Lisa Blackman Speculative Science, Threshold Experiences and Transsubjectivities
Keynote Address

Lisa Blackman Speculative Science, Threshold Experiences and Transsubjectivities


This lecture will re-move (that is, put back into circulation) ways of experimenting with experiences at the edges of consciousness that open up to more speculative, inventive and creative ways of engaging with science. Focusing on practices, archives, and experiences often discarded from the history of straight science, it will illustrate the value of working with what is often considered odd, bizarre, peculiar, strange, anomalous and even as having an “alien phenomenology”. These threshold experiences reveal the indeterminacy of the human and the importance of approaching such phenomena as transitive and contiguous with the technical, ecological, historical, political, material and immaterial. Putting the milieu and “arrangements of forces” back into the experimental, the lecture will argue that it is important for artists to help proliferate new visibilities to help shape archives of the future. The lecture will draw from Lisa Blackman’s longstanding research into voice hearing, suggestion and a range of entities, practices and processes often associated with weird science. She will also draw examples from her new book, Haunted Data: Transmedia, Affect, Weird Science and Archives of the Future, to be published by Bloomsbury Academic Press in 2018.

Lisa Blackman, keynote presentation 1.9.2017 CARPA 5

Speculative Science, Threshold Experiences and Transsubjectivities

This chapter will re-move (that is put back into circulation) ways of experimenting with experiences at the edges of consciousness that open to more speculative, inventive and creative ways of engaging with science. Focusing on practices, archives, and experiences often discarded from the history of straight science, it will illustrate the value of working with what is often considered odd, bizarre, peculiar, strange, anomalous and even experiences that are described as having an “alien phenomenology”. These “threshold experiences” reveal the indeterminacy of the human and the importance of approaching such phenomena as transitive and contiguous with the technical, ecological, historical, political, material and immaterial. Putting the milieu and “arrangements of forces” back into the experimental, the chapter will argue that it is important for artists to help proliferate new visibilities to help shape archives of the future. The chapter will draw from Lisa Blackman’s longstanding research into voice hearing, suggestion and a range of entities, practices and processes often associated with weird science. She will also draw examples from her new book, Haunted Data: Transmedia, Affect, Weird Science and Archives of the Future, to be published by Bloomsbury Academic Press in 2018.


As with many artists and theorists I am drawn to and fascinated by entities, practices, processes and phenomena that are often dismissed by science, sometimes appearing as abnormal perceptions, as signs of psychopathology, as evidence of irrationality or mass delusion (the idea that even supposedly rational people including scientists themselves can be fooled), and sometimes as evidence that our current ways of specifying what it means to be human, to sense, to perceive, to apprehend the conditions of our emergence, possibility and lives still evade our current attempts to know and proliferate intelligibilities.

I have always been drawn to phenomena that blur the borders and boundaries between self and other, inside and outside, material and immaterial, human and technical, art and science, past and present, human and non-human. I have called these phenomena ‘threshold phenomena’ which includes a kinship of related experiences – suggestion, voice hearing, mimetic processes and practices, and a range of entities and practices associated with psychic research – telepathy, automatic writing, precognition and so forth. I argue that all of these phenomena register the radical indeterminacy of the human and open up to the possibility of more inventive and creative science. However, these possibilities are largely foreclosed and disqualified within science, particularly when it operates in its most positivist mode.

In this contribution I will share some of my thinking and research in relation to these issues from existing and forthcoming published work, including my forthcoming book, Haunted Data: Transmedia, Affect, Weird science and Archives of the Future (2018, Bloomsbury). This will help map what I think might be possible at the interstices of art, critical theory and weird science. In order to help readers to situate my own research I will start with a potted biography pointing to the key scholars who have shaped my own thinking, which is very interdisciplinary or even undisciplined. My research crosses body studies; affect studies, science studies, philosophy and cultural theory. I will then focus on two phenomena that have captured my attention; voice hearing and suggestion. I will share some examples from my research that I hope will be useful in thinking through artistic practices and speculative thinking and experimental practice.

I want to make a bigger argument within this context: that artists working with anomalous experiences or threshold phenomena would benefit from an engagement with the critical context surrounding what it means to do science. These critical engagements, which come from science studies, philosophy of science, cultural theory, affect theory and body studies are sometimes, and even often missing from the kinds of alliances and collaborations being forged.

The kind of engagement with science I develop is messy. It includes redefining the evidential basis of science, exploring lived experience and its complex entanglements of brain-body-world consciousness or the term I prefer ‘transsubjectivities’. It foregrounds experimentation, as speculative and performative, rather than a positivist practice that primarily uncovers truths and falsehoods. I will argue that all of these propositions can be found in marginalized histories of science and particularly in those histories that have become disqualified, submerged, displaced and which exist in traces; what I call haunted data that has the potential to be re-moved; that is put back into circulation. What I hope to also demonstrate are the ‘epistemic uncertainties’ surrounding the phenomena I will explore and how these can be mined and put into new contexts of production and reception.

Becoming Critical

I started my academic career within psychology in the late 1980’s. I had what I now recognise as a fairly unconventional training in psychology, although I did not quite realise it at the time. I was too caught up in the excitement of what was being referred to as the ‘crisis in psychology’. There was talk of new paradigms, more humanistic and qualitative methodologies, and a radical reinvention of what could, should and might form the subject matter of psychology as a discipline and knowledge practice. At the time I studied, something palpable was happening at least at the institution I studied at, with a radical questioning of what and how we should be studying the psychological and psychological matters. The degree was being shaped by the entry of feminist psychologists into the discipline who encouraged me to look at what they called the ‘malestream’ of the discipline.

During the 1980’s more black psychologists were also entering the discipline and critiquing the assumptions about normative psychological health and wellbeing, which were based on a white, western, male subject. The inherent racism and ethnocentrism of psychology, and the disproportionate numbers of white psychologists, as opposed to black psychologists within a global context was a key concern. The philosopher of science and psychologist, who I was also lucky to be taught by, Graham Richards encouraged us to always situate psychological theories and practices within their social and political context advancing what he called a reflexive history. He brought the philosophy into science and as a historian also introduced us to the rich history of psychology’s emergence showing the diverse paths, avenues and directions psychology had gone or might have gone if things had been different. His love of history and its importance for understanding the present and possible futures yet to come stuck with me and I still draw on some of these insights within the chapter.

It is within this maelstrom of debate and the diverse yet unified calls for changing the subject of psychology that my own interdisciplinary approach to psychological issues was initially shaped. It is against this backdrop that I also had a chance encounter with a book in an independent bookshop in the final year of my degree that changed my life and the future direction of my academic research. It was in the bookshop on a Sunday afternoon that I serendipitously found a copy of the book, which was to change the course of my academic career. The book was called Changing the Subject: Psychology, Power and Social Regulation and was written by a collective of authors – Julian Henriques, Wendy Hollway, Valerie Walkerdine, Couze Venn and Cathy Urwin (1984), most of whom now have become great friends, mentors and collaborators.

I very much see my work as continuing and being part of this collective who edited the journal Ideology and Consciousness in the 1970’s (with Nikolas Rose and Diana Rose formally Adlam) before going on to write Changing the Subject, which developed what they called a ‘Foucauldian critique of psychology’. As they argued, following the work of Michel Foucault, psychology is not a science of the individual or mind but rather a science of population management.

In my more contemporary academic formation I argue that there is much to be gleaned from bringing together the fields of science studies, affect studies, the non-human turn, with queer theories, feminist approaches to science, new materialisms, hauntologies, and some of the diverse and differing genealogies of subjectivity that exist on the margins of many disciplines and philosophical perspectives. My current book Haunted Data specifically takes its cue from a number of feminist and radical philosophers of science and science studies scholars who have developed innovative approaches to science, which cross philosophy, science, art and culture. They have explored the histories and genealogies of science within specific historical, cultural, political, technical, psychological and symbolic conjunctures. This includes attention to the historical aprioris, which have shaped the philosophies and practice of science, including what counts as an experiment, experimentation and evidence; as well as the close interdependence and interrelationship between cultural configurations of matter-meaning and the materialities of scientific cultures.

Specifically, I have been inspired by the writings of Isabelle Stengers, Vincienne Despret, Donna Haraway, Karen Barad and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger. The work of the philosophers Stengers and Despret have been of particular importance given their focus on experiences and phenomena that are often considered strange, weird, outside of reason, or as presenting challenges to established scientific orthodoxies.

In their book, Women who Make a Fuss: The Unfaithful Daughters of Virgina Woolf (Stengers & Despret 2014) they recount how the subject-matter they have focused on, which includes “hypnosis, addicts, witches, the Arabian babbler, peasants, the uneasy dead” (ibid., 15) are topics that are not considered serious or worthy of interest for most conventional philosophers. I would add that they are also considered anomalous within psychology, where the designation anomalous works to mark out what is understood as falling outside of conventional psychological understandings and explanations.

The definition of anomalous includes what deviates from the supposed standard, normal or expected; the aberrant, freakish, odd, bizarre, peculiar and unusual captures experiences and phenomena that often fall under the rubric of weird science.

‘Weird science’ is a broad term I use in my current book, which captures all manner of sciences of oddities, exceptions and anomalies. It is a term often used to refer to phenomena, practices, experiences and entities, which have been associated or linked with the paranormal or supernatural. As a field it refers to science, which concerns itself with unexplained mysteries, oddities, “strange stuff” or challenges to established thinking. This might include the area of anomalous psychology, or the ‘psychology of anomalous experience’, formerly known as parapsychology. I find this area of psychology interesting, productive and generative and I think there is the potential for openings to interdisciplinary collaboration across the arts, humanities and sciences.

In the book I explore two contemporary science controversies in the area of weird science, which speak to the vexed question of what it means to enter into suggestive relations with another, human and non-human. I call the experiences under controversy ‘alien phenomenologies’ as they concern experiences where people feel as if they are being moved to action, or experience by someone, or something beyond themselves. People sometimes experience their bodies as “thing like”. Or conversely where they experience action as emanating from themselves where it can be shown they have been made to move by processes and practices at the edges of consciousness. These controversies include one in the field of priming concerning the Yale professor John Bargh, which I call ‘the John Bargh priming controversy’, and another that has come to be known as ‘Feeling the Future’, which concerns the Cornell professor Daryl Bem. Both controversies disclose how little we understand processes, practices and registers of experience, which challenge rationality, control, will and autonomous thought. I argue that weird science is generative and productive for shaping and inventing more speculative sciences that invite and even need arts and humanities collaboration.

Vincianne Despret’s engagement with the psychological sciences and the ambiguities, puzzles and anomalies that can be found historically and in the present, imaginatively show how we need approaches that unsettle the polarizing logic that often frames debate and scientific investigation in the area of weird psychology and anomalous phenomena. This includes explanations, which either focus on proving the existence of phenomena, or undermining them as evidence of so-called false belief; is it real or unreal, true or false? In the area of anomalous psychology she suggests that the scientist is often cast in the role of judge and juror, attempting to close down on the ambiguity, hesitations, puzzling curiosities and what continually resists current scientific explanations.

My interests are in how we can explore the problem of the “psychological” and what counts as psychological processes, entities and matters when the psychological is not considered separate from contiguous processes, including the historical, technical, ecological, symbolic, bodily, aesthetic and affective. I argue in Haunted Data that the shaping and emergence of more speculative psychologies and philosophies within science, will only come about through collaboration with scientists, artists and humanities scholars who can “think together” as part of a collective enterprise. I argue that this will only happen effectively if one is attentive to science’s potential for historicity and historiality.

Historiality is a term that I have borrowed from the molecular biologist and science studies scholar Hans Jorg-Rhineberger who was very influenced by Derrida, Haraway, Bachelard, Foucault and Canguilhelm (an interesting scientist as he has crossed philosophy and science). The concept of historiality draws attention to the multiplicity of times that intrude within experimental systems. The concept also draws attention to science as a story-telling machine, where as he argues; “an experimental system has more stories to tell than the experimenter at any given moment is trying to tell with it” (Rheinberger 1994, 77). He equates this dynamic potential to older narratives that persist in the future, as well as “fragments of narratives that have not yet been told” (ibid., 77). These are open to epistemic uncertainty, which has the potential to open to more speculative and creative modes of experimentation. In the rest of the chapter I will give some examples of this possibility and potentiality based on some of my own research.

Hearing Voices

My early research (see Blackman 2001) explored how it had become possible for voice hearing to be considered a fundamentally pathological phenomenon, and primarily to be understood as a first rank symptom of a discrete disease entity, schizophrenia; that is as a meaningless epi-phenomena of a disease process, rather than as a modality of communication that might have meaning within people’s lives. In this research I collaborated with the Hearing Voices Network who were inventing and shaping new practices of coping and survival for people who hear voices. The practices have allowed people to live with their voices, and to understand their voices as important modalities of communication; not as meaningless epi-phenomena of a disease process. The network has now gained international attention even changing their name to the Hearing Voices Movement to represent their global reach.

As part of my research I undertook an ethnography of the early shaping of the Hearing Voices Network in the UK. I sat in on their hearing voices groups, where voice hearers were encouraged to attend to the content of the voices, write them down, share them within the group, and to approach them as meaningful communications in the context of their own lives. I have described these practices as developing a form of mediated or distributed perception, which allows the voices to begin to talk to each other. Some people are now using social media to facilitate and extend these practices (see Blackman 2014a).

The voices and the stories they enable have created a collective authorial voice, which speaks powerfully to the limits of the biomedical model. It shows us something very interesting about the nature of change and transformation and I have written about this a lot. The key question that has interested me in more recent research in relation to this, and that I explore in my book Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Embodiment, Mediation published in 2012, is how can we listen in and through another’s voice, another’s voices. What kinds of technologies of listening and forms of mediated perception might allow meaningful communication to take place?

It is here that I draw explicitly from theories of media and mediation, as well as work on diasporic vision carried out by the critical race studies scholar Grace Cho. I have also drawn on theories and practices I have found in a 19th century archive of psychology that has largely been forgotten, lost and occluded. I have written about this in Immaterial Bodies, in the context of what has come to be known as the ‘turn to affect’ across the humanities; a non-unified field of research, which crosses the arts, humanities and the sciences, which is directing attention to registers of experience, which challenge and de-stabilize Cartesian and cognitivist ways of thinking about what it means to be a subject, what it means to communicate, what it means to be human (see Blackman & Venn 2010).


But above all, what do we really know about this suggestion that we are supposed to avoid? (Stengers 1997, 103).

This section will take seriously Isabelle Stengers’ argument that what it means to enter into suggestive relations with another, human and non-human is still little understood within the contemporary sciences and we might add within the arts and humanities. The productive potential of suggestive phenomena has been closed down, due in part to suggestion’s close association with Hitlerism, propaganda, fascism, dictatorships, crowd psychology, and the image of an evil Svengali figure manipulating others (see Blackman 2012; Stengers 1997). As she goes on to argue,

It is logical, in particular to ask oneself what hypnosis would be if it was rid of the illusion whereby the hypnotist is situated as an external observer of his patient; what is more, it is logical to again raise the question of knowing what suggestion can do in its many diverse modalities from the moment it is stripped of the illusion that the one who suggests knows what he is doing and can control the meaning and consequences of his suggestions with regard to the one he is addressing. (Ibid., 105)

Stengers’ arguments raise the important question of how our understandings of suggestion and contagious phenomena have been framed by historical discourses, which have primarily associated suggestion, contagion and imitation with a lack of will or loss of self-control, as the intrusion of the irrational, or evidence that the primitive and animal have not been successfully renounced. Contagion, suggestion, imitation and related concepts, strategies and phenomena have been making something of a comeback or return within contemporary theorizing across the humanities and social sciences, not least within what has come to be known as the turn to affect. They are also foregrounded in some of the popularized language and imaginaries, which address why and how things, processes, objects, entities and phenomena spread in ways, which appear to defy the actions of rational conscious control. This includes the concept of networked virality or networked affect – how and why trends, fashions, fads, feelings, moods and emotions spread across social media in ways which appear to defy the actions of rational logic and understanding.

In this part of the chapter I want to take Stengers’ challenge seriously and explore some inventive propositions that can be found in psychology’s past that have largely been consigned to history. They include a more proto-performative approach to experimenting with suggestion that I think offers up some interesting propositions for exploring perilous experience for the arts and humanities in the present.

Inventive Devices

The problematic of suggestion and what suggestion could and might become within different modalities of experimentation requires the shaping of a post-psychological project that takes ‘psychological processes’ out of a distinctly human sensory apparatus; i.e. suggestion is not merely a personality trait that can be indexed and measured. The approaches I have been influenced by all assume what Bernard Stiegler (1998) has called the fundamental technicity of the human. Within studies of such fundamental technicity it is assumed that the human and technics are co-constituent processes entering into co-enactive and co-evolving relationships. These relationships always-already involve technical mediation.

Important to the approach I am trying to develop is an engagement with inventive experimentation as a creative and critical practice, which enacts rather than discloses entities which pre-exist technical and historical processes. One fundamental rethinking of suggestion as a generative principle of mediation made possible by this work is that suggestion is always technical. We cannot talk about general psychical influences as suggestive unless we can also take into account the technical practices and processes that allow suggestive processes to take form. Suggestion is therefore not a noun, referring to some abstract process, but rather suggestion is always technical, and part of an associated milieu (Venn 2010). We can find these insights in the past of psychology and psychoanalysis, as well as in process philosophy and vitalism. These are all areas, which provide important ways of recasting the question of what it might and could mean to ‘pay attention’ differently and to enter into suggestive relations with another, human and non-human

If my argument convinces, then any discussion of the inventiveness of experimental or aesthetic devices, objects, entities and technologies, requires attention to what and how subject’s become available to be articulated by and through practices. This might require working with and against particular ‘habits of attention’, which re-positions inventive practices as forms of experimental stagecraft requiring ingenuity, hard work, training, discipline and attention to creative process. These early experiments with suggestive capacities foreground what anthropologists are now calling the problem of ‘cultural invitation’. Let me outline some examples from an earlier discarded history of psychology that illustrate what might be at stake.

My argument can be best illustrated by a series of experiments carried out at William James’s Harvard Psychological Laboratory by Leon Solomons and Gertrude Stein in the late nineteenth century (1896). I have written about these experiments in other contexts (see Blackman 2014a; Blackman 2014b), and how they act as an interesting precursor to contemporary discussions of the performativity, efficacy and potential of devices, technologies and settings to bring about change and transformation. In this last section I will extract what is most insightful and interesting about these experiments in the context of artistic explorations of perilous experience and what it might mean to pay attention differently. I will focus specifically on the experiments with automatic reading, rather than writing (which I have focused on elsewhere; see Blackman 2014a; Blackman 2014b).

Solomons and Stein experimented with the phenomena of automatic writing and automatic reading. In their experiments with automatic writing, which I have discussed in an article published in the journal Subjectivity, they experimented with a specific device known as a planchette. This device is associated more with psychic research and the phenomena of automatic writing and with spiritualist settings and mediumship, although it has also caught the attention and imaginations of many artists, including Susan Hiller, for example. Part of the milieu or background to these experiments was hysteria and the experiences of secondary or double personality experienced by many women that had been documented usually by those men who were studying them. Hysteria at that time was considered a peculiar form of distinctly female psychopathology. Solomons and Stein did not start with the presumption of psychopathology but wanted to see if they could model what were taken to be the ‘secondary personalities’ of hysterics through the use of the planchette. They were interested in what they termed capacities and habits of attention and how these might be done and undone within particular experimental settings.

Experimentation in this context was organised through a more creative analytics based on process philosophy and particularly radical empiricism (see Blackman 2014a). It was more proto-performative and speculative rather than designed to confirm or disclose truths. The social technology and apriori of the setting was oriented to the capacity of the experimental apparatus to attune to such habits and capacities and produce transformations. In Immaterial Bodies (Blackman 2012) I have argued that attention was approached as a threshold experience that could be actualized in different ways depending on the efficacy of the setting – this included various devices and the training, discipline and perhaps the ‘interest’ of the experimental subject. They were working against what Solomons and Stein called habits of attention; those local theories of mind, consciousness, matter etc. which shape perception, sensation and attention; what anthropologists would later call ‘cultural invitation’. The main assumption that remains throughout science, and particularly the psychological sciences today, in relation to cultural invitation is that suggestion should be experienced as involuntary and effortless – i.e., it does not require work, training, ingenuity, discipline etc.

What can we learn by returning to Solomons and Stein’s experiments with automaticity framed as doing and undoing particular habits of attention?

I will focus on one of the series of experiments, which explored what they termed ‘automatic reading’. Automatic reading was actualized via an apparatus, which consisted of the experimental subject reading a novel aloud to herself (in a low voice) whilst an operator reads another story. It is important that the first story or novel is uninteresting and the second that the operator reads is more interesting or exciting (this is usually discussed by Solomons and Stein as being due to the emotional intensity and valence of the stories). After a number of trials they suggest that it becomes possible for the subject to read aloud whilst focusing on and listening to the second story. They argue that, “the reading becomes completely unconscious for periods of as much as a page” (Solomons & Stein 1896, 503). At best the subject’s own voice will be experienced as a confused murmur. This is experienced as a background of meaningless sound or as a blank; as moments of unconsciousness. The reading is also usually rather monotonous. At certain thresholds the subject would experience their own voice as an extra-personality, where their own voice was experienced as ‘not-me’; “his (sic) voice seemed as if that of another person” (ibid., 504). These experiments were working with and against particular habits of attention (the absorption of reading a novel for example) in order to see what it might be possible to actualize within particular settings.

It would seem to me that these experiments with their focus on particular devices, in this case the novel, voices and different thresholds of sound, foreground the importance of the embodied capacities of the subject to enter into and transform the setting. Stein with the help of a particular apparatus was able to pay attention in different ways such that she could experience her own voice as extra-personal. How she paid attention was a technical matter and one that challenged concepts of will and conscious rationality. This was about creating the settings through which a process might “become available” as the basis of transformative experience. Solomons and Stein worked with subjectivity as a transitive process (never distinctly human), which disrupted boundaries between consciousness and unconsciousness, mind and body, attention and distraction, material and immaterial and will and habit.

The concept of ‘availability’ has also been developed in work inspired by the writings of Gabriel Tarde (see Candea 2010). I develop this concept within a recent article published in the Journal of Curatorial Studies – in a special issue on Affect and Relationality (see Blackman 2016). I have used the concept of ‘availability’ to explore my own embodied responses to an exhibition at the Foundling Museum in London. I argue that this concept is useful for thinking about how exhibitions, museums or gallery spaces might operate affectively. On that basis I explore why foregrounding those experiences and phenomena that have historically been sidelined within understandings of sense making, including suggestion, automaticity and voice hearing, might open the arts up to inventive practices that extend how we approach perception, attention and meaning making within and through art practices.

I develop arguments put forward by Helene Ratner (2009) published in the journal Distinktion. She argues following the work of Gabriel Tarde, that suggestion is the basic mechanism of social-psychological life. Engaging with the ontology of subjectivity presumed within Tarde’s work, what is seen to define subjectivity is the capacity to affect and be affected. As I have argued elsewhere, for this reason, Tarde’s psychology has been considered an inter- rather than intra-psychology (Blackman 2007). Tarde also argued that “suggested ideas, beliefs and desires form the basis for often non-conscious but also voluntary action” (Tarde according to Ratner 2009, 106). However, Ratner argues it is not that suggestive processes operate merely between human subjects, but that objects can also be suggestive. However, she also argues that not all objects are suggestive. The “suggestive object facilitates an emotional transformation. Suggestive objects evoke emotions, passions, beliefs and attachments.” (Ibid., 112). As she goes on to argue, “we do not know in advance which objects are suggestive or which subjects experience their suggestion” (ibid., 114).

In understanding what becomes suggestive Ratner (2009) also seeks to break down or dissolve the distinction between object and subject and cognition and affect. It is a process she argues of understanding and investigating how “objects become suggestive while subjects learn to become affected by the suggestive objects” (ibid., 114). Ratner also draws on Vincianne Despret’s (Despret 2008) notion of ‘availability’, where availability refers to the way in which subjects and objects become reassembled in an emotional articulation. Objects can only be suggestive if there are bodies that are more or less available to objects. Thus availability importantly has to include some kind of emotional transformation and can take on a conscious and non-conscious form. This takes our methodological inquiry beyond the ‘speaking subject’ and requires the innovation and development of experimental and aesthetic practices that can disclose, shape, actualize and experiment inventively with these potentialities. When we consider the body’s potential for mediation within this context, we need to consider the ‘total participation’ of the body’s potential for mediation which cannot be reduced to the affective, cognitive, neurological, physiological or somatic; this is what I call ‘transsubjectivities’; processes that are never contained or defined by the singular distinctly human body.


I will conclude with part of an argument from my forthcoming book, Haunted Data, and what I call the need for Future-Psychology/Speculative Psychologies. As I have illustrated, my work has been influenced by many different critiques of psychology that have been shaped in different conjunctures; critiques made in the 1980’s by black psychologists entering the discipline; critiques made by feminist psychologists; philosophers of science; critical and discursive psychology; psychosocial studies; Foucauldian ‘histories of the present’; archaeologies and genealogies of perception, attention, suggestion etc. This critical work rarely enters into the new rapprochements being forged between the humanities and the sciences. We must not simply either endorse or reject science but find ways to work in the gaps, silences, contradictions and absent-presences; with those versions of the psychological that have been disqualified, but which importantly do not go away. We need as Isabelle Stengers has so cogently called for more ‘innovative propositions’. I think it is in these interstices that artists and artistic research can make an important contribution to what might be possible. The need for inventive speculative sciences requires artists and artistic research as well as critical theories, methods and practices of doing science in a more speculative orientation.


Blackman, Lisa. 2018. Haunted Data: Affect, Transmedia, Weird Science and Archives of the Future. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Blackman, Lisa. 2016. “Affect, Mediation and Subjectivity-as-Encounter. Finding the Feeling of the Foundling.” Journal of Curatorial Studies (special issue on Affect and Relationality) 5(1): 32–55.

Blackman, Lisa. 2014a. “Affect and Automaticity: Towards an Analytics of Experimentation.” Subjectivity 7(4): 362–384.

Blackman, Lisa. 2014b. “Immateriality, Affectivity, Experimentation: Queer Science and Future Psychology.” Transformations: Journal of Media and Culture 25 (New Immaterialities).

Blackman, Lisa. 2012. Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Embodiment, Mediation. London and New York: Sage.

Blackman, Lisa & Venn, Couze. 2010. “Affect”. Body & Society, 16(1): 1–6.

Blackman, Lisa. 2007. “Reinventing Psychological Matters: The Importance of the Suggestive Realm of Tarde’s Ontology.” Economy and Society (Special issue on Gabriel Tarde) 36(4): 574–596.

Blackman, Lisa. 2001. Hearing Voices: Embodiment and Experience. London and New York: Free Association Books.

Candea, Matei, ed. 2010. The Social After Gabriel Tarde: Debates and Assessments. London and New York: Routledge.

Despret, Vinciane. 2008. “The Becomings of Subjectivity in Animal Worlds.” Subjectivity, 23: 123–139.

Henriques, Julian, Hollway, Wendy, Walkerdine, Valerie, Venn, Couze & Urwin, Cathy. 1984. Changing the Subject: Psychology, Power and Social Regulation. London and New York: Methuen.

Ratner, Helene. 2009. “Suggestive Objects at Work: A New Form of Organisational Spirituality.” Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, 19: 105–21.

Rheinberger, Hans-Jorg. 1994. “Experimental Systems: Historiality, Narration and Deconstruction.” Science in Context 7 (1): 65–81.

Schulman, Sarah. 2012. Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Solomons, Leon M. & Stein, Gertrude. 1896. “Normal Motor Automatism.” Psychological Review 3(5): 492–512.

Stiegler, Bernard. 1998. Techniques and Time: The Fault of Epimetheus No. 1. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Stengers, Isabelle and Despret, Vinciane. 2014. Women who Make a Fuss: The Unfaithful Daughters of Virgina Woolf.

Stengers, Isabelle. 1997. Power and Invention: Situating Science. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Venn, Couze. 2010. “Individuation, Relationality, Affect: Re-thinking the Human in Relation to the Living.” Body & Society, 16(1): 129–162.


Lisa Blackman is Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in the Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London. She works at the intersection of body studies, affect studies, and media and cultural theory and is particularly interested in subjectivity, affect, the body and embodiment. She has published four books, most recently Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Embodiment, Mediation (2012, Sage). Her other books include Hearing Voices: Embodiment and Experience (2001, Free Association Books); Mass Hysteria: Critical Psychology and Media Studies (with Valerie Walkerdine; 2001, Palgrave); and The Body: The Key Concepts (2008, Berg). Her work in the area of embodiment and voice hearing has been recognised and commended for its innovative approach to mental health research and it has been acclaimed by the Hearing Voices Network, Intervoice, and has been taken up in professional psychiatric context. She is the co-editor of the journal, Subjectivity (with Valerie Walkerdine, Palgrave) and the Editor of the journal Body & Society (Sage). She is particularly interested in phenomena which have puzzled scientists, artists, literary writers and the popular imagination for centuries, including automatic writing, voice hearing, suggestion and automatism. Lisa is part of a Wellcome-funded project “Hearing the Voice” and will be specifically collaborating on a sub-project “Voices Beyond the Self” to run from 2017–2020.