EVENT Mar 11
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Digitize My Desire: The Lacanian Subject in the Age of the Internet (NeMLA)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Organization: Julia Bruehne, Matthew Lovett
Event: NeMLA
Categories: American, Comparative, Interdisciplinary, French, British, Popular Culture, African-American, Colonial, Revolution & Early National, Transcendentalists, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, Medieval, Early Modern & Renaissance, Long 18th Century, Romantics, Victorian, 20th & 21st Century, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy
Event Date: 2021-03-11 to 2021-03-14 Abstract Due: 2020-09-30

Famously, for Lacan, all desire is the desire of the Other. That Other can refer to the barred Other of the symbolic (S(-barred-A)), the imaginary other I imagine myself either like or unlike, or the wholly unknowable real other as the inhuman, unconscious core that constitutes one as a subject. Since desire is always the desire of the other, it is always mediated. Generally, we can think of this mediation as being foremost filtered through language as that which makes desire possible; through the image of the Ideal Ego; or through the excess, extimate jouissance of the death drive.

When Lacan was writing, the Other could be considered fairly simply: the battery of signifiers, the mirror (i(a)). But, what happens when the Other is digital? Is the Internet the Other? Is my online self my Ideal Ego? If my desire is mediated by the Other, and the Other of language and of image can be as wide as the 24/7/365 literally world-wide web, what happens to the structures of desire and identity Lacan identified?Within the last years, several films, novels and TV series emerged, which deal with the issues of identity, self-extensions and proxy personalities in the context of digitalization. Series like Black Mirror or novels like The Perfect Wife approach the idea of reconstructing a deceased loved one on behalf of his or her personality traits as rendered visible through their Facebook, Whatsapp, or Instagram accounts. Films like Ex Machina question the distinguishability of humans and humanoid robots. How can these kinds of relationships be classified in Lacanian terms? Does the ‘conversation’ with a digitally resurrected deceased form part of the symbolic order or part of the imaginary? How is our desire and thus our subjectivity distorted if the categories of life and death, human and robotic, blur in the described ways? How do digital communities like the increasing numbers of livestream gaming or cooking communities affect our relationship with the symbolic? Or the other way round: do the societies that surround us provide a deficient symbolic order, prompting us hence to seek other spheres of speaking, desiring and interacting? Is the common fascination with humanoid robots an expression of a collective mirror stage, in which we seek the identification with an ideal Other? What about the fear or disgust felt by an almost-but-not-quite approximation of a human, as in the Uncanny Valley?

Similarly, might we think of desire—how does the seeming omnipresence of pornography, or of digital modification of photos on Instagram, affect both our ego-defenses and our desire? How does the involuntary celibate (incel) constitute himself via a network of misogynists, and how does this network constitute the Image of Woman (who, Lacan knows, does not exist)? If the intervention of the non/m-du-pere is necessary to prevent psychosis, what does that mean for children who have little to no symbolic interdiction via the internet? Does the constant stimulation of the screen form its own kind of intermediary break between mother and child? If so, whose desire is the desire of the Other?

We seek papers that offer a Lacanian approach to the cultural, psychological, and aesthetical phenomena of digital subjectivity, community and desire, or to the question of post-/transhumanity. We especially welcome papers that explore for instance international literature (e.g. French, Francophone, Spanish, Latin American, Italian), films or series which deal with said phenomena and/or papers that explore the changing nature of the subject of desire in light of technological saturation.



Julia Bruehne