Call for papers – Digital Media, Psychoanalysis and the Subject – deadline 25 March 2016

CFP: Digital Media, Psychoanalysis and the Subject

Editors: Jacob Johanssen (University of East London / University of Westminster, UK) and Steffen Krüger (University of Oslo, Norway).

Revisiting psychoanalytic theory and practice as a potential for media and communication studies, this CfP for a special issue of CM: Communication and Media Journal, to be published in December 2016, seeks to enable a dialogue between communication/media studies and psychoanalysis in order to critically explore the processes and dynamics of contemporary culture.

Guiding questions are:
– What are the psychoanalytic concepts and methodological processes that have a bearing on our research into media and/or communication?

– What are the implications of psychoanalysis, its theoretical tools and practice, for media and communication studies – specifically for the conceptions of subjectivity in the field?

– What are the implications of media and communication studies for psychoanalytic concepts/ practice?

Call for Papers:
For the past two decades, critical research into media and communication has sought ways to understand the significant shift brought about by digitalisation and a proliferation of networked media. With this shift, questions of individuality, the single media user as entity and her/his relations to society have taken on renewed salience. Not only is consuming media content (films, TV series, websites etc.) becoming open to increasingly individual choices (streaming services across different mediums, for example), but the individual as such has become part of the content being produced. People find themselves instigated to express and share who they are and relate themselves to others via multiple, networked media channels on diverse platforms. These platforms are characterised by the double objective of enabling feelings of community whilst also profiting from the ensuing communication. Relying on targeted data extraction as business models, the relations they facilitate tend toward the commodification of the individual and, intentional or not, open up possibilities for corporate and governmental surveillance.

The notions and concepts with which researchers have sought to emphasise and highlight relevant aspects of this shifting situation, such as ‘convergence’, ‘connectivity’, ‘participation’, ‘produsage’, ‘interactivity’ and ‘user-generated content’ etc. have long since become common parlance. They are challenged and defended, changed and rearranged. To these concepts attach themselves a variety of approaches, theories, models and assumptions that focus on a diverse range of angles, including gender, ethnicity, class, subculture or group memberships from micro, meso, to macro perspectives. With these come diverse philosophies and worldviews that often concern questions of activity, passivity and agency with regard to media use.

Yet, whereas many of these approaches can be seen as responses to the renewed centrality of the individual media user, the conceptions of subjectivity underlying these works frequently remain implicit and in need of reflection. What is established by such ‘implicit notions’ of subjectivity (Dahlgren, 2013: 72) is an idea of media users leaning strongly towards rationality, cognition, categorisation and assimilation. While, as mentioned above, consumer choices become ever finer grained to meet individual demand, the challenge that the resulting notion of individuality poses to our conceptions of the subject have hardly been taken up by media and communication studies so far (see Willson, 2010).

Thus, in order to counter the tendency of foregoing the relevance of subjective experience, Peter Dahlgren has recently advocated ‘reactivating concerns about the subject’ (2013: 73) in media studies research, stating that researchers in the field need to consider also ‘communicative modes beyond the rational’ (ibid: 82). Heeding this call, psychoanalysis may be the discipline best equipped to point to ways out of the rationalistic impasse. As Brown and Lunt (2002) suggest, ‘there is something about psychoanalysis that is corrosive to the whole model of the subject built up by the social identity tradition’ (2002: 8) – i.e. the very tradition onto which implicit models of the subject in media and communication studies frequently default.

This call for papers wants to initiate a critical appreciation of this ‘corrosiveness’ of psychoanalytic theory as a productive potential for media and communication studies. With its diverse traditions – Freudian, Kleinian, Lacanian, Winnicottian, relational, etc. – foregrounding the conflicted, ambivalent, defended, divided, multifaceted, layered and processual aspects of human beings in their relations with others, psychoanalysis shifts our attention to contradiction, incoherence, ambiguity and resistance in media texts as well as in the responses to them. In view of the new media situation it seems also well worth to readdress the critiques of psychoanalysis brought forth by Michel Foucault (1966) as well as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (2009).

While psychoanalysis is primarily a clinical field, the application of theoretical and methodological concepts outside the consulting room has shown that they can be immensely fruitful and productive as long as they steer clear from broad-sweeping generalisations and pathologizations. Scholars within media and communication studies (e.g. Kris 1941, Kris and Leites 1947; Radway 1984; Walkerdine 1984, 2007; Ang 1985; Silverstone 1994; Turkle 1995, 2011; Hills 2002; Richards 2007; Kavka 2009; Dean 2010; Elliott 2013; Krzych 2010, 2013; Yates and Bainbridge 2012, 2014; Carpentier 2014a, b; Balick 2014; Krüger and Johanssen 2014, Johanssen forthcoming; Krüger forthcoming) have drawn on psychoanalytic schools in different manners and to varying degrees. Connecting with and reflecting upon this tradition, we invite articles that focus on the implications that psychoanalytic concepts and methodologies have on studies in media and communication, and/or, vice versa, the implications that media and communication studies have on our understanding of psychoanalytic concepts and practice. While our main focus is on digital media, we also want to encourage media and communication researchers in other fields to consider the implications of and for psychoanalysis.

Contributions are thus invited to address the following questions:

– What are the psychoanalytic concepts and methodological processes that have a bearing on our research into media communication?

– What are the implications of psychoanalysis, its theoretical tools and practice, for media and communication studies – specifically for the conceptions of subjectivity in the field?

– What are the implications of media and communication studies for psychoanalytic concepts/ practice?

These broader questions can translate into more specific ones, e.g.:
– What has psychoanalysis to offer to the interpretation of research data?

– What is the legacy and/or future of psychoanalytic thinking in media and communication research?

– Which psychoanalytic concepts are useful for thinking about the limiting as well as empowering opportunities that present themselves within contemporary digital culture?

– How is this culture useful for thinking about psychoanalysis?

– What and how can we understand the subject in relation to concrete patterns of media content production and consumption?

– How does the subject cope with and make sense of the ubiquity of media communication? With what psychosocial effects?

Possible fields of study are:
– Psychoanalysis and media surveillance
– Psychoanalysis and data ownership
– Psychoanalysis and media audiences
– Psychoanalysis and social media (self presentation, narcissism, flaming, trolling, etc.)
– Psychoanalysis and media institutions
– Psychoanalysis and journalistic practices
– Psychoanalysis, media and ideology

The editors specifically invite authors to initiate conversations between psychoanalytic concepts and media scholarship. Theoretical or empirical works are equally welcome.
We invite full papers (6000-8000 words including references) as well as shorter commentaries (up to 3000 words) on the topic. Please submit abstracts (300 words) by 25 March 2016 to: .

25 March: Deadline for abstract submissions. Authors will be notified within two weeks.
27 June: Deadline for full paper submissions.
16 September: Deadline for submission of revised papers.
31 October: Deadline for final author revisions.

About the Editors
Jacob Johanssen () is in the final stages of his PhD research at the University of East London and Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster. His PhD research involved interviews with viewers of the programme ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ and explores their investments, affective responses and wider viewing practices by drawing on media studies and psychoanalysis both theoretically and methodologically. His research interests include psychoanalysis and the media, affect theory, psychosocial studies, critical theory, as well as digital culture.

Steffen Krüger, PhD, () is postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo (Norway). He is contributing editor of the journal American Imago – Psychoanalysis and the Human Sciences. In his current research into digital culture, he analyses forms of interaction in digital media from a psychosocial, and specifically, depth-hermeneutic perspective.

About CM
CM: Communication and Media Journal is based in Serbia, at the University of Belgrade ( CM is an open access, double blind peer reviewed academic journal. Over the past years, several special issues, aimed at an international academic audience, have been published (such as Interrogating audiences: Theoretical horizons of participation, edited by Carpentier and Dahlgren, 2011).

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Balick, A. (2014) The psychodynamics of social networking; Connected up instantaneous culture and the self. London: Karnac.

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