Media as Pharmakon: Mental Health in the Digital Age

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18 April 2019: Spui25 in cooperation with the Amsterdam Research Institute of the Arts and Sciences

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 will discuss 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 for the 5th session of the “SAY AAHH!” series provide short lectures, which are followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

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. 

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. 

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.