Platform for Research through the Arts and Sciences

Click here to watch the full event on Vimeo.

Are digital media like narcotic drugs? Such comparisons have become increasingly common in the rampant discussion on smartphone and technology addiction. In his book ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’ (1968) philosopher Jacques Derrida discusses the ambiguity of the “pharmakon”, designating both poison and medicine, depending on context and individual differences. Can our contemporary media be seen as pharmaka for our mental health? For the 5th session of the “SAY AAHH!” series Amir Vudka, Patricia Pisters and Marlies Brouwer discussed their ongoing work on this topic.



In the field of psychiatry, articles appear about smartphone technology in obsessive compulsive behavior (OCD) and depression; burn-out and other mental health problems in youth are increasingly related to digital media culture. At the same time media in themselves are never just the only cause. Furthermore there is an increase in the use of all kind of media technologies (apps, VR) to diagnose and even treat these new types of mental wounds. So how can we discuss both the positive and negative effects of media in relation to mental health? The speakers of the 5th session of the “SAY AAHH!” series provided short lectures, which were followed by a Q&A session with the audience.



In his talk “Smartphone Addiction: What Drugs can teach us about Digital Media” Amir Vudka investigates the growing dependence of users on their digital devices, described by commentators in such evocative terms as “digital heroin” and “virtual drugs”. Drawing from a set of interdisciplinary perspectives including media and communication studies, critical theory, and addiction studies, he engaged several questions.



In her presentation “I am a Strange Video-loop: Senses of Self in Compulsive Mediations” Patricia Pisters focused on the use of selfies and the ways in which these can be seen as a modern “technology of the self”, a technique of self-governance discussed by philosopher Michel Foucault.



Marlies Brouwer demonstrated in her talk “Personalized E-Health for Young Adults” how apps and internet based interventions can be effective forms of media interventions to help prevent young adults diagnosed with clinical depression to monitor themselves and offer support when needed.



About the speakers

Amir Vudka is a lecturer and researcher at the Department of Media Studies of the University of Amsterdam. He is a film programmer at Theater De Nieuwe Regentes (The Hague), and the artistic director of Sounds of Silence Festival for silent film and contemporary music. He has published extensively on film and philosophy. He is currently working on a publication on media addiction.  



Patricia Pisters is professor of Film at the Department of Media Studies of the University of Amsterdam. Currently she is scholar in residence at EYE Film Institute and research fellow at Cinepoetics at the Freie Universität Berlin. She is preparing a research project about madness, cinema and psychopathologies of media culture; and a book project on “new blood” in horror cinema directed by women. See for articles, her blog, audio-visual material and other information.



Marlies Brouwer is a researcher and psychologist at Amsterdam UMC, location AMC. She coordinates the new Transitiecentrum voor Affectieve Stoornissen (TAS), an outpatient clinic for young adults with depression, and investigates the use of e-health, wearables, biological measures, and using new technologies in the clinic.

project link: Neurocultures Research Group


Coordinated by Patricia Pisters & Stephan Besser, this research programme within the ASCA is dedicated to the critical and productive study of the rise of the neuro-turn from a humanities perspective. While there have been varying reactions to the neuro turn – some ebullient, some critical – this research group has opted for a specific approach in bringing scholars from different fields together with those working on practical implementations and artists developing their imaginings of what lays ahead of us. In this research group the brain is understood in a broad, non-reductionist sense and approached via a wide range of multi- and cross-disciplinary encounters. They converge in a focus on ‘worldings’ of the brain, i.e. the various ways in which brains are currently placed within and related to worldly contexts in different social, scientific and artistic practices and discourses. This perspective has provided the framework for two international conferences and one symposium that the research group has organized in 2016 and 2017 under the series title Worlding the Brain. Participants in the group include Julian Kiverstein, Machiel Keestra, Patricia Pisters, Stephan Besser, Halbe Kuipers, Flora Lysen, Nim Goede, Moosje Goosen, Dan Leberg, Manon Parry, Tim Yaczo, Joe van Eerden, Dan Oki and others.

Led by the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) Visiting Researcher Adam Nocek of Arizona State University, the Ontogenetics Process Group consists of Stuart Kauffman, Giuseppe Longo, Cary Wolfe, Helga Wild, Gaymon Bennett, Sha Xin Wei, Phillip Thurtle, Erin Espilie, Michael Epperson and Patricia Pisters. As part of the IAS’s ArtScience initiative, the group base their work on a deep and sustained engagement with biological, physical, and computational sciences, operating in conjunction with anthropological, philosophical, and artistic modes of inquiry. The researchers in the group examine how the reigning models of complexity need to be paired with non-algorithmic modes of inquiry in order to better express the processual and emergent unfolding of living worlds. It is in an effort to bring this shared perspective into sharp focus that the group pays special attention to the rich conceptual terrain shared by the biological sciences, mathematics, computer science, art-based research, and the theoretical humanities.

link: GEOMEDIA project website

The GeoMedia Research Network (GMRN) aims to bring together a vibrant cast of scholars and practitioners from across North America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia to engage in the varied and complex entanglements of media and geological materials. With the discourse of the “immateriality” of media thankfully fading and it becoming clearer that media have a materiality (geophysical, infrastructural, etc.) that significantly impacts life on Earth, there is an urgent need to situate media and mediation in terms of its earthly materials and practices. The GMRN brings together a wide ensemble of voices from across academic and non-academic specialties to engage this urgency in a variety of contexts: academic presentation, artistic experimentation, curated exhibitions, socially engaged design practice, and publication.

co-researchers: Adam Nocek, Arizona State University

research partners: Laboratory for Critical Technics (LCT), Arizona State University