meme. (e.g. Lolcats)• These have meaning and can provide insight into social dynamics of our era (similar to Beradt’s 3rd Reich of dreams)• e.g. binders full of women – tells us something about Romney but also about ourselves 29
    30. 30. Social media as symptom• "Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do todays job with yesterdays tools and yesterdays concepts"• Mismatch between Industrial Age organization rules and structures and new electronic environment - focus of group relations?• Opportunity to use electronic media as a tool for self-reflection - like a Listening Post• Use of social media at work (in ways which seem damaging rather than productive) highlight a point at which the organization has been unable to provide requisite containment• Defence is to shut down, make more repressive rules - can we help build more reflective cultures? 30