The search for authenticity in consumer culture

Or, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Milan Kundera begins his novel Immortality with a description of a gesture made by a woman he is observing at a swimming pool. This woman, who we will come to know as Agnes in the story, smiles and waves at the lifeguard who has just been giving her swimming instructions. Continue reading “The search for authenticity in consumer culture”


The Psychology of Gamergate

In the past couple of months, videogame culture — often marginalized or ignored by mainstream media — has become the focus of significant attention. Unfortunately, it is for fairly ugly reasons: those unfamiliar with the events dubbed “Gamergate” can read overviews here and here. To oversimplify matters for the sake of brevity, there is an ongoing conflict — played out largely over social media — between a group self-identified as “hardcore gamers” and a set of progressive game critics and developers, exemplified most by Zoe Quinn (a developer who recently released a game about dealing with depression) and Anita Sarkeesian (a cultural critic who hosts a video series looking at tropes in games from a feminist perspective). Continue reading “The Psychology of Gamergate”

Trio of Times

Three pieces have come out of the Times in the past few days that are well worth reading:

1) Why Doctors Need Stories by Peter Kramer, in which the esteemed author argues for the place of subjective narratives in psychiatric and psychological science.

2) Mental Health Issues Put 34,500 on New York’s No-Guns List by Anemona Hartocollis, in which someone finally reports on the dubious, civil-rights-infringing backlash of New York State’s Safe Act.

3) To Siri, With Love by Judith Newman, in which the mother of an autistic teenager describes the surprising depth of the relationship her son has developed with his iPhone’s artificial personal assistant.

Is Psychology an Art or a Science?

Psychology has always suffered from an identity crisis. This is a supreme irony, of course, as it is the discipline tasked with understanding the nature of both identity and crisis, among other things. In the midst of recent discussions of what psychology can or cannot do — which only represents the latest iteration of a centuries-old debate — I began to think about this major tension that embroils the field; the conflict that every graduate student argues about at one point or another (with others or, in sleep-deprived mutterings, with oneself); the question that experts within and outside of the field cannot and have never been able to agree upon: Is psychology an art or a science? Continue reading “Is Psychology an Art or a Science?”