The biopolitics of "Internet addiction disorder"

Gordon, Brian Caldwell
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2014]
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The miscategorization of Internet usage as a consumable inebriate is discursively powerful because it generates uncertainty; it is unclear who is sick, how illness strikes, and how one can resist it. The dimensions and dangers of this effect are discussed in section II, which reviews instances of pathologization and treatment around the world. Section III suggests a reorientation of the human/Internet relation via Jane Bennett's ontology of Vital Materialism. Section IV draws on Lauren Berlant's concept of "slow death" to problematize the scholarship of Sherry Turkle and Jonathan Crary, two influential scholars in the digital humanities whose works, I argue, have the discursive effect of making the violent and aporetic aspects of IAD seem intractable, which depoliticizes instances of moralizing governmental intervention. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Turkle opined that while "online you become the self you want to be… [but we lose the] raw, human part" of being with each other. Despite the vagueness of such a statement, readers are made to feel that their "raw" human parts are under siege; this kind of rhetoric stirs anxiety about experiencing a loss because of the Internet, which could lead people to welcome government interventions in online and offline life in order to preserve our imperiled "rawness". Taken together, these clinical and scholarly discourses supply mainstream and social media with a body of literature big enough to get noticed, at which point governments, businesses, and various interested parties converge to exploit (in the name of "fixing") this new condition. This is the stage at which populations become anxious--an anxiety that I argue could be useful to neoliberal elites as a biopolitical instrument in the digital age. Thus it is imperative to engage this anxiety, to scrutinize its organization and logics, and propose an alternative metaphysical relation to the Internet that humbly contextualizes the human as one actant among many within an Internet assemblage. Instead of consuming the Internet, I propose something more like being the Internet. If this seems a like a starry-eyed paean from an Internet loving millennial, rest assured that I am disquieted by things like Google Glass, which evoke a vision of a future where we indiscriminately embrace novelty and become hyperconsumptive cyborgs. I am less interested in the dazzling potentialities of the Internet than I am in the politics of its miscategorization and medicalization in the present day. I think this kind of engagement serves in a small way to unsettle the inevitability of a future where humans are all woefully "addicted" to the technologies we create, warp-speed consumers living in (or escaping from) a hot, depleted, ruined world like Pixar's Wall-E. Theorizing the human/Internet relation as a dynamic and vibrant process of co-constitutive evolution is crucial to this investigation, but would overwhelm the goals of the project (and probably to author as well). Thus I turn to Jane Bennett's Vibrant Matter and Rosi Braidotti's The Posthuman for theoretical guidance, especially to articulate how Kantian subjectivity and the capitalist consumer ethic contribute to, and rely upon, the dispositif of Internet usage.
M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2014.
Includes bibliographical references.
Internet, addiction, biopolitics, digital politics, pathology, vital materialism
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Theses for the degree of Master of Arts (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Political Science.
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