10 Things I’ve Learned from Psychoanalysis

Daniel Tutt

In this post, I want to share my experience in psychoanalysis. Some things have been truly surprising. Concepts that were once elusive become apparent in a way that is sudden and palpable. I won’t share too much about the specifics of my analyst or get into the details of the content of what we exchange in our sessions.

These learnings are highly subjective and my analysis should not be taken as universal lessons of psychoanalysis by any means. Because these things I am discovering are incredible to me, it only seems appropriate to begin with a quote from Freud:

“[Analysis] has accomplished its purpose if it gives the learner a firm conviction of the existence of the unconscious, if it enables him, when repressed material emerges, to perceive in himself things which would otherwise be incredible to him, and if it shows him a first sample of the technique which…

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Remaking Media Practices

Clemens Apprich article summarizes very nicely the history and the shifts in Media practices.

REMAKING MEDIA PRACTICES – FROM TACTICAL MEDIA TO POST-MEDIA

Media practices are historically situated, and also different groups choose to use them differently, but that doesn’t mean that there are not intersections between these functions. Youth online practices and tactical media can intersect as in the Syrian Uprising in 2011 or in this spring’s elections of the Albanian Government. The youth are using facebook, youtube and other media platforms to engage in active resistance towards the politics of the government. Here is an example youtube video where the prime minister of Albania is mashed dancing gangam style, and also a parody where the Prime minister and the leader of opposition are facebooking VIDEO

As Apprich mentions in his article: “Tactical media describe an ensemble of practices that are located at the intersection of art, theory, politics, culture, activism, technology and media. This pluralistic approach not only challenges the idea of specialisation but was indeed seen as a liberating process by tactical media activists in the 1990”. Indeed the tactical media is seen not as very broad, but they enable un unprecedented form of resistance.

The question of Technology

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The question whether technology is useful to humanity or overtaking it, is one of the most important questions in today’s society.

While reading Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto I enjoyed her play with the boundaries between nature and culture, animal/human and machine, and physical and non-physical, which results to her definition “People are nowhere near so fluid, being both material and opaque. Cyborgs are ether, quintessence”. This definition is frightening in the fact that the cyborg identity, once constructed, is very difficult to disrupt, because of the very ethereal and quintessential nature. In “cybercapitalism”, differently from advanced capitalism, or industrial capitalism where not only “God is dead; so is the Godess’’ shows that the this new identity transcends all differences of gender, race, class and sexuality, thus making everyone more controllable under one currency. Here is an article from Ted Gup Diagnosis – Human, in which he describes how normal human feeling  such as greif, are constructed to be forms of sickness in today’s society.

On the other hand, new technologies make it possible for new forms of media and resistance to the domination structures, tactical media being one of the forms that is not strategic, limited in time, but includes all kinds of art and platforms, and its impact is very important. I speak more about it in another post of this blog.

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Media reform and Satire and Humour as a form of resistance

Satire of Chaplin as the Great Dictator

Understanding that Media is not a natural system you are stuck with, and also a system that serves the corporate interest is of crucial importance when analysing Media and Democracy. It is public’s right and duty to engage in Media policy and Media Reform. Media reform purpose is to create a media system that does justice to the democratic needs of a self-governing people and at the same time, self government is impossible without a viable press; the opposite is an authoritarian society. Media Reform these days is concerned with issues ranging from working on government policies, to doing Independent Media, providing Media Education and Critique and also movement among Media producers and journalists. Here is a recent example of  Media reform action where Activists hope to stop Murdoch Media Reform Conference

The first emerging form of independent media in all authoritarian countries, is known to be satire and humour. Indeed, putting on a clown suit to get noticed has worked well in totalitarian societies such as Russia and all Eastern Block, where the official media system was so atrocious that humour was the only way that people could survive. Not only satire gives a sense of relief to the public through its entertaining element, but as Jon Stewart points out: “We’re performing a new form of desperation. Desperate times require desperate measures”. The ultimate goal of this form of media is to change the axis of domination, and also change public perception of “facts” and the “truth”. Stephen Colbert roast of President Bush in 2006, is a perfect exemple of how satire and humor can be powerful media tools Colbert video

In social media, the emergence of Memes, Mashups and many other tools, make it possible for users not only to entertain, but to express dissent to different issues, political or social.

 

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The issues of media, democracy, journalism and activism, and propaganda

The time  that I started to think about media, coincided with Aaron Swartz‘s suicide, key architect of Creative Commons and an organizer of the grassroots movement to defeat the controversial House Internet censorship bill

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the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Swartz hanged himself just weeks before the start of a controversial trial. This incident sheds light in how we understand relationships between media, democracy, journalism and propaganda on one hand and how does resistance and activism fit into this picture.

In his speech about participatory democracy, Dr. Chris Hables Gray mentioned  that Participatory selection is a third way to Evolution and Selection, following Natural and Artificial selection. He also mentioned that participatory selection is the only way to influence culture and ultimately humanity. As Jodi Dean puts it, the very premise of liberal democracy is the sovereignty of people so the question we need to raise here is whether participatory democracy is even possible, and if is, what does it look like?

To better understand the meaning of participatory democracy, we can turn to the explanation of totalitarianism by Micheal Warner, as a nonkin society organized by bureaucracy and law. Everyone’s position, function, and capacity for action are specified by administration. Basically the public sphere in totalitarianism is non-existent. I personally have witnessed this reality in Albania, where not only the public sphere was non-existent, but also propaganda had a positive connotation. This means that the public understood the communist propaganda as some form of ideology (positive connotation as well) that protected us from the corrupt capitalism. Nevertheless, as a child I didn’t know that I was completely absorbed by the propaganda, to that extent that even at this age, I smile involuntarily when I see the picture of the dictator that killed many people, including people in my close family. This kind of propaganda is exactly what Jacques Ellul describes as “Propaganda must become as natural as air or food. It must proceed by psychological inhibition and the least possible shock. The individual is then able to declare in all honesty that no such thing as propaganda exists. In fact, he has been so absorbed by it that he is literally no longer able to see the truth”.

On the other hand, liberal democracy propagates the autonomy of the political institutions from the economic, cultural and social – sexual institutions, but the problem is that the inherent inequalities in the latter institutions will manifest themselves in the participation and contribution in the public sphere. The idea of the publics and the counterpublics is essential when we talk about the public sphere, in that that counterpublics  maintain an awareness of its subordinate or “subaltern” status. The participatory parity is better achieved by a multiplicity of publics than a single public.  In an egalitarian multi-cultural society there is a multiplicity of publics, not necessarily stratified. Public discourse and social identities are not just a matter of being able of stating certain content, but rather expressing one’s cultural identity through idiom and style. The public sphere cannot be a single comprehensive one.

How does the public sphere and participation look like in communicative capitalism and what’s the impact of networked communications technologies? First of all, in the communicative capitalism, politics is understood in two forms, in that of the official politics, and in the form of circulation of content. The latter is the very essence of the communicative capitalism, as it focuses on the exchange value of the contribution rather than use value of it. In essence, the communicative capitalism tries to capture the strange merging of democracy and capitalism through networked communications. In this merging, the publics have a different characteristics and fantasies, such as the fantasy of abundance, which leads to the importance of circulation than message, the fantasy of participation, where in fact by fetishizing technology we believe that the technology will act for us, and the fantasy of the wholeness or unity as the global. These fantasies are dangerous in that they not only depoliticize the public, but they create an imaginary site for action and belonging. These fantasies are also very dangerous in the sense that they exclude the role of the mainstream Media as a very powerful tool of propaganda. Naom Chomsky’s video about the Myth of the Liberal media  points out that unless people are controlled they will challenge power, and there are two ways to accomplish this: through force or the control of opinion. The fantasy of freedom is masked under certain freedoms, such as the freedom to vote, of speech etc. But as Henry David Thoreau: “Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence”.

Although there are many forms of restrictions to the counterpublics, there is still hope on an engaged public and activism  The example of Aaron Swartz, although an unfortunate one, shows that there are always pockets of resistance towards any kind of restrictiono to partake in the public sphere, and ultimately democracy. Trying to answer the initial question whether participatory democracy is possible, I think that it’s very important to understand these fantasies surrounding our agency, listening to subaltern voices as much as possible as means to understand the “publics” and finally trying to find your voice by participating in this multidimensional sphere that’s called public.

Bruce Levine’s article about mental illness, shows how the institutionalization of consent is made possible “Why Anti-Authoriarians are considered to be mentally ill”  and as Naom Chomsky shows in this video, consent is rather produced than inherent in the public  “Manufactured consent” . Therefore, the role of Public Intellectuals and activists is very crutial, not merely as an opposing force, but as an eye opener and educator for the broader public.