Category Archives: General

Anthony Enns on Apocryphal Psychotechnologies

A recent piece, “Apocryphal Psychotechnologies,” published in Continent may interest AHP readers. Contintent is “a platform for thinking through media. text, image, video, sound and new forms of publishing online are presented as reflections on and challenges to contemporary conditions in politics, media studies, art, film and philosophical thought.” As author Anthony Enns writes,

Apocryphal technologies are particularly interesting for the study of technological imaginaries precisely because they blur the boundaries between the legitimate and the illegitimate or the plausible and the implausible. For instance, it is often difficult to distinguish apocryphal technologies from real technologies because they tend to be based on the same underlying principles and assumptions. The aspirations that inform apocryphal technologies can also inform real technological innovations by serving as a springboard for new ideas or by anticipating the development of new inventions. The combination of fantastic effects and apparent plausibility also makes apocryphal technologies particularly suitable for conspiracy theories, which similarly encourage a belief in the impossible by imposing a veneer of truth and veracity. Unlike imaginary technologies, therefore, apocryphal technologies can promote faith in technological progress as well as fear of technocratic control. The following paper will explore the desires and anxieties that inform apocryphal technologies by examining a series of electronic devices that allegedly influenced (or were influenced by) the mind. While the claims made about these machines were not supported by scientific research, they were all based on a common understanding of the mind as an electronic apparatus that was subject to modification and manipulation, and they reflected a shared desire for a perfect mind-machine interface, which was imagined as a source of either unlimited power or complete powerlessness. At the same time that these psychotechnologies blur the boundaries between the legitimate and the illegitimate or the plausible and the implausible, therefore, they also illustrate the uneasy tension between utopian aspiration and dystopian paranoia—particularly with regard to the future of humanity.

The full piece can be read online here.

Guidelines for Authors: Publishing Historical Scholarship in American Psychologist

AHP readers interested in getting their historical work to a broad audience will be interested in the new guidelines for authors interested in publishing historical scholarship in the American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association. The guidelines, written by Associate Editor Alexandra Rutherford, outline some of the considerations interested authors should keep in mind before submitting work to the journal. The full guidelines can be found online here.

Attachment and the archive: Barriers and facilitators to the use of historical sociology as complementary developmental science

AHP readers may be interested in a recent piece published in Science in Context: “Attachment and the archive: barriers and facilitators to the use of historical sociology as complementary developmental science,” by Robbie Duschinsky. Argument:

This article explores historical sociology as a complementary source of knowledge for scientific research, considering barriers and facilitators to this work through reflections on one project. This project began as a study of the emergence and reception of the infant disorganized attachment classification, introduced in the 1980s by Ainsworth’s student Mary Main, working with Judith Solomon. Elsewhere I have reported on the findings of collaborative work with attachment researchers, without giving full details of how this came about. Here, I will offer personal reflections arising from the process, and my work in what Hasok Chang has called history as “complementary science.”

NYT: “Overlooked No More: Margaret McFarland, Mentor to Mister Rogers”

NYT: “Fred Rogers and Margaret McFarland in 1978. Her advice was so valuable to Rogers that he took “extensive handwritten notes” and recorded their meetings on audiocassettes, a producer said. Credit…Jim Judkis/Fred Rogers Productions”

The New York Times‘ Overlooked series, which provides obituaries for individuals whose deaths were initially overlooked by the newspaper, has recently turned attention to psychologist Margaret McFarland. McFarland, a consultant to the classic children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, has come to the fore more than 30 years after her death in a moment where there has been a resurgence of interest in Fred Rogers and his television legacy (including a podcast, documentary, and feature film dedicated to the man and his influence).

As the New York Times writes,

Rogers was ordained as a minister and was invited to appear as Mister Rogers on a show in Canada in the early 1960s. He returned to Pittsburgh in 1966 to start “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on WQED-TV. The show aired for the first time nationally, on public television stations, in 1968. McFarland became his chief consultant.

She and Rogers met nearly every week to discuss scripts and songs that Rogers had written. Her advice became so valuable to Rogers that he took “extensive handwritten notes” and recorded their meetings on audiocassettes, “which I often overheard him replaying in his office,” recalled Arthur Greenwald, a producer and writer who worked with Rogers.

She would work on the show for 20 years, and spoke regularly with Rogers until around her death in 1988. (Rogers died in 2003.)

The full Overlooked obituary can be read online here.

The uses of trauma in experiment: Traumatic stress and the history of experimental neurosis, c. 1925–1975

A recent piece in the September 2019 issue of Science in Context will be of interest to AHP readers. Ulrich Koch explores “The uses of trauma in experiment: Traumatic stress and the history of experimental neurosis, c. 1925–1975.” Abstract:

The article retraces the shifting conceptualizations of psychological trauma in experimental psychopathological research in the middle decades of the twentieth century in the United States. Among researchers studying so-called experimental neuroses in animal laboratories, trauma was an often-invoked category used to denote the clash of conflicting forces believed to lead to neurotic suffering. Experimental psychologists, however, soon grew skeptical of the traumatogenic model and ultimately came to reject neurosis as a disease entity. Both theoretical differences and practical circumstances, such as the technical challenge of stabilizing neurotic symptoms in rats, led to this demise. Yet, despite their reservations, experimental psychologists continued to employ traumatic stimuli to produce psychopathological syndromes. In the 1960s, a new understanding of trauma evolved, which emphasized the loss of control experienced by traumatized animal subjects. These shifting ideas about trauma, I argue, reflect both varying experimental cultures, epistemic norms as well as changing societal concerns.