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From 2001-2004, the Initiative sponsored working groups in specific thematic areas.  Some groups ran speaker series or held conferences; some collaborated on a particular research project; others read and discussed texts in an area of shared interest.

The working groups welcomed faculty, students and staff from the academic community as well as participants from journalism and industry.




Working Groups included: 


Robots, Creatures, and Human Identity

An interdisciplinary group including anthropologists, psychologists, historians, neuroscientists, artists, and roboticists whose research focused on relationships with robotic creatures that are "relational artifacts," artificial creatures designed to form social relationships.  Among the questions addressed:  How do relationships with robots challenge contemporary notions of selfhood, identity, and community?

Design, Space, and Software ("Architecture")

Designers are increasingly interacting with both collaborators and design artifacts through rich technological interfaces. Simulation, visualization, and communication technologies are transforming current ways of seeing and knowing. They affect how designers work, communicate, and ultimately see themselves. The group explored how new modes of design practice lead to a redefinition of professional activities and relationships and shift responsibilities and skill sets.

Pharmaceuticals and Identity

A group of social scientists working on ethnographies of psychopharmaceutical consumption and histories of pharmaceutical advertising that asked questions about the relationship between prescription drugs, consumption, culture, health, and personal and social identity.

Mediated Space

This group examined the identity effects of technologies such as synthetic vision, artificial intelligence, and geolocational devices, with an emphasis on how they affect the perception of real and virtual spaces.  The focus was on how altered perceptions may affect social interactions and notions of identity.


Art, Technology, and Self

Technology and art are in a new dynamic interchange. Discussion topics included: art as an expression or exploration of the body and the self; art practice as a critique of the contemporary technological self.

Body Technology

An interdisciplinary group interested in how individual and group identities and experiences are shaped in relation to the interplay of bodies and technologies. Interests included: feminist and antiracist critiques of biology, medical implants, and visualization technology. 


Information Societies, Technologies and Self

The global spread of information technologies has emerged in parallel with the rise of new discourse on "information society."  What new forms of power, control, governance and resistance arise within the architecture of information societies?

Discussion topics included: social and historical contexts for the diverse rhetorics of information societies; globalized markets and citizenship; the state and cultures of computation and simulation; technology, development and national/personal sovereignty; and the growth of global/local networks and media technologies.


Psychoanalysis and Digital Culture

In Spring 2003, the Initiative and the Boston Psychoanalytic Society sponsored four seminars on the theme "Whither Psychoanalysis in Digital Culture? as well as a series of evocative object presentations on this theme.  The series addressed such themes as: the impact of email on treatment; the psychology of virtual personae; and new ways of thinking about developmental and characterological change in information environments.

Copyright © 2003 MIT Initiative on Technology and Self