Bregt Lameris Prof Dr Robert Sommer and Stereoscopic Photography

This article focuses on the use of photography as a scientific instrument in neuropsychiatry around the turn of the century. Probably the most well known example is Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot who was based in Paris. However, patients were also being captured on the sensitive plate in other places. This article looks at the case of Professor Robert Sommer who was the director of the Centre for Psychiatry in Giessen from 1895. There he introduced stereoscopic photography as a scientific instrument to research the relationship between defects in the nervous system and the physiognomy of his patients. Interestingly, nowadays research into physiognomy within neuropsychiatric research is regarded as being non-objective and pseudo-scientific. This indicates that science should always be seen and judged in its own day. The book Objectivity by Daston and Galison (2007) researches this symptom and analyses shifts in opinions about scientific objectivity. By placing Robert Sommer’s work within these debates about scientific objectivity, the article shows clearly how his work relates to the wider scientific discourses of his time.

KEYWORDS: stereoscopic photography, medical science, objectivity, neuropsychiatry, representation

Carolyn Birdsall & Senta Siewert Of Sound Mind: Mental Distress and Sound in Twentieth-Century Media Culture

This article seeks to specify the representation of mental disturbance in sound media during the twentieth century. It engages perspectives on societal and technological change across the twentieth century as crucial for aesthetic strategies developed in radio and sound film production. The analysis engages with sonic representations of mental distress through a number of media moments, from Orson Welles’ famous the war of the worlds broadcast and avant-garde radio to the expanded sound design techniques from the 1970s onwards in cinema. Not only technological developments – in tape technology, cinema surround sound and digital editing – are crucial, but also an acknowledgement of the changing social functions of the media themselves and the context in which consumption takes place.

KEYWORDS: mental illness, media history, radio, film, sound design

Gemma Blok & Rose Spijkerman ‘The most unfortunate of people.’ The representation of nervous disorders in the advertisements for Pink Pills, 1900-1920

Between 1880 and 1920 Pink Pills, a medication for blood and nerve strengthening, were heavily advertised in Dutch newspapers. The advertisements consisted of the personal stories of patients who had been amazingly healed. This article argues that the Pink Pill advertisements contributed to the ‘psychologizing’ of society. The advertisements created an imaginary community of people suffering from nervous disorders with whom the readers could identify. Initially, the Pink Pill advertisements highlighted somatic explanations for the correlation between weak nerves and ‘thin blood’. After 1910 the advertisements placed ever more emphasis on the personality traits of those with nervous disorders. Furthermore, causes were mentioned, such as considerable work pressure. It is notable that such external causes of the disorders were particularly sought for male sufferers, whereas for female sufferers the cause continued to be attributed to them being the ‘weaker sex’. In this way the Pink Pills promoted awareness about female and male sufferers of nervous disorders.

KEYWORDS: advertisements for medications, imaginary community, psychologizing, gender, nervous disorders

Elke Müller Fashionable illnesses and their technological pharmakon

When considering their influence on the emergence, maintenance and disappearance of psychiatric illnesses and trendy syndromes, technologies show a two-faced character. They often present themselves – within a larger field of influence – in a double role, as both the cause of an illness as well as the healer. An appropriate metaphor for this double role is the Greek notion of the pharmakon: an anaesthetic that has healing properties and yet is poisonous. It is not just about illnesses that have been partly caused by technology but also about the way in which technologies that are intended to be therapeutic can heal as well as cause new damage when they are used to treat such fashionable illnesses. To illustrate this point the article discusses three case studies: the relationship between the emergence of electricity and the neurological complaints and nervous disorders that occurred at the time; the introduction of the vibrator at the time of the hysteria epidemic; and the relationship between video games that were designed specifically for the armed forces and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among war veterans.

KEYWORDS: pharmakon, cultural pathologies, nervous disorders, hysteria, post traumatic stress disorder

Jennifer Kanary Nikolov(a) ‘The TV is talking to me!’. Simulating psychotic phenomena

A well-known psychotic phenomenon is the sensation that media is communicating with you. This article investigates how the phenomenon was imitated in different psychosis simulation projects that were developed in an educational context. The author clarifies why these projects are important, and why it is important to be critical when designing future projects. The author explains how the projects could be improved and illustrates this with her own artwork, intruder 2.0.

KEYWORDS: psychosis, simulation, TV hallucination, Labyrinth Psychotica, installation art

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ISSN: 2213-7653