As a follow up to our recent post highlighting Luke Stark’s Slate piece on “The Long History of Computer Science and Psychology Comes Into View,” we point you to Stark’s forthcoming piece in the April issue of Social Studies of Science. Now available online as a preprint, the article explores what Stark terms the “scalable subject” in relation to the history of the psy-disciplines and the ongoing big data controversies around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Full details below.
“Algorithmic Psychometrics and the Scalable Subject,” by Luke Stark. Abstract:
Recent public controversies, ranging from the 2014 Facebook ‘emotional contagion’ study to psychographic data profiling by Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 American presidential election, Brexit referendum and elsewhere, signal watershed moments in which the intersecting trajectories of psychology and computer science have become matters of public concern. The entangled history of these two fields grounds the application of applied psychological techniques to digital technologies, and an investment in applying calculability to human subjectivity. Today, a quantifiable psychological subject position has been translated, via ‘big data’ sets and algorithmic analysis, into a model subject amenable to classification through digital media platforms. I term this position the ‘scalable subject’, arguing it has been shaped and made legible by algorithmic psychometrics – a broad set of affordances in digital platforms shaped by psychology and the behavioral sciences. In describing the contours of this ‘scalable subject’, this paper highlights the urgent need for renewed attention from STS scholars on the psy sciences, and on a computational politics attentive to psychology, emotional expression, and sociality via digital media.
I’ve been arguing for years that the integration of digital media devices and psychological techniques is one of the most underappreciated developments in the history of computing. For more than 50 years, this has been the domain of computer scientists who have approached the brain as a “human processor,” just another a machine to be tinkered with. The work has taken place almost entirely in the domain of computer science, with little input from clinical psychologists, ethicists, or other academic fields interested in the messy details of human social life. Understanding that shortsighted perspective, and how it gave rise to companies like Cambridge Analytica, can help us curtail the weaponziation of social media today.
Psychology’s Feminist Voices (PFV), the fantastic multimedia internet archive devoted both to women’s contributions to the early discipline and to highlighting the work of contemporary feminist researchers, is now on Facebook! The group’s page is well underway, with posts highlighting some of the fascinating material available on the PFV site. For instance, check out a great image of Psyche Cattell climbing a tree and the documentary on her work featured on the site. Other items that have been highlighted on PFV‘s Facebook page include video clips from interviews conducted by Don Dewsbury with pioneering clinical psychologist Molly Harrower where she discusses, among other things, her work with Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield. Harrower was the psychologist under the surgical tent during Penfield’s neural stimulation procedures! (For those unfamiliar with Penfield check out the now classic Canadian Heritage Minute on his work below.)
More great content is sure to be up on the PFVFacebook page in the weeks ahead!
In other social media news, AHP has now added a Twitter widget to our website where you can find our most recent tweets. Click the AHPblog link on the right to go directly to our Twitter feed and follow all of our 140 character or less posts there as well.
Full disclosure: I am also one of the contributors to PFV.
Advances in the History of Psychology has taken the leap into social media and joined both Facebook and Twitter. You can now follow us via our Facebook page and our Twitter feed for even more on the latest developments in the history of psychology.
Those interested in even more history of psychology via social media may also want to check out the Facebook pages of the Society for the History of Psychology, Division 26 of the American Psychological Association, and the Center for the History of Psychology. Both post regularly and are great sources for unique finds in the history of psychology. The Center for the History of Psychology’s Facebook page is particularly interesting for its regular posts of archival material from its Archives of the History of American Psychology. For instance, today’s Archival Gem o’ the Day, as posted on their facebook page, is a psychoanalysis comic from 1955 (right). According to their post,
The inside cover reads: “Through the medium of comic format, we will attempt to portray, graphically and dramatically, the manner in which people find peace of mind through the science of psychoanalysis.” (Published by “Entertaining Comics.” Provenance unknown.)
Check in with their Facebook page regularly for even more archival gems. And, of course, don’t forget to follow AHP on Facebook and Twitter!