Electropsychometer 1954
Electropsychometer 1954.

DH-seminariet: E-Meter Metaphysics: Scientology, Psychoanalysis, and the Technological Inscription of Affect

Kultur & språk
Naturvetenskap & IT

This talk discusses the “electro-psychometer,” or “e-meter,” a highly sensitive variant of a “Wheatstone bridge” consisting of two hand-held electrodes and an apparatus that displays an oscillating needle. The e-meter is most notable as a technology used in the “auditing” sessions of the Church of Scientology.

26 mar 2021
16:00 - 18:00

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Obs! Seminariet hålls kl 16.00–18.00 på grund av tidsskillnad.
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Prior towards the development of Scientology, in 1950, science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard developed his philosophy of “Dianetics,” a strange combination of Freudian psychoanalysis and occult mysticism that was influential in its shaping of self-help therapies in the latter half of the 20th century. After a number of personal and professional embarrassments, Hubbard rechristened Dianetics as a religion, only then named Scientology, and began to employ the e-meter as a technology that would appear to verify his often outlandish claims using seemingly objective means. The e-meter would enact what historians of science Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison term “mechanical objectivity,” the idea that technological inscription divorced from human perception is more “true” than subjective interpretation. This talk attempts to contextualize the e-meter in relation to North American psychological experiments designed to identify human emotion, as well as psychology’s use of a range of often “illegitimate” techniques to legitimate its existence as a science. If, for North American psychology, claims about the truth of the emotions are derived from the particular, material effects of measurement permitted by an apparatus, for Scientology, a technological instrument serves as the agent that legitimates arguments about a metaphysical, spiritual “truth” through seemingly objective forms of measurement. Contrasting the methods of psychology and Scientology demonstrate the emergence of a range of epistemic problems in the middle of the twentieth century, and particularly how deferral to the objectivity of measurement could be employed to legitimate an occult metaphysics—themes that inform the epistemology of conspiracy from the 1970s onward.

Grant Bollmer
Grant Bollmer.

Grant Bollmer is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at NC State University where he teaches in the Department of Communication and the Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (CRDM) Ph.D. Program. He is the author of three books, the most recent of which is Materialist Media Theory: An Introduction (2019). This talk is part of his current book project, The Affect Lab, which is under contract with the University of Chicago Press.