organization people technology

Psychoanalysis and Technology

welcome sessions links
This page is intended for students of sociology, psychology and psychoanalysis, media and cultural studies, gender studies, communications and related topics.

We are happy to discuss the provision of individual lectures or the whole series with any reputed institution, and we can tailor to the requirements of your undergraduate or postgraduate programme.
Course description
Sources and resources

1 Introduction 
2 Commodity & Availability - From Marx to Klein
3 Architecture & Personal Space
4 Technology & Identity
5 Technology & Gender
6 Authenticity - From Heidegger to Lacan
veryard projects

technology notions

contact us

organization people technology

Course Description

veryard projects > technology > psychoanalysis and technology > course description

Background Objectives

We assume that the student has the following overall objectives:

Relevance of technology to this context

This document is intended to explain and illustrate the importance of a technology to
  • popular culture is dependent upon modern technology - especially but not exclusively the technologies of mass communication
  • many of the basic themes of psychoanalysis (identity/self, desire/fantasy, authenticity) are radically and fundamentally affected by the paradigms of a man-made (sic) world
  • technology is a repressed subject, about which we usually only allow ourselves certain limited discourses - much as sexuality (in Foucault’s account)
  • technology is symbolized by the phallus, and our intimate relationship with it (and with the popular culture it brings us) is derived from this symbolism
  • philosophical theories about technology (mostly deriving from Heidegger, via such French disciples as Sartre, Lacan and Foucault) offer us a theoretical bridge between psychoanalytic theory and the theory of popular culture
  • organization people technology


    veryard projects > technology > psychoanalysis and technology > overview

    The main ideas of the lecture series are as follows:
    Our relationship with the man-made (sic?) world is dominated by the paradigm of the device.  This paradigm creates an illusory separation between the technological means (the machinery, the medium) and the technological ends (the commodity, the message).
    We want maximum availability of the commodity.  Technological ‘progress’ is generally devoted to increasing the availability of technological goods, to make them everywhere available, instantly, without risk or hassle.  We demand this with an often irrational urgency.  This has important links with the infant’s demand for the breast, as discussed by Melanie Klein and her followers.  Our relationship with technology can thus be seen in Kleinian terms.
    At the same time, we want the machinery to become invisible.  For various reasons, we repress ourselves from seeing the machinery, and our dependence upon it.  Our conscious awareness focuses on the message, and we refuse to acknowledge the medium.  But the more we overlook the medium and concentrate on the message, the more inseparable they become.
    One way of analysing this is to think about those technological discourses we allow ourselves to have, and those discourses we generally screen out or avoid.  Popular culture itself contains certain narrow/superficial discourses about technology (notably science fiction), but a wider and deeper discourse about technology is difficult even at an academic level.
    Technology is an object of desire.  It is repressed as it is desired, and it is desired as it is repressed.  Just as Foucault drew interesting conclusions about identity and power from the modern ways of talking about sex, so we can probably also draw interesting conclusions about identity and power from the ways of technology.
    Our perception of the world, and our place in it, are inextricably mediated through technology and the device paradigm.  Our discovery of ourselves (identity) is technical and complicated.  The post-modern self is fragmented via technology.  Our perceptions, dreams, symptoms, even our fantasies are influenced by the device paradigm.  Most fantasies can be seen as a desire for some form of power, attention, security/possession or excitement.  Here too, we separate the means from the ends.
    According to Heidegger and his followers, it is this separation of means from ends that leaves us inauthentic.  These inauthentic fantasies and myths are reflected and reinforced by popular culture.

    Lecture 1: Introduction

    Technology affects our thinking in numerous ways.  But we refuse to think about it.  It is systematically deleted from our conscious minds.  So this systematic deletion itself becomes an important psychological fact.

    Freud and his followers noticed that sex and death were systematically deleted from consciousness.  They speculated on the emotional pressures that caused this deletion, and attributed various symptoms to the ‘repression’ of feelings about sex and/or death.  Psychoanalysis techniques have been developed to ‘surface’ and deal with repressed feelings about sex and death.

    However, technology has not been properly placed on the agenda of psychoanalysis (although it perhaps relates to issues of patriarchy and rationality, which have been explored by feminist psychoanalysts), and has therefore not been systematically surfaced.

    This lecture is therefore about the way people repress their awareness of technology, and the impact this repression has on their thinking (and thus on their lives).  It concludes with some ideas for addressing this repression, based on action at two levels: psychological and socio-technical.

    Questions / Exercises

    How do you feel about the inclusion of technology in this course?  Where do these feelings come from?  How do these feelings affect the way you experience popular culture?
    In what ways does popular culture contain hidden messages about the modern world (including technology)?  How is technology made visible through popular culture?  How is technology made invisible through popular culture?  What are the implications of this?


    BOOK Robert Romanyshyn, Technology as Symptom and Dream  (London: Routledge, 1989)
    more Technology & Repression

    Lecture 2: Commodity & Availability - From Marx to Klein

    There is a constant pressure on the providers of technology to increase their availability.  People want to watch films on demand, not when some TV scheduler decides to broadcast them.  24-hour broadcasting, satellite TV, VCRs and video rental, these are all technological solutions to our need for films on demand, rather than according to a timetable.

    This is a psychological need, which can be easily understood on a Kleinian model.

    Borgmann shows that this is a standard pattern for technological development: to increase availability of the technological satisfaction: converting an unreliable or uncontrollable device into an invisible commodity.

    Questions / Exercises

    Make a list of technologies that you would find it really hard to do without.  Include at least one that was always there when you were growing up, and another that you have grown attached to more recently.  What happens to you when there is a temporary glitch in one of these technologies.  For example, your car won’t start, or there is a power cut.  What technologies are you prepared to do without when on holiday?  How does it feel to do without them?
    Among your close friends and associates, can you identify technological dependencies, where someone would suffer psychological distress if a given technology was unavailable.  (Please find something less obvious than TV-addiction.)  How conscious are they of their technological dependencies?  So how conscious are you of your technological dependencies?
    Drawing from this personal experience/analysis, explore the relationship between technology and demand, using appropriate psychoanalytical theoretical constructs.


    Walter Benjamin
    Albert Borgmann Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life  (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1984)

    Lecture 3: Architecture & Personal Space

    Let’s start with two questions:

    Which buildings have the greatest psychological impact on the person?

    Your first idea in answer to this question may be some form of modern architecture, especially the much-reviled concrete tower blocks of the 1960s.  These were initially thought to be exciting to live in - people volunteered to take high-up flats in high-rise blocks, expecting to enjoy not only the view but the feeling of superiority over those living at lower levels.  But many such blocks were built within a socio-economic system that prevented adequate expenditure on the necessary machinery and services.  So the lifts were often out of action, the stairs filthy and ill-lit, the walkways dangerous and the inhabitants violent, resulting in a space that was far from pleasant to live in.

    This effect was not consciously intended by the middle-class architects and planners who designed these blocks, although they may well have been unconsciously influenced by a false set of expectations about needs of the working-class families for whom the blocks were designed.

    Which buildings have been consciously designed to have the greatest psychological impact?

    If we turn our attention to this question, however, we can identify a very different class of tall buildings: cathedrals.  This is an art form that reached its peak in the late middle ages, modern instances (such as Coventry and Guildford notwithstanding).  The cathedral is a machine for generating awe.  It expresses the spiritual and temporal power of the Church.  When you step inside, you cannot resist having certain spiritual or quasi-spiritual affects.  The cathedral has been designed to force you to have these affects, so that you associate spiritual peace with the institution that owns and operates the building.  It therefore reinforced not only the spiritual but also the temporal power of the institution.
    Power relationships between dweller and architect
    Figure 1: Power relationships between dweller and architect

    Questions / Exercises

    Find some buildings or spaces that you can psychoanalyse.  Look for architectural expressions of such affects as pain, anger or fear. Try to think about the psychological consequences of dwelling in or near this space.
    Produce a short written analysis, with illustrations.  (E.g. photos, pictures from magazines, drawings.)  Marks will be deducted for obviousness.  Don’t bother with phallic towers or alienating concrete estates unless you really believe you can say something new and insightful.  This is an exercise in observation and analysis, not in the ability to reproduce theory.  Don’t just trot out the standard postmodern line.  Full marks can be gained without name-dropping anybody at all.
    Angles: symbolic, sociological, …


    Lewis Mumford, Art and Technics  (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952)
    Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine (

    Lecture 4: Technology & Identity

    Fragmentation of body and mind, through the technologies of communication.  Hyperreality.  Derrida, Foucault.


    Marshall McLuhan
    Mark Poster, The Mode of Information  (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990)
    Michel Foucault et al, Technologies of the Self  (London: Tavistock, 1988)

    Lecture 5: Technology & Gender

    Technological discourse as an alien (masculine) discourse, with which students of the (feminine) humanities feel uncomfortable.

    Two cultures debate.

    Dora Russell (drawing on Lewis Mumford) divided technology into masculine and feminine.  She points out that most people, when asked to think about technology, mostly think about the masculine technologies and ignore the feminine ones.

    Questions / Exercises

    Find a piece of technospeak text that you find off-putting.  Think deeply about your reaction: where does it come from?
    Do you always have precisely this reaction to all difficult texts, or do technological difficulties prompt a different reaction to other kinds of textual difficulties?  If the latter, can you identify past experiences that taught you to react differently?  And can you identify specifically what it is in (or absent from) the text that prompts this reaction in you?


    BOOK Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization
    Dora Russell, The religion of the machine age  (London: RKP, 1983)
    more Technology & Gender

    Lecture 6: Authenticity - From Heidegger to Lacan

    Technology as Other


    Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and other essays  (trans William Lovitt, New York: Harper & Row, 1977)
    Jacques Lacan, Television
    organization people technology

    Sources and Resources

    veryard projects > technology > psychoanalysis and technology > sources and resources



    Albert Borgmann Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life  (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1984)

    Lecture 1

    Robert Romanyshyn, Technology as Symptom and Dream  (London: Routledge, 1989)

    Lecture 2

    Walter Benjamin

    Lecture 3. Architecture and Personal Space

    Lewis Mumford, Art and Technics  (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952)
    Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine

    Lecture 4. Technology and Identity

    Marshall McLuhan
    Mark Poster, The Mode of Information  (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990)
    Michel Foucault et al, Technologies of the Self  (London: Tavistock, 1988)

    Lecture 5.  Technology and Gender

    Dora Russell, The religion of the machine age  (London: RKP, 1983)

    Lecture 6. Authenticity From Heidegger to Lacan

    Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and other essays  (trans William Lovitt, New York: Harper & Row, 1977)
    Jacques Lacan, Television

    organization people technology

    veryard projects
    home page

    This page last updated on November 6th, 2001
    Copyright © 2001 Veryard Projects Ltd