Fine-Grained Analysis: Talk Therapy, Media, and the Microscopic Science of the Face-to-Face

The most recent issue of Isis includes a piece that may be of interest to AHP readers:

Fine-Grained Analysis: Talk Therapy, Media, and the Microscopic Science of the Face-to-Face,” by Michael Lempert. Abstract:

“Mechanical objectivity,” which Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison trace to the mid-nineteenth century, often coincided with efforts to inscribe nature “directly,” such as through automatic registering machines. But what did this inscription entail? Addressing this question requires that we reexamine indexicalization: the shift in semiotic ideology whereby medial technologies are imagined and acted on as if they preserved material traces of the real. Indexicalization is no simple reflex of mechanical objectivity and is more varied and consequential than commonly imagined. This essay demonstrates this by returning to the sciences of face-to-face interaction, which crystallized in postwar America but drew inspiration from earlier research on talk therapy. Returning to efforts to record psychoanalysis sessions in the early 1930s “objectively,” it chronicles a shift in the technosemiotic mediation of knowledge. Whereas transcripts were originally “verbatim” records of literal content, researchers came to seek tacit, symptomological signs. And whereas mechanical recording was introduced to avoid an observer effect, it was later deemed necessary to preserve indexical traces for fine-grained analysis. This indexicalization had ontological as well as epistemological effects, and it was inspired not by mechanical objectivity but by the parallel capacities of the perceptive psychoanalyst and the receptive mechanical recorder, both virtuosic in registering the indexical richness of the communicative unconscious.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.