Putting the Neuron to Work: 2 of 4

2 of 4

Two Questions Concerning Legitimate Practices and Subjectivation in Neuropersuasion.

Question Two: What kind of subjectivity does the exploitation of the neurological unconscious suggest?

There is also a question posed from within social and cultural theory itself concerning what kind of subjectivity the exploitation of the neurological unconscious suggests. It was recently pointed out to me that my approach is bordering on humanism. To be sure, it does feature a concern for human values. My work does not however put the human subject at the centre (or atop) of its method, and neither does the Tardean approach I adopt in Virality. The subjectivities he deals with are not unbendingly human: understood as individual or collective representations. On the contrary, Tarde’s society of imitation features a distinctly subrepresentational subjectivation, that is, he presents an assemblage theory of society in which it is the infra-radiations of micro imitation that compose social wholes. Following Deleuzian jargon then, we might say that it is the most deterritorialized aspects of Tarde’s assemblage that takes control of the most territorialized strata. It is the microrelation that takes control of the whole. Indeed, the neuron is but part of the ecology or “society” of things the human assemblage becomes related to (animal societies, societies of dust, societies of events etc).

What is interesting about neuropersuasion in this context is that while it appears that a mostly unconscious human has very little control over a firing neuron, intervention into the design and production of preprimed human experiences can, potentially, bring that firing under some level of control. Perhaps explaining how subliminal advertising actually works (Thrift, 2009: 22).

About Virality

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. He has a PhD in social-cultural-digital contagion theory from the Sociology Department at the University of Essex. He is a former art student who re-entered higher education in the UK as a mature student in the mid-1990s after a long stint as a gigging musician. His career in education has moved through various disciplines and departments, including a maths and computing faculty, sociology department and school of digital media and design His publications include The Spam Book, coedited with Jussi Parikka (Hampton Press, 2009), Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), The Assemblage Brain: Sense Making in Neuroculture (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) and Affect and Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, July 2018). He is organizer and host of the Affect and Social Media conferences in the UK. As a co-founder and co-director of the public engagement initiatives, Club Critical Theory (CCT) and the Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG), Sampson has developed a number of funded research projects and public events that aim to bring impactful critical theories into the community and local political sphere to approach a series of local challenges. These activities have included large conferences co-organized with local authorities looking at a range of policies relating to the revitalization of the Essex costal region, developments in the cultural industries as well as a series of community focused events on food cultures and policy, collaborations with arts groups and informal lectures/workshops in pubs and community centres. Director of the EmotionUX Lab at UEL. He occasionally blogs at: https://viralcontagion.wordpress.com/ Full academic profile: https://www.uel.ac.uk/Staff/s/tony-sampson
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