Panel 2: Ideoplasticity and the problem of felicitous falsehoods.

Transtechnology Research Slow Conference Panel 2. 21st March 2018.
Papers presented by Eugenia Stamboliev, Anna Walker and Edith Doove. Session chaired by Guy Edmonds.

On the humanoid aesthetics of caring gestures.
Eugenia Stamboliev

Humanoid and social robotics (HR) focuses on a phenomenological and aesthetic quality of emotion and care. HR supports a materialistic and visual concept of emotions being expressed through gestures and visual signs. The paper traces the instrumentation of “caring” as an aesthetic expression, not as an internal state. Yet, this does raise questions on what is the inside of emotion, what is the expressed and how is expression use through technology? One answer can be found in the use of anthropomorphic design and affects, which HR uses to create a visible threshold between aesthetic sign and expected quality. The paper explores the technological instrumentation of anthropomorphic induction through the contemporary play “Spillikin. A love story” (2016) in which a humanoid robot is presented as an emotional actor.

Brian Duffy (2003). Anthropomorphism and the social robot; Marian Barnes (2012). Care in everyday life. An ethic of care in practice.

Memories of ideoplasticity: in defence of ectoplasm and other ideoplastic manifestations.
Anna Walker

‘Thus to think the body without body of this invisible visibility —the ghost is already taking shape’ (Derrida, 1994).

Catherine Elgin suggests a felicitous falsehood ‘may make cognitive contributions that the unvarnished truth cannot match’ (2004:14). I will expand upon this notion through an epistemological discussion of ‘ideoplastic’ occurrences, such as ectoplasm and other paranormal manifestations, from the fin de siècle and the beginning of the twentieth century. Examining the relationship between ideoplastic manifestations, photography, psychoanalysis and trauma, my aim is to explore what is held in the interstitial space where traumatic remembering exists on the borders of exposure and concealment.

I propose that the concept of such ‘invisible’ matter made material, in the séance room and thereafter on camera, arises from the desire to fill the space between life and death, presence and absence. It is a notion of haunting that examines the idea of an externalisation of the haunted interior, and creates the potential for a narrative to exist outside of the body as an alternative to negotiate not only individual trauma, but also collective trauma. Massumi, in Ontopower, calls such an emergence, ‘extensity… the synchronistic extrusion of the specious present’s taking place’ (2015: 137).

Photography, from its advent was associated with death, ‘the ectoplasm of “what-had-been”: neither image nor reality, a new being, really: a reality one can no longer touch.’ (Barthes, 1980: 87) Early in his writings, Freud picked up on the concept of making sense of the chaos and explored the relationship between the photographic process and thoughts or memories coming into consciousness. As he writes, it was ‘a rough but not inadequate analogy,’ where the photographed images passes through the negative stage, ‘and some of these negatives which have held good examination are admitted to the ‘positive process’ ending in the picture’ (1912: 2581).

Derrida (1994). Spectres of Marx. Barthes (1980). Camera Lucida, Reflections on Photography. Massumi (2015). Ontopower, War Powers and the State of Perception. Freud (1912). A Note on the Unconscious on Psychoanalysis.

The blue one or the red one. Towards a creative vision for the future
Edith Doove

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
– Morpheus, to Neo, The Matrix (1999), 27’40

Inspired by the seductive beauty of a translucent blue vitamin D pill that lures the patient into taking it and thus bettering her future health, a connection is made with the famous scene from The Matrix movie in which Neo is given the choice between a blue pill and a red pill with far reaching consequences (see quote above). From this the paper develops the idea of narrative medicine and affect in relation to environmental care from a science fiction perspective. Using the premises of narrative medicine the possible connection with environmental writing is developed, discussing recent trans- and cross disciplinary literature about the Anthropocene.

The paper argues that where narrative medicine mainly has been used for personal care, it can be applied to a wider field, specifically within current discussions surrounding the entangled relationship between the human and nonhuman, in which a creative vision for the future is developed through ‘productive crossings’ (Tsing, A. et al., 2017) in the framework of the Postmodern Synthesis (McFall-Ngai, M., 2017).

Klingan, K. et al. (2015) Textures of the Anthropocene. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Shaw, J. and Reeves-Evison, T. (2017) Fiction as method. Berlin: Sternberg Press.
Tsing, A. et al. (2017) Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press.
Wachowski, L. and Wachowski, L. (1999) The Matrix.