Psychoanalysis and Digital Culture
Audiences, Social Media, and Big Data
Psychoanalysis and Digital Culture offers a comprehensive account of our contemporary media environment—digital culture and audiences in particular—by drawing on psychoanalysis and media studies frameworks. It provides an introduction to the psychoanalytic affect theories of Sigmund Freud and Didier Anzieu and applies them theoretically and methodologically in a number of case studies. Johanssen argues that digital media fundamentally shape our subjectivities on affective and unconscious levels, and he critically analyses phenomena such as television viewing, Twitter use, affective labour on social media, and data-mining.
How does watching television involve the body? Why are we so drawn to reality television?
Why do we share certain things on social media and not others? How are bodies represented on social media?
How do big data and data mining influence our identities? Can algorithms help us make better decisions?
These questions amongst others are addressed in the chapters of this wide-ranging book. Johanssen shows in a number of case studies how a psychoanalytic angle can bring new insights to audience studies and digital media research more generally. From audience research with viewers of the reality television show Embarrassing Bodies and how they unconsciously used it to work through feelings about their own bodies, to a critical engagement with Hardt and Negri's notion of affective labour and how individuals with bodily differences used social media for their own affective-digital labour, the book suggests that an understanding of affect based on Freud and Anzieu is helpful when thinking about media use. The monograph also discusses the perverse implications of algorithms, big data and data mining for subjectivities. In drawing on empirical data and examples throughout, Johanssen presents a compelling analysis of our contemporary media environment.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Psychoanalysis, Affect, and Digital Culture: Debates, Theories, and Methods
2. Audiences, Affect, and the Unconscious
3. Affect, Biography, and Watching Reality Television
4. Unable to Tweet: Inhibition and the Compulsion to Share
5. Affective Labour and the Body: Theoretical Developments
6. Affective Labour on Social Media
7. The Perverse Logic of Big Data
Jacob Johanssen is Senior Lecturer in the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster (United Kingdom). His research interests include psychoanalysis and digital media, audience research, affect theories, digital labour, reality television, psychosocial studies, and critical theory.
"Psychoanalysis and digital culture convincingly demonstrates the strength of psychoanalytical theory for the study of media and communication, without taking anything at face value. Grounded in an impressive mastery of the literature, the book moves beyond the rational by carving out its own route, making clear and well-informed theoretical choices, that open up ample opportunities for a better understanding of human communication. Its insightful engagement with affect, embodiment, inhibition and perversion, and with audiences and algorithms, make it a fascinating read."
Nico Carpentier, Professor in Media and Communication Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden
"Turning a sharply nuanced understanding of psychoanalytic approaches toward digital culture, Jacob Johanssen carefully feels out the contours of an affective-skin-envelope that always stretches and folds the social and relational into particular bodies, situated contexts, mediating experiences, and more. Whether taking on big picture issues such as ‘affective labor’ and data mining & algorithms or zooming in more closely to ‘embarrassing bodies,’ Johanssen gathers up an impressive array of theoretical resources and parses their combined insights with clarity and creativity. This book offers us a truly refreshing model for the affect study of our contemporary moment."
Gregory J. Seigworth, Professor of Communication Studies, Millersville University, USA, co-editor of Capacious: Journal for Emerging Affect Inquiry
"This book is a welcome and important intervention into debates about digital culture and critical understandings of affect. It makes a persuasive case for the importance of psychoanalytic thinking in contemporary media studies, revealing through close analysis the sometimes messy underside of mediated pleasures. Jacob Johanssen charts a sensitive and astute route through theory in an excursion across mediated experiences of algorithms, reality television, social media, and data society, all the while bringing to life vivid images of emotional encounters and affective labour. He offers a creative and compelling account of the perverse enactments at work in digital culture, revealing that audiences invest in their mediated lives at both embodied and psychological levels. This book will be a truly absorbing read for anyone interested in human communication and its iterations in the digital era."
Caroline Bainbridge, Professor of Culture and Psychoanalysis, University of Roehampton, UK
"Johanssen’s book is timely and a welcome addition to the growing interdisciplinary studies on new media. He deftly draws on psychoanalytic ideas and his own research in this area to help us to see ourselves more clearly as we engage with digital media. Its scholarly, yet accessible, style makes it an invaluable and rewarding read."
Alessandra Lemma, Professor, Psychoanalysis Unit, University College London, UK, author of 'The Digital Age on the Couch'
"[This book] is a welcome intervention into the debates surrounding the applications of affect theory to digital contexts and would be an illuminating read for anyone interested in working with critical accounts of affect and the increasingly proximate relationship between subject and media."
Jamie Ranger, in triple C
"This valuable and timely book by Jacob Johanssen has arrived at a point in history in which both the study of media and media itself are undergoing significant change."
Martin Murray, in Psychoanalysis and History