Creating madness: mind, machine and culture


Dr. Marjan Sharifi

How do we model normality? What does it mean to be mentally ill – to have a “false belief” of the world? During this seminar we will explore the concept of madness through the narratives of culture, and technology. In conjunction, we will consider and question the explanations from the cognitive sciences.

The aim of this course is to investigate how the construct of madness has been conceived from both within and outside the psyche. Together we will explore how mental illness is articulated at the mechanistic level in the cognitive sciences and cybernetics, as well as through cultural discourses in the arts and humanities. The course will emphasize the social construction and performances of madness in our society, and reflect on its significance for design practices and media sciences. Madness has historically been a creative force for artists, and parallel to the theoretical investigation, practical applications for the students’ personal practice will be discussed and given the opportunity to be employed in their final project for the seminar. Ultimately uncovering together how we induce madness, and what it induces in us.

The seminar is discussion based, where students will be exposed to key texts on the construct of madness from an interdisciplinary perspective. Topics will include, but not limited to: cybernetics, the digital mind, computational psychiatry, relationship between architecture and psychology, and how different pathologies (e.g. narcissism, depression, borderline personality) affects day dreaming (i.e. mind wandering).

Key Texts: Bateson, Foucault, Durkheim, Wiener, Beer, Deleuze & Guattari, Butler, Smallwood & Schooler, Friston, Canguilhem, Freud, Nietzsche, Didion