Psychogeography in an era of big data

As I was doing get-out-the-vote work for a political campaign here in Houston, I was thinking about this study I read about recently that looked at the “Wild West mentality”:

The researchers found that living at both a higher altitude and an elevation relative to the surrounding region—indicating “hilliness”—is associated with a distinct blend of personality traits that fits with “frontier settlement theory”.

“The harsh and remote environment of mountainous frontier regions historically attracted nonconformist settlers strongly motivated by a sense of freedom,” said researcher Friedrich Götz, from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology.

Now, let’s forgive and forget what the “wild west” even means for a minute. What I find fascinating about this study is the way that what was once a purely qualitative investigation (from de Tocqueville’s America to Debord’s urban dérive, for instance) opens out into impersonal data points. That a psychological profile can be quantified on a massive and fine-grained scale is … I don’t know, astonishing? Vertiginous?

It certainly induces a sense of vertigo in me. And that’s despite my skepticism of both psychological profiling and big data, each, in general, and the categories specifically deployed here.

In any case, geography as psychological ecology, nourishing mental niches that persist of over transgenerational human time. Wild indeed.

(Source: ‘Wild West’ mentality lingers in modern populations of US mountain regions)

Kevin Curtis’ Ripoff Report

Similar to the other piece of stereotaxis I published a few days ago, another scrap of speech:

About 4 hour into the job after I laid down the first coat of sealer, I became very thirsty. I was unable to exit the morgue due to floor finish not drying as fast as I had anticipated with the humidity level, so I opened the dor to a small refrigerator located to the right of the autopsy table. I assumed I might find some water or anything to drink as I was dehydrated.

What I discovered, changed my life forever! There were dismembered body parts & organs wrapped in plastic. A leg, an arm, a hand, a foot, hearts, lungs, tissue, eyes and even a severed human head! I guess I was in a state of shock when I rushed out of the morgue because a physician asked me “What’s wrong”?

I told him exactly what I had seen & asked him what they did with so many body parts? He looked very strange & did not answer me. Instead, wrote something down on a piece of paper. I suddenly became a prime “person of interest” where my every move was watched & video-taped.

I escorted a young radiology technician to the morgue as she did not believe me. When she saw the body parts and severed head, she could not believe it either. We told every single person in Radiology what was in the old upright refrigerator.

I immediately noticed a change in the atmosphere. Security guards were all of a sudden around me…walking behind me and I could hear video camera’s zooming in on me as I walked down the hallways that night. Security followed me to the time card machine that night for the first time in 14 months.

Here, the individual is confronted with a “fantasmatic anatomical fragmentation,” something shocking to him, the fragility and dissocited body, a moment where he “all of a sudden, mysteriously, God only knows why, becomes decompensated,” decomposed into a world that no longer makes sense (#, #).

And it cannot be just the body parts: we are in a morgue, after all, where the job  is to dismember the occasional body. There is an immediate change, a paranoia that bears on everyone and everything, where the imperceptible (the noise of cameras zooming, security guards) begins to impinge upon and dissociate reality. 

Though, unlike a law suit against a basketball player, one with a political direction, a man who sends ricin, a biological weapon, to senators and the president, with notes bearing witness to this fundamental experience: “No one wanted to listen to me before. There are still ‘Missing Pieces’" (#).

EDIT: Or, potentially, a sociopath mimicking such an enunciation (#), which only makes the circulation of these signifiers more intriguing, not less …

Kevin Curtis’ Ripoff Report

Saginaw man asks for FBI wiretap on NBA player, wills ‘laser proof cars’ to father

I collect scraps of speech like this, though I used to do it at my other tumblr, stereotaxis …

“I leave 25% for family apartments, houses, small mansions in the middle of the land in country with mountain ranges and cultured lands, home grown fruits, vegetables, fish (shrimps), meat, cigarettes, weed, cocaine, beer, liquor and wine, bullet and laser proof cars, trucks, buses, limousines, boats, yachts that goes on and in water, air plain (sic) with inside and outside parachutes and dance and gambling places as (sic) Atlanta all with laser security and security officers (2 woman to 1 man). I leave 10% for hospitals and chemistry labs to work on molecule, atoms, chromosomes, cell death acids, and oxygen on regeneration then I like to be laid to rest in a water chambers (sic) with flowers, TV, and radio.”

In his third Seminar, Lacan speaks of “the sense of the twilight of reality” that characterizes the speech of individuals in the midst of a particularly extreme psychic disturbance (#).

Often, we hear of these as they come to light in legal filings, appeals to the law for restitution of the social order against some corruption,  and, often, fixated on a particular celebrity, a figure that looms larger that life in one’s mind. 

He writes – sues for justice – as if he is already dead, and what we need is research into the infinite decomposition of the world: molecule, atoms, chromosomes, cell death acids, and oxygen. 

Saginaw man asks for FBI wiretap on NBA player, wills ‘laser proof cars’ to father

Tabou : la famille homoparentale de la fille de Freud | Rue89

Un autre événement important est contenu dans ce livre, dans la préface d’Elisabeth Roudinesco : pour la première fois, une historienne éminente de la psychanalyse reconnaît la relation homosexuelle qui a existé entre Anna Freud et Dorothy Burlingham.

And, to accent that fact, Sigmund Freud accepted their companionship as a form of family. 

Tabou : la famille homoparentale de la fille de Freud | Rue89


… one day when a smudge of paint on his index finger took the shape of a face, a face that spoke to him and told him, ‘Paint sacred art.’ …

Rachel Maddux, “This Side of Paradise”

I have another tumblr called Stereotaxis; from the OED: 

Biol. and Med.

Involving or designed for the accurate three-dimensional positioning and movement of objects inside the brain.

When I decided to transfer my wordpress blog over here to tumblr, I also decided to fold Stereotaxis in as well. On the old blog, I described it as a neuropsychoanalytic microblog, which is about right: just stuff that I culled from the internet about psychotic speech, technological pluralization of the senses, artificial intelligences, and the little electrochemical ocean that washes around in our skulls. I’ll probably write up some meta posts about all the themes that little blog explored (usually with minimal commentary).

This is the first thing I would, in the past, have posted there. There’s something ineluctable about this pure voice which speaks from within as if it is from without, the echo that compels this person to reorganize the world in the name of God. 

“We Just Don’t Have That Many Substances”

Lydia Kerr, a friend and colleague of mine from the University at Buffalo, has an interesting article responding to Eliza Slavet’s essay on Freud and Jewishness at the Religion & Culture Web Forum of the University of Chicago’s Marty Center. Lydia has put a lot of thought into the question of race and psychoanalysis, and this brief response is a good illustration of her ability to concisely demonstrate the usefulness of psychoanalysis—particularly, Lacanian—for thinking race. She argues that in addition to extended substance (materiality, genetics, the body) and thinking substance (the immaterial* realm of ideas and social construction), we also need to add what Lacan called a third category—la substance jouissante—enjoying substance, or jouissance. Take a look.

*I am increasingly of the opinion that the category of the ‘immaterial’ is of diminishing utility, and that Lacanian psychoanalysis seems to be a fruitful point of departure.