I haven’t even got the courage of my lack of convictions

June 25, 2013 § Leave a comment


SP You’ve contrasted your writing with your psychoanalytic practice. What is the relationship between the two?

AP I really don’t know. All I do know is that I do psychoanalysis four days a week and I write one day a week, in the middle. I know that the conversations I have with people have a very powerful effect on me. Psychoanalysis is really difficult; writing is not, for me.

In psychoanalysis, I’m dealing with resistances, often with very intractable things. In a way, the connection between the two things works by being indiscernible, by not being articulated or thought about very much. As you may have noticed, I don’t use clinical vignettes, because I think psychoanalysis is private. So when I do use them, either they’re minimal, anonymous, or I make them up. And I don’t find myself interested in topics, exactly. I’m more interested in the sentences, as they unfold, that are nominally about something.

I was very wary of the way in which the psychoanalytic profession secluded itself, made itself rather mandarin and elitist. So I wanted to be seen to be part of the cultural conversation, something not mysterious—I mean, life is mysterious—that in and of itself is a social practice that can be talked about.

SP Over time your writing has become more political, more pointed. Do you have hope for an impact in the cultural conversation or even public policy? Is there something that you’d like your books to do or change?

AP I’ve always been embarrassed by the self-importance of psychoanalysts talking about the world as if they were going to have some major influence on it. Back when I was trained, my supervisor said to me, completely seriously, “If only they had child psychotherapy in Northern Ireland, their troubles would have been over years ago.” Now, for me, this represents the absurdity and grandiosity of psychoanalysis. The people who actually have some effect on public opinion are business people and journalists, with politicians somewhere in the middle of those. I can only seriously ironize myself in relation to this. I think of the books as more like dream work than propaganda.

I don’t write for psychoanalysts but for people who are interested in a whole range of things. My wish, if I could design it, is that my books would in some indiscernible way evoke something in those who come across them. People wouldn’t come away thinking, Oh, Phillips’s theory of X is X. The reading experience would have a nonprogrammatic effect, but an effect.

SP Paul Holdengräber’s interview with you at the New York Public Library began with his observation that he could never actually remember anything that you write. Maybe it was a deliberate provocation, but that’s how I experience a lot of your work.

AP That’s the reading experience I’ve always loved. Certainly, when people say to me, as they often have done, “I can’t remember anything afterward,” I think, Great, that’s the point! The work is not there to be repeated or identified with, but something works on you.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Kohei Yoshiyuki

Don Giovanni is a certain type of male homosexual. Neither extreme, Tristan or Don Giovanni, is compatible with heterosexual love

March 27, 2013 § 1 Comment


In August 2011, the Japanese company Manuscript was forced to amend the settings of its new software application, Karelog (“Boyfriend Log”), in response to consumer complaints. Drawing on GPS technology, the service allowed users to log in from a computer to track another person’s phone. In the program’s first release, these surveillance capacities also stretched to include accessing the mobile’s call history and remaining battery life. Promotional material for the product targeted anxious girlfriends wanting to know the whereabouts of partners. But within days of the campaign going public, anti-virus software giant McAfee labelled the app a “Potentially Unwanted Program.” This was because users had no way of knowing that the technology had been installed on their device or what information was being logged and sent. The problem was not so much the capacity of the application (GPS tracking is already used for caring purposes of other kinds, such as parents keeping tabs on their children). The crime was that women were encouraged to install the app without partners’ permission. The language of internet security literalised the threat that the program posed as an example of everyday spyware.

Facing the media the president of the fledgling software firm, Yoshinori Miura, admitted the product launch involved some cynicism:

We were still a largely unknown company, so I thought that we could grab attention by focusing on anti-cheating programs, but we went too far. I didn’t think we [would] get so much criticism .

The official apology also addressed the gender assumptions inherent to the application design, since its aesthetics showed clear allegiance to the established traits of Japanese kawaii, or “cute”. Still, press reports admitted that there was nothing about the technology that stopped it from being used by both genders. Steve Levenstein at Inventor Spot wrote:

it takes no knowledge of Japanese to know the pink & lacy graphics at the Karelog website are designed to attract a female demographic. If that’s not enough, check out the image of a big-eyed black kitty (with pink hair bow a la Hello Kitty) gazing longfully at her Android-phone-clutching, pants-wearing tomcat. With that said, there’s no reason why anyone of any gender can use Karelog to spy on anyone of any gender. Let the paranoia-fest begin!

While Boyfriend Log was notable for the headlines it received in English-speaking media, gendered assumptions also affected the release of similar surveillance programs in the US in recent years. iTrust, for instance, is an iPhone application that reveals whether or not a significant other has been tampering with one’s text. In contrast to Boyfriend Log, iTrust turns the tables to allow phone owners to maintain privacy. A fake “home” screen locks the cellphone while its user is absent and records any traces of interfering fingers. In the demo video for the program, a female voice-over describes a failed attempt to read her boyfriend’s text messages in a moment of boredom. Like the men offended by KareLog’s marketing, the casting of a ditzy-sounding girlfriend did not escape the notice of commenters responding to the story on industry stalwart Mashable.

Women are the investigatory agents in each of these examples, whether deliberately, in the case of KareLog, or more casually – indeed, recreationally – in the case of iTrust. The worried partner is gendered female, seen to require stability and transparency through the surveillance of her wandering male.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: [unattributed]

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