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  • mono 7:09 pm on April 7, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Grandpa Seth, Joshua, , , Psychoanalysis, , Specular Image, , , Web Cam   

    Social Media and The Specular Image: The Floating Head 

    Polpolux

    For Jacques Lacan, “the specular image” can be envisioned through the example of one seeing oneself in the mirror. The act of seeing the perceived wholeness of oneself in the reflection of the mirror is captivating for the child. It is this captivating gaze that produces the specular image (Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis). Is it not the same with us in our daily lives: looking in the mirror to make sure that our hair is properly set, brushing one’s teeth and checking to make sure there are no toothpaste stains on the cheek or in the hazy moments upon awaking, looking at oneself in the mirror while wiping away the grime of sleep that sits in the eye.

    A Body in the Dark

    The specular image is actualized through the imagination. It is imaginary. One can truly experience this by trying the following: dim the lights or stand in a dark room. Look intently at one’s image in the mirror and try to grasp the face in all of its strangeness. Notice the shifting contents of the face, the transformative powers of the imagination come to life in this simple exercise. The body in the mirror reflects back the body’s surface. We cover our body in our imagination. Again, the Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis writes, “The specular image refers to the reflection of one’s own body in the mirror, the image of oneself which is simultaneously oneself and other — the ‘little other’.”

    Social Media: The Collectible Friend

    In 2004, when I first began using social media for artistic purposes, I realized the oddity of MySpace using the word “friend” as the person who adds you or you can add to your site. Moreover, the visual representation of that “friend” gave me a certain warmth and, at the same time, mixed with hysteria. One’s friend count seemed to be the measure by which others were ranked. The music side of MySpace was blossoming and I quickly sustained hundreds and eventually thousands of collectible “friends,” which is pretty impressive given that what I was creating was pure chaotic analog/digital noise. The specular image of oneself as a collectible” friend to others, reduced to an icon meant that one had to choose one’s visual mode of representation wisely, or at least fashionably…Moreover, the fascination of altering the image, my ‘little other’ increased while I worked to expand my network. What I did admire about those times was the willingness of others to collaborate. MySpace seemed like the perfect place to collaborate, share and establish lasting connections and I believe it was.

    I’m Shrinking

    How is one’s specular image represented in one’s use of social media? What kind of secret identities, code names, nicknames, aliases emerge and make space. How does the online self, the labyrinthine self navigate and make itself relevant? How is one’s disembodiment experienced through the use of that horrifying device: the web cam? The web cam shrinks one’s specular image to a reversed 2D image. One only needs to adjust the angle in order to transfigure the appearance of the face. NOTE: this was also heavily used in the hand-held Myspace profile shots or in ultra-close-ups, framing the face as point of personality, the floating head.

    The Floating Head in Troll 2

    In the film Troll 2 (dir. Claudio Fragasso), there is a scene where the young boy, Joshua is trying to communicate with his deceased grandfather’s spirit-body by concentrating on a mirror and willing for his grandfather to appear. The first part of the grandfather’s body which comes into being is nothing but a floating head, which quickly morphs and materializes into a violent goblin. This shift is interesting to me. First, we see the floating head coming from the nether world, but upon materialization there is a rift and the image of the grandfather is overtaken by an ugly monster. Who is the other that one addresses through the specular image of the camera or the web cam? Does it matter? How much do you stake on the online representation of the other? What, to you, is the experience of meeting the flesh-and-blood other after having interacted in a computerized networked environment?

    No Subject: Lacan
    Troll 2

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  • mono 12:02 am on April 3, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Online identity, Psychoanalysis, , , Subcultures, Urban Primitive   

    The Fragmented Body: An Entangled Web of Desires 

    Mirror phase according to Jacques LacanImage from WikipediaJacques Lacan‘s idea of “the fragmented body” is of interest to me and I wish to briefly talk about it in relation to the virtual body of cyberspace. For Lacan, the fragmented body emerges in infancy when, for example, the infant sees his or her body in the mirror and recognizes the body to be somehow apart from oneself. That is to say, the synthesis that was once a wholeness becomes fragmented by coming to see the body as being decentered from the physical body. Moreover, this idea of fragmentation can also be manifest in the subject’s desires, having come from without, which work to fragment the sense of self wholeness. This fragility that we once had, now fragmented and split off from us comes back to haunt us in cyberspace.

    Cyberspace invites us to display ourselves, to willingly fragment ourselves through social networking sites, photo sharing sites, video blogs (vlogs), web logs (blogs) and so on. The imaginary trick is to think that we are somehow actually “there,” but where exactly is that there? On the screen? On a server? Thus, the horror of hacking is due in part to the idea of one’s very identity being somehow severed from one’s control.

    The Encyclopedia of Lacanian Psychoanalysis provides a useful quotation from Lacan, “‘He [the subject] is originally an inchoate collection of desires – there you have the true sense of the expression fragmented body.'” What this means is that the creature called “human” is that creature that desires what it is not and does not have, a being bundled with a myriad of desires, desires which cannot be fulfilled, imagined desires. Through this entangled web of desires, the human subject is fragmented. Thus, for Lacan it is not only the body but also the subject him or herself which is fragmented. Again, we can see how cyberspace while providing a comfortable space to project our desires, also becomes a source of hysteria. The fragility of the self is given room in cyberspace, but also devoid of privacy. Moreover, the presentation of one’s self in cyberspace consists of nothing but fragmentation. That is to say, no two social networking sites appeal to building one’s online identity in exactly the same way.

    Again, as with most of my writings on Lacan, I stir the mixture and watch it change color and hope that in this new mixture, something sustainable arises.

    Teeth (CC)

     
  • mono 12:20 pm on March 31, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , How to Read Lacan, , , , , Psychoanalysis, , The big Other, The Triad of the Real   

    Lacan through Zizek: On ‘the big Other’ 

    Triad of the Real

    It seems that Slavoj Zizek’s book “How to Read Lacan” is a wonderful starting point for both students of Zizek and, of course, for new students of Jacques Lacan. At least in my case it has provided a graspable yet engaging starting point for my study of both of these thinkers. I have stumbled through several of Lacan’s “Ecrits” and bumbled my way across the pages of Zizek’s “The Sublime Object of Ideology” and “The Parallax View,” to little avail ((dense)). The struggle will continue, though.

    In the first chapter of “How to Read Lacan,” Zizek lays the groundwork for concepts such as “The Triad of the Real,” “The Big Other” and “Empty Gestures.” I will do my best here today to put the idea of ‘the big Other’ into my own words in hopes of being able to better understand it. If you have spent time with the works of Zizek and/or Lacan and would like to clarify, correct or challenge my interpretation of what is discussed here, please do so. I am a humble student and it is my hope this year to better familiarize myself with the works of both Zizek and Lacan.

    The Lacanian idea of ‘the big Other’ comes through human interaction/communication. ‘The big Other’ is the virtual regulator of etiquette and social conversation. That is to say, ‘the big Other’ is the ambience of the situation that comes through human ways of following situational “rules.” That is, without human beings, there is no ‘big Other.’ When I shake someone’s hand, I am performing an act with no real significance to me. The shaking of the hand is the expected way of greeting in American culture (similar to the empty question: “how are you?”). The shaking of the hand is done in accord with the virtuality of ‘the big Other.’ For Lacan, the big Other operates on three interconnected levels: The imaginary, the symbolic and the real. The ‘imaginary’ is the virtualization of the other. It is seeing one’s lover as being more than just a skeleton with decaying flesh, it is covering the other with an imaginary image. The symbolic is the way of interacting with the other. That is, it is the following of grammar, “going on” in conversations, shaking hands, bowing, etc. The real is the surrounding forces of the situation, it is the unpredictability of the environment, disaster, unexpected happenings and so on. Of these three, the ‘symbolic’ is most important in understanding ‘the big Other.’

    Through Zizek’s elucidation of this Lacanian idea we find: “When we speak (or listen, for that matter), we never merely interact with others; our speech activity is grounded on our accepting and relying on a complex network of rules and other kinds of presuppositions (Zizek 9).” That is to say, our communication with others (and with our self, perhaps) is grounded in and acted out through ‘the big Other.’ The big Other comes through us in how we speak and in how we comprehend the other. Zizek akins it to the philosophical use of ‘one.’

    In Japanese culture there are myriads of culturally sensitive ways of interacting, proper expressions to use when interacting and such. When one gives a gift, it is correct to depricate oneself and the gift, while fully knowing that it is not a bad gift and that one is probably in fact very happy to give the gift. This following of verbal etiquette is adhered to and, for Lacan, I think that this would come through as a recognition of ‘the big Other.’ That is, the putting down of oneself (in many situations in Japan) comes through the use of language and the importance of following these linguistic rules. Moreover, it is not a written rule, but it is as if there is a spectral presence watching over the situation, a spectral presence that one recognizes and obeys.

    The origin of the big Other comes through language and as Zizek writes, elucidating a dense passage by Lacan: “The symbolic order emerges from a gift, an offering, that marks its content as neutral in order to pose as a gift: when a gift is offered, what matters is not its content but the link between giver and receiver established when the receiver accepts the gift (Zizek 12).” That is, in the above mentioned example of giving a gift in Japan and admitting that it is not a good gift, etc. is done knowing that it is necessary to sustain the link between self and other and this putting down of oneself is the way in which that link is sustained. Even for the receiver, the way that the giver gives the gift is more important than the gift itself.

    All quotations are from: “How to Read Lacan” by Slavoj Zizek (Norton Publishing)

     
    • mahesh hapugoda 4:44 pm on April 7, 2009 Permalink

      This is a wonderful essay since it very simply describes the concept ‘Big Other’ which is fairly difficult to explain.

    • Paul M 10:29 pm on March 24, 2010 Permalink

      The best summary of the big Other I have found on the Internet. Thank you. I started reading Lacan with his 1955/66 seminars, The Psychoses. I should have started with Zizek.

    • prasy 11:39 pm on May 13, 2011 Permalink

      the wonderful article which give way a lot to the culture study through both Lacan and Zizek.thank U

    • Andy Welch 7:39 pm on September 22, 2011 Permalink

      Thanks for that summary.

    • Deborah 8:59 am on February 25, 2012 Permalink

      Thank you so much for this. I have an essay on this topic to write, and I’ve been going through about 10 different books and still struggled to understand the concept… Thank you so much, you’ve saved my… well… my essay !

    • ploy 11:06 am on December 17, 2012 Permalink

      this is very helpful. your concrete examples help clarify the concept of the big Other so well. than you very much.

    • Dan 6:50 pm on February 1, 2013 Permalink

      Thank you jgrefe. Also a student of all this. Not easy to condense these things but this has helped.

    • JD 9:31 am on March 18, 2013 Permalink

      Thanks for the lucid explanation.

    • jgrefe 10:30 am on March 18, 2013 Permalink

      Thank you! I’m glad this explanation was helpful.

    • jgrefe 10:31 am on March 18, 2013 Permalink

      Thank you, Dan. I appreciate the positive thought.

    • jgrefe 10:31 am on March 18, 2013 Permalink

      Thank you. This particular post is quite popular.

    • Brandon 10:00 pm on October 25, 2014 Permalink

      Awesome! So both Zizek and Lacan have similar interpretations of the Other :) I had wondered why Lacan and Zizek are used interchangeably in speaking of the terms such as the Other, Symbolic and Real, the Order etc. So it seems Zizek was explaining Lacan in a more comprehensible manner. Glad for your clarification. Would like to know more about ideological concepts :)

    • prophemy 10:35 am on May 21, 2018 Permalink

      Very helpful interpretation! Check out this film interpolation with the big Other: https://wordpress.com/post/prophemy.wordpress.com/9

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