The human body is itself an interface. As I am in the world, my body is always in relation to someone or something. Even when I am alone in a room, I am still in relation to the matter around me. The body establishes a connection with the world, and vice versa. — J. Johannsen, Psychoanalysis and Digital Culture

“Isn’t psychoanalysis a clinical discipline? How can it be taken outside the clinic and ‘applied’ to media?” Psychoanalytic explorations of culture have at times sounded overtly pathological. Psychoanalysis is sometimes at risk of becoming a master discourse, conveying an ultimate truth about subjects and their cultural investments. Applied psychoanalytical studies have not only informed such allied social sciences and disciplines as anthropology and sociology but also contributed mightily to programs as diverse as rhetoric, literary criticism, women’s studies, and film. From the outset, the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, viewed culture and its diverse expressions as a compromise-formation between forces emanating from the Id (associated with the Primary Process, and the Pleasure Principle) and the regulatory functions associated with the Ego (associated with the Secondary Process and the Reality Principle). Therefore, all expressions of human activity, including the highest cultural achievements, are, in a sense, derivative communications that can be examined with regards to more latent, unconscious motivations and meanings.

This independent study brings psychoanalytic theory into conversation with digital media studies in general and audience research in particular. As the continuum of COMMS 500 (Communications and Cultural Theory) and COMM 457 (Media Audiences and Contexts) in Fall 2019, this course aims to connect media and communication studies with psychoanalysis on theoretical and methodological levels. This work focuses on answering how individuals are (un)consciously shaped by and, in turn, shape digital media as well as shedding light on the relationship between contemporary subjectivities and digital media in a more exploratory manner.

COMM 596: Psychoanalysis and Digital Culture