Hacking the Brain? Histories of Technology and Mind Control

Hacking the Brain? Histories of Technology and Mind Control

James Kennaway
9712 CP
Vom - Bis
16.06.2022 - 17.06.2022
James Kennaway, Geschichte, Groningen

The Centre for Health and Humanities at the University of Groningen is delighted to announce that it will holding a conference entitled "Hacking the Brain? Histories of Technology and Mind Control" on 16–17 June 2022.

Hacking the Brain? Histories of Technology and Mind Control

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.

A full programme is available now! The exciting list of speakers includes:

James Kennaway, Maarten Derksen, Bernd Boesel, Mike Jay, Rebecca Lemov, Natascha Dow Schull, Kenneth White, Anthony Ems, Marc Tuters, Pascal Rousseau, Andreas Killen, Fleur Hopkins and Jeffrey Sconce. There will be a number of places available for non-speakers to attend in person for a very small fee. Participation via Zoom will also be possible, for free.

Please contact james.kennaway@rug.nl if you would like to join us.


16 June 2022

13:00–14:00 / Registration/lunch

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

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

Rhodri Hayward, (Queen Mary, London), TBA

15:30–15:45 / Tea and 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 and 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

17 June 2022

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 and 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), “Technology and Enchantment: Musical Mind Control in Conspiracy Theory.”

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

16:15–16:30 / Tea and 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.”


E-Mail: james.kennaway@rug.nl

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