Hacking the Brain? Histories of Technology and Mind Control Conference, 16-17 June 2022

AHP readers may be interested in a conference taking place June 16 and 17, 2022 at the Centre for Health and Humanities, the University of Groningen. It will be in a hybrid format. Participation can be in person (for a small fee) or online.

The “Hacking the Brain? Histories of Technology and Mind Control” conference is described as:

The world today is haunted by dreams and anxieties about technology and the brain, from the role of companies such as Cambridge Analytica in elections to hypercapitalist visions of seamless consumerism and concerns about the power of ‘behaviour modification’ in a world ‘surveillance capitalism’. More broadly, profound assumptions of technology as a form of stimulating ‘input’ leading to emotional arousal in a computer-like brain, a stimulus-response mechanism akin to an electric charge, are at the heart of much of both the defence and critique of the emerging digital world.

However, fears about the power of modern technology to make human subjects into the puppets of unseen masters to manipulate whole populations are not a new phenomenon. Twenty-first-century anxieties draw on decades of discourse on different types of technology as vehicles for brainwashing, hypnosis or mind control techniques, adding a technological angle to traditions of ‘magical’ objects supposedly able to ‘enchant’ others. In contexts as diverse as Enlightenment Mesmerism, psychiatric diagnoses related to ‘Influencing Machines,’ Cold War Behaviourist models of stimulated subjects, Critical Theory denunciations of the ‘Culture Industry’ and conspiracy theories about everything from TV to 5G networks, the notion of technology as a means of mind control has had a powerful attraction.

This conference will examine this shifting discourse, looking at the role of technological, cultural, ideological and medical factors in framing fears about culture, technology and individual autonomy.

Provisional Programme

Thursday 16 June

13:00-14:00 – Registration/lunch

14:00-15:30- *Panel 1- British Mind Control *

Rhodri Hayward, (Queen Mary, London), “Poltergeists and Telepaths:
 Mind Control and the Problem of Agency in 1970s Britain.”

Mike Jay, “Mind Control’s Patient Zero: James Tilly Matthews and
the Air Loom”

15:30-15:45 – tea/coffee

15:45-17:15 *Panel 2 – Brain Control*

Rebecca Lemov (Harvard), “Just Because They’re After You: The
Return of Brain Control in Anti-Violence Scientific Crusades of the 1970s.”

Anthony Enns (Dalhousie), “Brain Control: The Weaponization of
Psychotechnologies in Cold War Science.”

17:15-17:30 – tea/coffee

17:30-19:00 *Panel 3 – Mind Control and Capitalism *

Bernd Bösel (Potsdam), “The Spectre of Digital Mind Control:
Shoshana Zuboff’s *The Age of Surveillance Capitalism* and its Critics.”

Natasha Dow Schull (NYU), “Custom Mind Control: Personalized
Volatility in Digital Gambling.”

19:15 – Dinner – Bistro ‘t Gerecht

Friday 17 June

12:00-12:15 – lunch

12:15-13:45 – *Panel 4 – Control *

Maarten Derksen (Groningen), “Control out of Control.”

Marc Tuters (Amsterdam), The Concept of ‘Control’ in Media Theory
and Conspiracy Theory about the Internet.”

13:45-14:00 – tea/coffee

14:00-16:15 *Panel 5 – Cultures of Mind Control *

Fleur Hopkins-Loferon (Paris), “Parasite Culture: Host Manipulation
in SF Imaginary (1980-2020).”

James Kennaway (Groningen), “Enchanted Technology: Musical Mind
Control in Conspiracy Theory.”

Kenneth White (Binghamton), “Hyperventilation Syndrome: Media
Cultures, Control Societies—circa 1970.”

16:15-16:30 – tea/coffee

16:30-18:00 – *Panel 6 – Paranoia*

Andreas Killen (City College), “Stroboscope and the Paranoid Style.”

Jeffrey Sconce (Northwestern), “Field and Stream in Paranoid Ideation.”

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.