Agora Virtual Speaker Series: Graduate Student Pre-Conference Presentations

October 30, 2020 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

“Riding the Bus/Finding the City: Public Transportation and the Production of Space in Pittsburgh” 

Using Henri Lefebvre's Production of Social Space, I argue that public transportation functions as a rhetoric that constitutes city life for certain people over others. By analyzing maps, bus routes and schedules, quotes from activists, and memes from Facebook and Twitter, I explore how the city of Pittsburgh uses strategies of disinvestment from communities of color, while also allowing for citizens to practice tactics to make the city their own as it relates to bussing.


Schedule of Events

“A reflection of psychosis in Black Mirror: a religious psychoanalysis of the object of technology”

The science-fiction program Black Mirror has been critically acclaimed for offering a series of meta-commentaries on various aspects of an exponentially-ever-evolving technological society in a format that reflects the eerily and pessimistic repressed aspects of this reality. The series’ own title refers to the “black mirror” that exists in the possession of many people in the form of a cell-phone; technology is, therefore, a symptom of the growing fascination that the world has with the signifying potentiality of technology. Said differently, technology brings the promise to complete the lack inherent in the subject by driving the world closer to a sense of psychological wholeness. Black Mirror constructs scenarios where the main characters’ insistence on technology as a purifier of the human subject, instead, reflects the failure of subjectivity – oftentimes by magnifying the (non)ethical disposition of the subject that wields it. This ushers in a moment that psychoanalysts such as Lacan might suggest as the “confrontation with the Real,” or, a moment where language (such as the language that coheres technological objects to a nebulous system of value) breaks down for the subject. This confrontation is, in many episodes, an acceleration of anxiety accompanied with a psychotic breakdown. The “eerie” or “dark” undertones of the show confirm that the anxiety is meant to be passed on to the self-perception of the viewer; the general uneasiness of being associated with a realistic portrayal of neurosis and psychosis is a question of the viewers’ own relationship to self when forced to encounter the narratives’ similarities to their own lives. Instead of finding ways to satiate the pathology that normatively follows anxiety and psychosis, this project affirms the meta-narrative of Black Mirror as an opportunity to mystically turn towards the Divine Real as a response to technology’s false hope as savior of the modern world. Hardly a whole-sale criticism of technology, this project problematizes the modernist attachment to technology as savior. The mystical nature of Orthodox Christian theological critique criticizes the crusade towards unicity by mere humanistic means, and instead provides a means of reading the narrative of Black Mirror as one of hope.




Alex J Holguin


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