Tag Archives: technology

History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

It is my pleasure to direct AHP readers to a just released special issue of History of the Human Science on Psychology and its Publics, guest edited by Michael Pettit and myself. The issue includes articles tackling a diverse array of topics on psychology’s relationship with the public, including: the public psychology of sentimentalism and the guillotine during the French Revolution; the construction of an attitudinal public in concert with the development of questionnaires; the dissemination of Albert Ellis’s rational therapy via popular media forms; the public’s interaction with psychological ideas via the graphic novel Watchmen and its queer history; the function of sexual assault surveys in structuring rape’s ontology and politicizing rape as a social issue; and consideration of the ontology of the public through the lens of deliberative public opinion. Thanks to all our contributors for their wonderful and thought provoking work!

In advance of the issue’s release I was also interviewed about the rationale and aims of the special issue by History of the Human Sciences editor-in-chief Felicity Callard. Read that interview in full here.

Full titles, authors, and abstracts for the pieces in the special issue follow below.

“Psychology and its publics,” by Michael Pettit and Jacy L. Young. Abstract:

This paper introduces the special issue dedicated to ‘Psychology and its Publics’. The question of the relationship between psychologists and the wider public has been a central matter of concern to the historiography of psychology. Where critical historians tend to assume a pliant audience, eager to adopt psychological categories, psychologists themselves often complain about the public misunderstanding of them. Ironically, both accounts share a flattened understanding of the public. We turn to research on the public understanding of science (PUS), the public engagement with science (PES) and communications studies to develop a rich account of the circuitry that ties together psychological experts and their subjects.

“The unfailing machine: Mechanical arts, sentimental publics and the guillotine in revolutionary France,” by Edward Jones-Imhotep. Abstract:

This article explores how the pre-eminent public psychology of the French Revolution – sentimentalism – shaped the necessity, understanding and construction of its most iconic public machine. The guillotine provided a solution to the problem of public executions in an age of both sentiment and reason. It was designed to rationalize punishment and make it more humane; but it was also designed to guard against the psychological effects of older, more variable and unpredictable methods of public execution on a sentimental public. That public, contemporaries argued, required executions performed by an unfailing technology. Rather than focus on the role of the guillotine after 1793, the article explores how the implacable mechanical action that helped produce the Reign of Terror and multiply the cadavers of medical science was demanded by the guillotine’s origins as a sentimental machine.

“Numbering the mind: Questionnaires and the attitudinal public,” by Jacy L. Young. Abstract: Continue reading History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

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International Conference: Mind Reading as Cultural Practice

AHP readers may be interested in a call for paper for a conference on “Mind Reading as Cultural Practice” to be held at the Institute for Cultural Theory and History, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany, 22-23 March 2018. Full details below.

Mind Reading as Cultural Practice
International Conference to be held at the Institute for Cultural Theory and History, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany, 22-23 March 2018

Convenors: Laurens Schlicht and Christian Fassung (Humboldt University Berlin, Germany), Simone Natale (Loughborough University, UK)

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, a wide range of technologies and techniques have been developed to generate knowledge about what people feel, think, wish, or plan. To give just a few examples, employ physiological evidence to establish if a subject is telling the truth or if s/he is lying; subfields of psychology such as characterology are designed to identify and recognize certain types; and recently computing technologies employ algorithm and facial recognition software to make inferences about feelings and mental states.

Yet, relatively few attempts have been made to address such diverse practices in conjunction and connection with each other. This conference aims to fill this gap. Employing the concept of mind reading in a broad sense as designating any technique that helps to create knowledge about people’s feelings and states of mind, it aims to stimulate a critical debate about mind reading techniques as forms of knowledge and in regard to their political, social, and cultural dimension.

The conference’s objective is to promote a cross-disciplinary debate, taking into account also areas of knowledge that are often excluded from academic discourse, such as the occult practices of parapsychology or the practices of local police officers and marketing operatives. In this regard, speakers are encouraged to engage with a set of questions connected to the historical, epistemic and cultural dimensions of mind reading. Potential topics include but are not limited to:

– The design, production and use of technologies of mind reading. How were these technologies developed, and how did they inform the development of mind reading practices? Which functions did they have in terms of knowledge production and dissemination, and to what extent were they related to the development of discourses about technology, objectivity, subjectivity, and science?

– A perspective from historical epistemology: how are the objects of research on mind reading produced and shaped? What kinds of epistemic techniques are employed to generate knowledge about people’s state of mind, feelings, or about the veracity of their statements?

– The construction of subjectivity based on mind reading techniques: in certain specific contexts, modes of subjectivity such as the “psychopath” or the “neurasthenic” provided an important conceptual framework both for science, the legal system, and for people’s self-conception. How did the practices under consideration help to create, consolidate, or change modes of subjectivity?

– The cultural and political dimensions of mind reading: how did such technologies and practices contribute to re-shape political regimes? Which political and cultural roles did mind reading techniques play? How far and to what extent did mind reading have a transformative impact in the political arena and on broad economic and social phenomena?

Confirmed speakers include Christian Bachhiesl, Melissa Littlefield, Roger Luckhurst, Annette Mülberger, and Michael Pettit.

We welcome proposals for papers from all disciplines connected to the subject areas mentioned above. Those who wish to submit a paper should send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short CV or bio to the following address: laurens.schlicht@hu-berlin.de

Deadline: October 1st, 2017

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New HoP: Sandor Rado on Bisexuality, Psych and Social Engineering in 20th c. America, & Behavior Therapy in France

Sandor Rado

The August 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now available. Articles in this issue discuss psychoanalyst Sandor Rado’s influential views on bisexuality, American attitudes toward psychology, technology, and social engineering in the 20th century, and the difficult reception of behavior therapy in France. Full details below.

“Sandor Rado, American psychoanalysis, and the question of bisexuality,” by Tontonoz, Matthew. Abstract:

The Hungarian-born physician and psychoanalyst Sandor Rado (1890–1972), who practiced for most of his career in the United States, played a central role in shaping American psychoanalysts’ views toward homosexuality. Historians have pointed to Rado’s rejection of Freud’s notion of constitutional bisexuality as the key theoretical maneuver that both pathologized homosexuality and inspired an optimistic approach to its treatment. Yet scholarly analysis of the arguments that Rado made for his rejection of bisexuality is lacking. This article seeks to provide that analysis, by carefully reviewing and evaluating Rado’s arguments by the standards of his own day. Because one of Rado’s main arguments is that bisexuality is an outdated concept according to modern biology, I consider what contemporary biologists had to say on the topic. The work of behavioral endocrinologist Frank Beach (1911–1988) is important in this context and receives significant attention here. Rado ultimately distanced himself from Beach’s behavioral endocrinology, appealing instead to evolutionary discourse to buttress his claim that homosexuality is pathological. This tactic allowed him to refashion psychoanalysis into a moralistic discipline, one with closer ties to a medical school.

“B. F. Skinner and technology’s nation: Technocracy, social engineering, and the good life in 20th-century America,” by Rutherford, Alexandra. Abstract: Continue reading New HoP: Sandor Rado on Bisexuality, Psych and Social Engineering in 20th c. America, & Behavior Therapy in France

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Maarten Derksen’s Histories of Human Engineering: Tact and Technology

Looking for a summer read? Maarten Derksen‘s Histories of Human Engineering: Tact and Technology is now available from Cambridge University Press! Derksen, of the University of Groningen, explores a variety of approach to the control of human behaviour, from scientific management to mind contol to social priming. As described on the publisher’s website:

The dream of control over human behaviour is an old dream, shared by many cultures. This fascinating account of the histories of human engineering describes how technologies of managing individuals and groups were developed from the nineteenth century to the present day, ranging from brainwashing and mind control to Dale Carnegie’s art of dealing with people. Derksen reveals that common to all of them is the perpetual tension between the desire to control people’s behaviour and the resistance this provokes. Thus to influence other people successfully, technology had to be combined with tact: with a personal touch, with a subtle hint, or with outright deception, manipulations are made palatable or invisible. Combining psychological history and theory with insights from science and technology studies and rhetorical scholarship, Derksen offers a fresh perspective on human engineering that will appeal to those interested in the history of psychology and the history of technology.

Find out more about Histories of Human Engineering: Tact and Technology here.

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New Article Round-Up: LSD, Technology, Evolutionism, & Piaget’s New Theory

Jean Piaget

The following four recently published articles may be of interest to AHP readers.

History of Science: “Rehabilitating LSD history in postwar America: Dilworth Wayne Woolley and the serotonin hypothesis of mental illness,” by Kim Hewitt. The abstract reads,

Revisiting the history of postwar LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) research illuminates how the work of a chemist at the Rockefeller Institute contributed to the development of a biochemical paradigm for mental functioning. Dilworth Wayne Woolley proposed one of the first theories of the biochemistry of mental illness based on empirical evidence. His research with LSD and serotonin had wide-ranging repercussions for pharmacology and fit neatly into the emerging medicalization of mental illness. Reevaluating Woolley’s ideas and the fruits of psychopharmacology leads to possible new approaches toward mental health and illness when considered alongside lessons learned from past research with psychedelic substances, and exemplifies a broader paradigm shift in cultural studies toward a biopsychosocial model that acknowledges the intersections between biology and culture.

Theory & Psychology: “Controversies on Evolutionism: On the construction of scientific boundaries in public and internal scientific controversies about evolutionary psychology and sociobiology,” by Nora Ruck. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Article Round-Up: LSD, Technology, Evolutionism, & Piaget’s New Theory

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For Your Consideration: Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

61Hx4oueqcLThis summer I read Thomas Pynchon’s legendary, post-modern novel Gravity’s Rainbow. Published in 1973, the novel takes place during the latter part of WWII, beginning in London and eventually traversing the European (and occasionally other) landscapes. Pynchon’s work is of such a non-traditional nature that describing a plot is a preposterous attempt; but the novel’s linchpin is the Germans’ rumoured Rocket 00000, and the hitherto unknown power and destruction it may contain. Gravity’s Rainbow is replete with characters and circumstances pertinent to those interested in the history of science, particularly psychology. Though the author attends to and obsesses over the esoteric verbiage and theories of physics, engineering, and espionage, Pynchon devotes a considerable amount of his novel (and the characters therein) to matters related to Psychology. Indeed the main character, Tyrone Slothrop, is at the forefront of this novel due to his intimate physiological and psychological connection with Rocket 00000 (and the Schwarzgerät [AKA ‘black device’] within it). This conditioned connection was wrought when Tyrone was a neonate—the experimental situations of such reflexive conditioning emphasizing Pavolvian theory, while echoing the setting of Watson and Rayner’s Little Albert experiments. An entire club of scientists in this book revere Pavlov as a demigod, and rotate their lone copy of his Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes, simply referring to it as ‘The Book’.

infanttyronePynchon also includes scenes of the supposedly supernatural, where the faithful and the skeptical alike attend séances. These scenes mirror Psychology’s early history of actively debunking supernatural occurrences, unmasking the deceptive charlatans; concurrently there are other organizations, such as the Psi Section(s), that are professionally interested in the parapsychological for potential military and espionage tactics. Other characters and scenes concentrate on statistics and probability, and their predictive utility in the unpredictable chaos of war (with a particular focus on the Poisson Distribution). Many of these scenes recall the involvements of psychologists in military and government matters, and shines a light on their bizarre and variegated positions within the national and transnational bureaucratic machines of WWII.

Pynchon-simpsonsThese are a smattering of how the history of Psychology makes it way into Gravity’s Rainbow, and Pynchon develops the complex ramifications of these new theories and technologies for his seemingly endless assemblage of characters. These examples related to the history of psychology are ensconced within a fictional world that reflects the consequences of our scientific and technological progress: the fragmentation and disorganization of our selves and our societies that result from our systems of unification and organization. Tyrone Slothtrop’s continually evolving and confused selves, his nomadic lifestyle leading to places that are in constant destruction and reconstruction, and Pynchon’s own ceaseless change in narrative genre, tone, and syntax, illustrate the dizzying fragmentation-reorganization cycle that revolves more quickly the further we progress in our sciences and technologies. This book is Pynchon’s attempt at capturing the impossibly convoluted state of our post-WWII and post-modern lives.

Though Gravity’s Rainbow encompasses much more than only issues related to disciplinary Psychology, I would still like to recommend it as an excellent source of interest, inspiration, bewilderment, and discussion for anyone interested in the history of Psychology.

Buy it here.

Page-by-page annotations here.

Page-by-page artwork by Zak Smith here.

Learn more about Pynchon here, here, and here.

 

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History of Technology, Emotion, and Film

MalinThe history of psychology has a presence in the most recent issue of Technology and Culture. In “Mediating Emotion: Technology, Social Science, and Emotion in the Payne Fund Motion-Picture Studies” Brenton J. Malin, Assistant Professor in Media Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, explores the complex relationship between technology and emotion in 1920s and 1930s America.

The research of University of Iowa psychologists Wendell Dysinger and Christian Ruckmick is at the centre of Malin’s discussion of emotion and technology during this period. The emphasis on technological measurement emotion, rather than introspection, is described in terms of the objective qualities of the former method. As emotion was both an object of study and a subject of concern, technology was employed to ameliorate the potential influence of the researcher’s own emotional state. In Dysinger and Ruckmick’s case a concern with objectivity led to the use of the psycho-galvanometer to gauge children’s emotional response to motion pictures.

Malin contends that research on emotional responses to motion pictures was of interest at the time due to the increasing presence of entertainment-oriented technology in society, as well as an emerging view that excessive emotion had the potential to harm. Continue reading History of Technology, Emotion, and Film

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Dissertation Fellowship for Histories of Technology

Are you — or one of your students — working on a history of psychological technologies? If so, here’s good news: the Melvin Kranzberg Dissertation Fellowship is presented annually to a doctoral student engaged in the preparation of a dissertation on the history of technology, broadly defined. This award is in memory of the co-founder of the Society for the History of Technology and honors Melvin Kranzberg’s many contributions to developing the history of technology as a field of scholarly endeavor and SHOT as a professional organization. Continue reading Dissertation Fellowship for Histories of Technology

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International History of Science Congress in Budapest

BudapestIt has been announced that the XXIIIrd Congress of History of Science and Technology will be held July 26-31, 2009 in Budapest, Hungary. The theme of the conference will be “Ideas and Instruments in Social Context.” The website for the conference can be found here. The full announcement from the Congress Secretariat can be found below. Continue reading International History of Science Congress in Budapest

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