Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep?

Maja Lyon


Saturday, September 24, 2022,
Museum of Science and Technology, 51 Dobračina Street

11:00 Introduction speech: Маја Lyon, author of the program

11:15 Lecture: Dr Ivanka Dunjić Jovanović: Metaverse and Psychoanalysis

It is a basic assumption of the early psychoanalysis that the mind develops due to the inability to directly satisfy the drives. This pretty reductionist idea puts all the complexity of not just our mental life, but the cultural and social upgrade as well, in the function of the conflict between the principle of pleasure—release of accumulated tension, and the principle of reality. Luckily, as an open theoretical system that searches for answers and increasingly more complex paradigms with the purpose of contextualising the relationship between the inner and external reality, psychoanalysis did not die with modernism. In this lecture, we shall try to perceive the understanding of the phenomenon of metaverse through some psychoanalytical concepts such as the death drive, narcissism, transient phenomena and intersubjectivity. However, a question arises if the existing theories help us understand the relationship between the man and the digital world or if new paradigms are needed and if so, are they in the domain of psychoanalysis. In other words, paraphrasing the idea from the Terminator film series, we can say that we know that people need machines, but we are wondering if the machines will need the people (as we now know them).

11:45 Panel discussion: Dr Ivanka Dunjić Jovanović and  Dr Zorica Tomić: Metaverse — Creating New Worlds

12:45 Pause

13:15 Lecture: Маја Lyon: Black-and-White World of the Digital — Emotions that Make Life Meaningful

Theory of hyperpersonal communication explains the model of interpersonal communication mediated by digital technologies, when the hyperpersonal sender of the message has a greater ability to strategically develop and edit their image, thus enabling selective and optimised representation of one’s self to others. Lacking previous personal experience and knowledge of the other, hyperpersonal communication and the resulting relationship may have the quality of an illusion. Absence of corporeality, physical contact, look, smell and other experiences that are the result of face-to-face contact, increases the need for an “enhanced” message sent to the recipient in cyberspace. Although the messages may differ, the emotions that lay at the basis of them have a tendency to be coloured by exaggeration, either idealising of a devaluating one.

Projective identification, apart from the function of a primitive defence mechanism, when parts of the ego and internal objects are separated and ascribed to external object, in psychoanalysis, also represents an important channel of psychological and interpersonal communication. We shall use one of its derivates, concept of hyperbole of Wilfred Bion to explain how in the hyperbolic state of mind, strong emotions are robustly projected to enormous distances and amplified, and we shall try to understand how that “campaign” impacts our thinking apparatus and the capacity to achieve closeness. Does the new way in which people meet and create relationships enhances closeness or isolation? When does the “enhanced message” get too much? How do we cope with the rejection in the digital and what are the consequences of the inability to cope with “enhanced emotions”?

13: 50 Lecture: Danilo dr Pešić: Digital and the Death Drive

Although it is primarily related to the data expressed in non-continuous values and technology, the determiner digital represents a metonymy for a network of virtual communications, global possibilities of connection, development of new forms of community on the Internet and new forms of subjectivity. If we apply Deleuze’s idea that “machine is always social before it becomes technical”, it is more precise to say that digital technology is a product of digital culture and not the other way around. Considering the context, in this article, analogue and digital are considered through the psychoanalytical concept of the duality of death and life drives, through Marcuse’s idea of Eros that includes multiple levels of logic, and Bateson’s idea of multiple levels of learning. We review the “fetishization of the digital” and connected tendency towards regression to lower levels of complexity and inhibition of learning. Given that we live in a society oversaturated by digital technology, which makes it “natural” and invisible, although it affects deep self-structures, constant critical re-examination from psychoanalytical and group-analytical point of view is necessary.

14:20 Presentation of research results: Dobrinka Kuzmanović and Oliver Tošković

Experiences of the Young People on the Internet — Time Spent on the Internet, Online and Offline Friendships and Risky Behaviour

15:10 Virtual presentation: Aleksandra Džambić: and dr Željko Jovandić Digital Sexuality — Satisfaction of Frustration 

Pandemic of Covid-19, also marked as the “new reality”, forced the majority of the world’s population to migrate in front of the screens of digital devices and transfer, manifest and consume most of their everyday activities using digital technology and digital media. In that condensed time-space cyber-geography, which due to the global pandemic also touched on the claustrophobic-agoraphobic dilemma, an individual is increasingly more often and more intensively faced with the question “Who am I and where do I belong?”.  

In a place where all the functions of the body, time and language connect, complicated by the specific historical moment, we return to Jean Baudrillard who tells us of “the mental cornucopia of all spirits, where even an insignificant event is a threat, where the history itself is a threat”. The digital form of communication practice, with all the new means that are changing and advancing outside the borders of the objective time, makes the communication follow the principles of 3A—any subject, anywhere and anytime—which in turn makes the objective experience extremely complex and difficult to verbalise in every situation. There is no individual that “exists” separately. One of the basic psychological needs is to belong, to experience the life around us, to form relationships, share and receive, and to communicate. Intersubjectivity implies that our psychological reality is often materialised only in contact with another person and their psychological reality. There is no I without We and vice versa. Because, first there was a group, mother and the baby, and only afterwards was an individual born. 

This year’s segment of the Festival S.U.T.R.A., Conversations, was sparked by the time of the pandemic as an important framework for perception of virtual spaces and digital culture, and it is dedicated to understanding and illumination of numerous phenomena and behaviours in cyberspace, analysing them, first of all, through a prism of psychoanalytical theories. 

Cyberspace as a form of postmodern technology poses intriguing psychoanalytical questions, but it also causes a dramatic change in our culturological understanding of the reality. Transition that happened is indicated by change in the dimension of reality, which was marked by the loss and limitation due to the change of the “location” and contents, followed by the development of new meanings, from accepting the reality that the mind is accessible and capable of transforming unknown ideas, to experience marked by unlimited access. The thing that psychoanalysts often see is a dilemma by a certain part of the public expressed in questions: “What can psychoanalysis offer digital technologies?” and “How can digital technologies serve psychoanalysis?”.

The way in which the Internet has changed the quality of the exchange of information and how global Internet geography became a location unconnected by time, place or personal history, marked by anonymity, enabled people to consciously or unconsciously discover a wide range of information about themselves and their intrapsychic contents. And there we find a part of the answer to the first question, which is that psychoanalysis can help enable us understand why and how we behave online, how our fantasies about cyberspace can make it easier for us to understand our inner world and how, despite seemingly rich intra and interpersonal dynamics, people often have a tendency to exploit digital geographies in order to survive their “analogue lives”. 

People’s personal feeling of safety depends on the belief in the benefit for themselves, their important persons and what we perceive as valuable. But this belief is founded in probability and not certainty, while the result are emotional states that should be the result of certainty. Ron Britton, a famous British psychoanalyst, tells us that belief can be considered a function that gives fantasies and ideas a status of reality, and that this is an active process impacted by desire, fear and expectation, but the people can give them up and consequentially gain knowledge. Recognising that a person has more belief than knowledge requires what Britton describes as a triangular psychological space, i.e., there is a need for a third position in a mental space from which we can observe the subjective self which has a relation with the idea. As cyberspace becomes a canvas on which primitive mental states can reflect together with accompanying unconscious fantasies that lay in the basis of some of our close and important beliefs that should undergo testing of reality in order to become knowledge, a question arises where is the position of the third when one or two other positions can be cancelled by just one click. 

On the other hand, exchange in cyberspace, freed of formal identifications, can offer access to the unconscious and functioning of the ego, including the quality of impulse and judgement control, content of libidinal and aggressive fantasy, narcistic tendencies and relationship capacity. Therefore, Roy Schafer, American psychologist and psychoanalyst, says that the Internet may seem like a source similar to “the Rorschach test” for associative relationships that include thoughts, drive and interrelationships between these processes and it that way, it can help psychoanalysis to better understand internal dynamics of individuals and groups. Then, it becomes a place for accepting one’s own limitations that can be used as tool for self-discovery. 

It is important to emphasize that at the same time, virtual space of the Internet, as a psychocultural paradigm, can also represent an indirect area of experience contributed by the internal reality and external life. Virtual space exists as a place where an individual and the others reside and enables them to go through the process of “training” to accept both differences and similarities, as a step towards personal development and consequentially acceptance of reality because, as Winnicott said, “no human being is ever free from efforts to connect internal and external realities”. That is also the area of “testing adulthood” in adolescents and it has the quality of an extended play ground for a small child “lost” in play. 

Digital cultural transformation impacts the language, social relations and attitudes towards self, important others and the global community. Thematic block Conversations is a place where we shall explore digital culture with all its correlates, first of all, from the standpoint of different psychoanalytical theories, as well as philosophy, neurosciences, psychology and software engineering, all with the purpose of understanding digital technologies, which are no longer just mere tools, but also participants in processes that impact both individuals and groups. 

Modern age brings numerous novelties and challenges that inevitably also imply the domain of sexuality. In this article, we research the mutual connection and effects of the process of attachment, sexuality and mentalisation and where in the digital age, is the space for intimacy, trust, understanding and respect of both personal and other people’s needs.

According to Freud’s theories, the man is guided by the principle of satisfying his drives. Initially opposed to his theories and nowadays, complementary to that, stands the theory of attachment which emphasizes the importance of the safe connection between the child and the primary parental figure, by that also underlining the child’s need for a relationship that will be good enough and safe enough for the development to take place. Within that kind of relationship, numerous functions develop, among other things, the ability to mentalise, i.e., the ability to understand one’s own thoughts, emotions and behaviour, as well as those of another.  

Just like globalisation and urbanisation, “digitalisation” has also already changed the world. Quick spreading of information and communication technologies represents an unstoppable force that enters almost every sphere of modern life, from economy, society, culture, etc., to shaping the everyday life (relations and sexuality of people). 

Development of modern technologies creates a potential for quick and easy satisfaction of various needs, as well as tools for quick and easy construction of an ideal self-image. All of this can be observed in the light of a great civilisational progress, but the fact that there is a bright progress inevitably also raises the question of its dark side—are we just dancers in the virtual world or are we also raging bulls.