The Technical Delusion

Electronics, Power, Insanity

Book Pages: 448 Illustrations: 32 illustrations Published: February 2019

Author: Jeffrey Sconce

Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Media Technologies, Theory and Philosophy > Psychoanalytic Theory

Delusions of electronic persecution have been a preeminent symptom of psychosis for over two hundred years. In The Technical Delusion Jeffrey Sconce traces the history and continuing proliferation of this phenomenon from its origins in Enlightenment anatomy to our era of global interconnectivity. While psychiatrists have typically dismissed such delusions of electronic control as arbitrary or as mere reflections of modern life, Sconce demonstrates a more complex and interdependent history of electronics, power, and insanity. Drawing on a wide array of psychological case studies, literature, court cases, and popular media, Sconce analyzes the material and social processes that have shaped historical delusions of electronic contamination, implantation, telepathy, surveillance, and immersion. From the age of telegraphy to contemporary digitality, the media emerged within such delusions to become the privileged site for imagining the merger of electronic and political power, serving as a paranoid conduit between the body and the body politic. Looking to the future, Sconce argues that this symptom will become increasingly difficult to isolate, especially as remote and often secretive powers work to further integrate bodies, electronics, and information.  


"Sconce has written an important book that lets us tune in to some of the more disturbed and disturbing frequencies on the media-technological spectrum. It will be influential in media studies, and beyond that, in the wider effort to understand what all these devices are doing to us." — Ben Kafka, Bookforum

"A robust and multidimensional reminder of the complexity of human consciousness. . . . One impressive feature of the study is how deftly Sconce weaves together case studies, literary source material, court cases, and popular media." — Amy Ione, Leonardo Reviews

"Few recent works of media scholarship could be said to be, even occasionally, laugh-out-loud hilarious. But alongside evenhanded appraisals of delicate subjects such as mental illness and conspiracy theories, Sconce manages to deliver his salient points with comedic flair, frequently punctuating his analyses with unexpected jokes." — Leo Goldsmith, Film Quarterly

"The Technical Delusion is the first comprehensive study of what psychotic visions have contributed to shared perceptions of technology. Sconce has assembled a remarkable array of evidence and stitched it together into a compelling narrative about the imaginary history of technology over the past two centuries." — Geoff Shullenberger, The New Atlantis

"Sconce, a professor of media studies, has immersed himself in psychiatric history and brings the two fields together in an account that is densely theorised and rich in fascinating case studies." — Mike Jay, Fortean Times

"This book could be useful for those who want to look into mental illnesses related to technology and how it has evolved over the centuries." — Rustie Anglin, Communication Booknotes Quarterly

“Delusions arrive as visions, sounds, images, rays, and waves—they arrive by way of media apparatuses, which are one condition of existence of the historical ways in which we constantly and inescapably go mad. Jeffrey Sconce's outstanding book is the essential media theoretical guide that does not merely map how we go off the rails, but how and what kind of rails were constructed in the first place.” — Jussi Parikka, author of Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology

“As Jeffrey Sconce parses the reasonable and the delusional, the reader is taken on a mind-altering journey through which two centuries of media and technological criticism, panic, and uncertainty become a continuous struggle to apprehend some fundamental unrealities of modern life. Speaking directly to the operations of media in a post-truth world, The Technical Delusion makes a major contribution to cultural histories of modernity and media and has enormous potential to expand how we study media and power.” — Charles R. Acland, author of Swift Viewing: The Popular Life of Subliminal Influence


Availability: In stock
Price: $30.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jeffrey Sconce is Associate Professor of Screen Cultures at Northwestern University, author of Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, and editor of Sleaze Artists: Cinema at the Margins of Taste, Style, and Politics, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction: On the Spectrums  1
1. The Technical Delusion  21
2.Chipnapped  82
3. The Will to (Invisible) Power  117
4. The System  175
5. Targeted Individuals  237
Epilogue: The Matrix Defense  285
Notes  301
Bibliography  387
Index  419
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0106-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0076-1
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