WTMC February 2011 Workshop
"STS goes Mental"
Soeterbeeck, 16-18 February 2011.
There is no such thing as a revolution of the mind, and this is a workshop about it. This paradoxical statement, paraphrasing Steve Shapin, captures the tension between studies of the mind in our modern culture and the way STS engages with such studies. According to popular accounts of developments within neurosciences, we are on the verge of a fifth scientific revolution, following the Copernican, Darwinian, Freudian and Crickian (DNA) ones. This fifth revolution is claimed to be a neuroscientific one (until now without a singularized Great White Man) and starts out from the idea that mind and self are nothing but a ‘bag filled with neurones’. As a consequence of this, and through firmly locating mind in the brain, it is predicted that the notion of the natural self dissolves and we will increasingly be able to choose our selves. Changing the self would then be facilitated through neurochemical stimulation, neuromanagement or neuroeducation. This marriage of a non-essentialist notion of the self and technoscientific optimism poses an interesting puzzle for STS studies of neuro-scientific cultures.
In this workshop we will study how this prominence of the brain as a site of action came about and how it shapes scientific disciplines. We will do so by drawing upon historical and recent developments in experimental psychology and by analyzing how scientific fields, such as neuroeconomics, emerged in this process. Furthermore, we will explore the societal implications of this development by focusing on cultural analyses within film studies and on the cultural interventions in representations of mind in for example Alzheimer treatment. Finally we will analyze the role that mental images play within scientific practices. To what extent are scientific cultures themselves influenced by metaphoric notions and mental images?
By asking this question we come full circle, moving from the framing of cultural notions of the mind via technoscientific practices to the consequences of mental images on the practices of technoscience. This workshop thereby analyses a telling example of the interrelatedness of cultural processes, technoscientific practices and the production of identities.
Within STS and related disciplines there is a substantial tradition of studying practices of the mind. However, such studies precisely moved away from locating mind in the neurological brain and from the idea that neuroscientific developments deliver anything that remotely resembles a revolution. Rather, with the seminal work of Gregory Bateson on the ecology of mind, of Edwin Hutchins on distributed cognition, of John Searle on unintentional backgrounds in cognition and of Lucy Suchman on mind practices as situated action, mind has been studied as part of networks of interactions, rather than as individualized loci of cognition. We will revisit some of these studies to analyse what their relevance is for new scientific and cultural practices of mind.
Presentations given during the workshop
February 16, 2011
Ruud Hendriks, "Jumping off the clown cliff; beyond a neuro-psychiatric perspective on people with dementia" (http://www.wtmc.net/wiki/index.php?title=docrep&id=154)
February 17, 2011
Maarten Derksen, "Sex, death, and furniture: the reality and rhetoric of human nature" (http://www.wtmc.net/wiki/index.php?title=docrep&id=153)
- Bonus Article: Maarten Derksen "Realism, Relativism, and Evolutionary Psychology" (http://www.wtmc.net/wiki/index.php?title=docrep&id=152)
Steve Brown, "From social remembering to a social psychology of experience" (http://www.wtmc.net/wiki/index.php?title=docrep&id=151)
February 18, 2011
Hub Zwart, "Psychoanalysis of knowing: a case study" (http://www.wtmc.net/wiki/index.php?title=docrep&id=155)