“‘A Bath of Continuous Sensations’: Warren Brodey’s Quest for Human Augmentation and Intelligent Environments, 1955-1975”
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CitationMorozov, Evgeny. 2018. “‘A Bath of Continuous Sensations’: Warren Brodey’s Quest for Human Augmentation and Intelligent Environments, 1955-1975”. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation traces the professional and intellectual development of Warren Brodey (b. 1924). Trained as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Brodey was one of the pioneers of family therapy but eventually abandoned his promising career in Georgetown to become an MIT-affiliated cybernetician, a hippie inventor, and, eventually, a Maoist political activist (first in Norway and subsequently in China). Brodey’s unlikely transition attests to a greater porousness between disciplines and domains in the “closed-world” America of the 1960s – a porousness which proved congruent with the multi-faceted, ambiguous, and open-ended nature of the cybernetics project itself. Brodey’s unusual trajectory reveals the subtle yet important role played by those on the margins of the cybernetics movement. Throughout his transition, Brodey built on insights gained in his medical practice to articulate and operationalize concepts such as “intelligent environments” and “soft architecture” which would later be taken up by architects, designers, ecologists, and adherents of the appropriate technology movement. Brodey’s initial background as a therapist endowed him with a particularly strong interest in the subjective and embodied dimensions of how humans experience technologies and are, in turn, shaped by them. Contrary to the established historiographic narrative that presents cybernetics and its conceptual apparatus of feedback loops, homeostasis, and control mechanisms as an attempt to disembody and virtualize human experience while subjecting it to a new rationality rooted in a quest for communicative objectivity, Brodey’s work reveals a desire to deploy that very conceptual apparatus to re-embody and enrich human perception, all the while questioning the discourse of expertise and objectivity prevalent among the more academically inclined practitioners of cybernetics.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41127186
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