mind

Workshop 3: Lisa Blackman, ‘Experimenting with Suggestion: Performing ‘social influence’ processes’

Lisa Blackman (Dept of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London) began her presentation stating that in it she will outline some work on experimentation and subjectivity that is the subject of her forthcoming book, ‘Im/material Bodies: Affect, Relationality and the Problem of Personality’ (Sage). In the book Blackman takes the problem of ‘social influence’, as it has been stabilized and enacted as a particular kind of object within the psychological sciences, as her topic of problematisation. The genealogical investigation developed throughout the book takes a number of scenes (the laboratory, the séance, the clinical encounter, the therapeutic relationship, live performance and the theatre) as sites for the production of different forms of subjectivity articulated through differing conceptions of suggestion or suggestibility. Lisa Blackman considers all these sites as differing practices of experimentation which stage suggestion as a particular kind of ‘thing’ or entity.

Workshop 3: Alan Collins, ‘Subjects in the early history of experimental psychology’

Alan Collins (Psychology, Lancaster University) introduced himself as a historian of psychology and opened his talk with apologies for the lack of originality of his paper, stating that familiarity is his main fear. Collins continued by describing the emergence of the experiments on human consciousness, both in the late 19th century Germany and in the USA. He explained that experiment is a badge of modernity and ‘constructing the subject’ (Danziger, 1990) is a common method in psychology.

Experimenting on ‘The Secret You’

On Tuesday 20th October 2009, as a part of their long-standing series ‘Horizon’, BBC2 screened an episode ‘THE SECRET YOU’ where Professor Marcus de Sautoy explored the issues of experimentality in relation to human self-awareness. The Finding Moonshine blog describes the programme in the following way: ‘[t]o find out what progress they are making Marcus becomes a human guinea-pig in a series of mind probing experiments. He begins by asking when our self awareness emerges and witnesses a cunning test that convincingly reveals a child’s sense of self before they are even capable of talking about what they are feeling. The experiment begs a question: are we alone in the world in being aware of ourselves?’ (http://findingmoonshine.blogspot.com/2009/10/secret-you-horizon-bbc2.html)

‘Daredevils’ as experimental figures

The recent Channel 4 series ‘Daredevils’ relate closely to the question of human experimentality in the non-academic but popular TV celebrity context. They exemplify an array of social themes and problematic questions about the nature of the experiment, its dissemination and public understanding.

Workshop 1 - Cornelius Borck, ‘Dancing With the Brain: Voodoo Science, False Colours, and Attentive Failures’

Cornelius Borck’s (Institute for History of Medicine and Science Studies, University of Lübeck) presentation followed the theme of the appropriation of simulation by science with a strong sense that one cannot talk scientifically about any topic without it.

Workshop 1 - David Lomas, ‘Simulation and Experiment in Surrealism’

David Lomas (AHRC Surrealism Centre, University of Manchester) opened his presentation by emphasizing the far reaching implications of simulation and asking the following question: How is our picture of surrealism altered by restoring simulation to its place at its heart?

Experimentality - life and magic!

The Annual Research Programme defines the main topics of debate that unfold in the Lancaster University hub of inter- and post-disciplinary, intra- and inter-institutional encounters, the Institute for Advanced Studies. This year's programme, 2009-2010, is called Experimentality and is billed in this way as "a unique, open-ended conversation about the power of experimentality", beginning with a launch on October 14-15:

"Experimentality is a year-long collaborative exploration of ideas and practices of experimentation in science and technology, the arts, commerce, politics, popular culture, everyday life, and the natural world.

Over the course of the academic year, the programme will run a range of workshops and arts events, culminating in an international conference, The Experimental Society, on 7-9 July 2010."

In this blog I will collect some anecdotes and ideas, stories and viewpoints, perhaps even some analysis and maybe a rant or two, hopefully food for thought, about the kind of experimentality that surrounds the practices of magic healing in the Amazon with the use of what the shamans call teacher or power plants. These are special, sacred plants that facilitate the access to intuitive knowledge about the world, particularly in the context of patients with problems - or for prophylactic purposes or to "simply" develop spiritually. It will mainly focus on the use of ayahuasca, which will be grounded in a politics of social movements and presented from the perspective of autonomous development, as opposed to the predominant Euro-American developmentalism perspective, which is centred upon ideas and politics of private property, industrialisation, teleological investments in high technology, as fixes.

Coming to terms with shamanic experimentality is a deeply political matter. The destruction of the forest in which the healer learns her skills from the wild of the plants threatens the sustainability of the healers' practices: their schools are burning and being demolished.

I will take some material from the Colonos - Amazonia por la Vida blog, which has a diverse collection of "stories (and rants), reflections, photos, analysis and maybe even some good ideas - often relevant for the Amazon or for life in general".

Looking forward to a year of experimentality and hopefully some magic! :)

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