“There has never, to my mind, been a case in history of a technology where a potential use hasn’t been taken advantage of.” – Miljenko Williams, Chester, August 31st 2017
Here are a couple of Twitter responses to my recent post, “Communicating with agents in the field using urban environments and artefacts of consumer society”.
Its sponsors and supporters range from the UK Ministry of Defence to Liverpool John Moores University, and its partners include the Arts Council, England; Liverpool City Council; Decade of Health and Wellbeing 2020; Ropewalks; and itsliverpool.com. I have carried out my research for my MA in Criminal Justice dissertation – on the subject of surveillance, and shortly to be delivered – in the galleries of this institution. It has been a pleasure and an eye-opening experience from start to finish.
I think with the blogpost “Communicating with agents …” I was able to get through to Mike – for the first time in an acquaintanceship, I hope he might agree growing friendship, of more than two years – something fairly close to how I see life, and how it has been for me over the past decade and a half, perhaps far more. This reality – or perception of reality – we have struggled to exchange for the past two years or so.
This is why I feel so proud and honoured for his drawing Jill Bennett’s attention in the first tweet below to the thesis I try to outline in the post:
Jill and The Big Anxiety then go on to say lovely things:
The term “schizophrenality” is mentioned a couple of times, and it is a term I first invented and wrote about in a creative blog no longer online for privacy reasons I have recently come to painfully, reluctantly, but definitively accept. I am indebted directly for the terminology I decided to use to my dissertation supervisor and Crime, Power & Victimisation module leader from my second semester, Dr Emma Murray (more here), who created the method of “veteranality” after Foucault’s “governmentality”. I still maintain online, however, the assignment I wrote for Dr Murray in the second semester, which I completed whilst staying in Dublin in May of this year, and which explains how schizophrenality might coattail usefully on both the above-mentioned methods.
You can find more on miljenko.com’s homepage, or alternatively click here to go directly to the assignment (served up by Google on Google Drive).
I thank Jill for her kind and observant comments, especially as she carefully frames her use of the term “creative”, as in “creative writing”:
I think this is a valuable ambiguity. In a more recent, far more visceral, far more raw, post I explain why I feel the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia – in particular where compared to other ways of interpreting the world – is so unreasonable to those thus diagnosed. Here I follow in the steps and illuminating shadow of Foucault’s focus on the historicity of discourse. What is true in the shadow of the Iraq War in 2003 (which is around the time I became seriously mentally distressed) – I am mad – is not so clear when it is the Iraq War which becomes understood as the “real” madness fourteen years later.
If you read my assignment, there will be more along the same lines.
I would, however, like to underline: the experiences described by a very cogent myself are absolutely down-the-line. What I have experienced, I have described. What I have described, I have experienced. I drive a car; I fly abroad; I go through security checks in airports; I hold a passport; I study at MA level in a top-notch university. My writing may be creative in the sense of interpretative; maybe even imaginative; but this is not to draw a rough and ready conclusion that either interpretative or imaginative mean disconnected from reality. I think these things might “truly” be happening; I believe paranoid schizophrenics are especially closely connected to reality, and have a gift for understanding it where others do not (see Rosenhan, for example). That this gift, and the nature and occasional brutality of this reality, are ignored by the vast majority of the medical profession does not mean we should assume that ignorance gives the ignorant the right to condemn out of hand a different belief system, and different take, on this thing we all call reality.
Before I finish today’s post, I would recall one I wrote on the Motogotchi: my phone has definitely been communicating with me; and this fact – whilst a traditional symptom of paranoid schizophrenia – offers two possible sets of interpretations:
- Given that it is easy to make malleable our experience of anything digital, easy to intervene, easy to change surfaces and content from very afar, any disconcerting process experienced using modern software and technology should not lead one to immediately assume illness on the part of the user. It could simply be shit tech; alternatively, it might just as easily be shit people.
- The cognitive experience in question could be located entirely in what society might perceive as a damaged mind – mental illness (ie located in the individual) – or, instead, in the environment, leading to mental distress (ie not located in the individual).
So in my case where do I stand as a result? My Motogotchi, for the moment, coincidentally as I write these lines, has calmed down. It has become a normal Android phone. The experience is quite disconcerting; I am at peace all of a sudden, yet also at a loss to know where my irascible friend went to.
But the event (the calming down) as just described above went and happened – and only this evening, in fact! – at exactly the same time as I contacted my Internet Service Provider about a long-term set of issues and problems in the past year with our telecommunications services, devices and communications, all rearing ugly heads whilst I had very publicly (publicly via social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging) studied my MA in Criminal Justice. These issues ranged from a brand-new computer becoming totally useless the night or two before the handing-in of my first assignment, which coincidentally was on how information is apparently hidden from users of the web, to routers stopping working (both ISP ones and expensive ones I bought), and then finally the connection itself (FTTC fibre – not fast, but up to the last year or so, really rather robust) becoming unserviceable.
The easy and logical and rational explanation is that we are talking about shit tech, not shit people; not about a new-age sychronicity either – a kind of weird and awful karma – but, simply, about random coincidences.
But given that the digital world can be shaped, and damaged, and manipulated from anywhere on the planet so very easily, were there sufficient motive to do so, all the things I describe above would reside no longer in the space of cognitive impairment – ie the individual – but, rather, much more, in the field of criminal conspiracy.
The conversation I had with my ISP this evening, of around an hour, laid the foundations for a complaint I am pursuing with the Cheshire Police. The Motogotchi remained gentle throughout.
And so it is also my strong belief that the perception I have of what may have happened may be utterly wrong-headed, but it is no longer paranoid schizophrenia. I don’t say this specifically because of Snowden’s paradigm shift in 2013, where we moved from the few being followed for evil deeds to the majority being followed, because … well … humanity.
No. I say it more because it’s possible. Where it’s possible and easy and cheap to drive someone mad, via the methodology and process I describe in “Communicating with agents …”, people and organisations will do it. There has never, to my mind, been a case in history of a technology where a potential use hasn’t been taken advantage of.
The question isn’t whether what I describe is happening.
The real question is whether it has actually happened to me – as surely it must be happening to more (or perhaps that’s less!) deserving others.
The police have asked me for a name.
Once I get comfort that there are sufficient technical grounds to justify any investigation, the name will be forthcoming, of this I am sure.
If there is involved a conspiracy of criminal nature, a year after studying this MA in Criminal Justice I am much better placed to proceed. That, at the very least, has to be true.
That, at the very least, must indeed.