Les métaphores du corps dans la machine (Ph.D thesis: short version - 1986)

Thesis for: Ph.D psychology, Advisor: Jean GUILLAUMIN


Clinical approach of man-machine relationship"

English abstract of the thesis attended in October 1986, at the University LYON II, by Marc FAVARO

The two following topics give some overall information about the study:

1- The relationship with technical objets:

This question involves the representation of oneself (mostly unconscious) as a body and/or a mind, both of them being considered, according to each case, as "differentiated" or "undifferentiated". This also refers to the opposition between the "mechanical boy" (I am a machine) and the "influencing machine" (machines persecute me), as BETTELHEIM, 1967 and TAUSK, 1919 told about .

With a less psychopathologically oriented approach (though influenced by it), the research tried to characterize what has been called the common representation of man-machine relationships, this by using two criteria:

- the first criterion is the opposition between persecution and fascination feelings, such opposites occuppying the extremes of an "omnipotent line",

- the second criterion deals with an "anthropomorphic line", and refers to an opposition between the most bodily (e.g. : robots) and the most psychical (e.g. : computers).

According to this frame, one basic question is: couldn't one consider such everyday and extreme representations to be incited by a particular difficulty to integrate technical objects of one's environement in the symbolization process?

"Symbolization" is here understood as the capacity of human beings to transpose inside their psychic apparatus, that which links the object and the drive - or the outside vs the inside - capacity that notably allows to think and to feel (I am happy, I am sad, etc.) - rather than to act or have psychosomatic reactions. Such a mental activity must be considered as one main concern of the thesis.

To answer such a question, two Science-Fiction stories, among others, were studied, that illustrate in a litterary way, fantasies highly expressive of the issues raised. Here we will just mention the followings:

- what about the difference between artificial and natural consciousness (see the discussion in the thesis of a F. HERBERT book - Destination : Void, 1966)?

- what is a living creature (see the discussion in the thesis of a P.K. DICK book - Do Androïds Dream of Electric Sheep ? 1968)?

2- The "lack of affects" and the consequential "mechanical thinking":

To describe oneself just as well as others in mechanical terms is one strong everyday and directly observable consequence of the "fear and fascination" of technology and of psychic activity (the existence of feelings). More precisely, one hypothesis was that, beyond such "common representations" to which it has been already referred and which actually act as a defensive screen, the "man-machine relationship" seems to be the result of a projection process which is specifically directed towards our technical surroundings.

A "specific projection process" meaning that it is related to machines, technology and so on, and not any other element of reality. Thus, the theory is that the machine acts as a place to deposit the bodily unthought, as stated for example by J. BLEGER, 1967 . In more anthropological terms, one could consider this to be a question of some residual and unconscious animist way of thinking.

In other words, there must be something psychotic - something not differentiated nor elaborated - and for all of us, that expresses itself when thinking like machines or when using mechanical metaphores. This shows itself in the medical context and also elsewhere, in scientific contexts, concerning computer sciences, "human reliability", etc.

Interwiews were held with an engineer and an "inventor", both representing a technical relationship with techniques; together with two artists coming from the technological art stream, illustrating an aesthetic level (the literary level being illustrated by DICK and HERBERT already mentioned). Considering the observations made will evidence how body anxieties express themselves through technological interest.

For instance, one of the artists (dealing with sewing machine parts...) was deeply (but unconsciously) worried about his inner organization. This expresses itself in a reversed way, i.e. by evoking the surface of his mechanical creations: perfect objects, extraordinarly smooth and sparkling (the surface beeing here a metaphorical equivalent of the skin, in the sense suggested by D. ANZIEU, 1985 ).


-BETTELHEIM Bruno (1967), The Empty Fortress, s.1.
La forteresse vide, Paris, Gallimard, 1969. Trad. R. Humery.

-TAUSK Victor (1919), "Über die Enstehung des Beinflüssungsapparates in der Schizophrenie", Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychanalyse, V, pp. 1-33.
De la genèse de l'appareil à influencer au cours de la schizophrénie, in Oeuvres Psychanalytiques, Paris, Payot, 1975, pp. 177-217. Trad. J. Laplanche, V.N. Smirnoff.

-HERBERT Frank (1966), Destination : Void, New-York, Berkley Publishing Corporation.
Destination : vide, Paris, Robert Laffond, 1981. Trad. J. Polanis.

-DICK Philip Kindred (1968), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ?, New-York, Ballantine Books.
Les androïdes rêvent-ils de moutons électriques ?, Paris, J. C. Lattès, 1979. Trad. S. Quadruppani.

- BLEGER José (1967), Simbiosis y ambigüedad, Buenos Aires, Editorial Paidos.
Symbiose et ambigüité, Paris, PUF, 1981. Trad. A. Morvan.

-ANZIEU Didier (1985), Le Moi-peau, Paris, Dunod.

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