The Dissociative Imagination and the Psychedelic Future of Work

September 16, 2022 3:15-4:45, UCLA

With R. Joshua Scannell, Daniel Sander & Erin Siodmak

@ ASAP: The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present

COVID-19 has accelerated the generational death of the disciplinary office and the rise of the undifferentiated workspace. The transition from facetime to FaceTime is not, however, a radically new orientation to the office, but the culmination of a longer ideological history of demanding an intimate relationship to labor and the workplace. This acceleration has been a disaster for the traditional brokers of business in the urban United States, for fields such as media, banking, insurance, and real estate, all of which are still dependent on an organization of power that is spatially concentrated. This diffuse anxiety of ongoing campaigns to get “back to normal” is not simply about declining tax revenue and real estate profits, but also about the loss of the office as a unique spatial arrangement of power. The water cooler, for example, now more metaphor than machine, represents the infusion of work with a familial collegiality that is simply hard to replicate over Zoom. One way to see the reframing of power away from proximity and association and towards a more distributed, digital surveillance, is as a respite from the labor of collegiality.

Despite the pressure to productivize this new time — a TikTok side hustle, perhaps? — many have sought to further dissociate from these sticky entanglements, sometimes with literal dissociatives and hallucinogenic drugs. Psychedelics depend on a mechanism of action that is indeterminate, context-sensitive, and intention-based; on a queer encounter with corporeality that resists categorization and confounds expectations. Thus, it has been notable to see the emergence of a professional friendly psychedelic revival in the last decade, represented, on the one hand, by the rebranding of hallucinogens and dissociatives as the cure for modernity’s ills (addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety) and, on the other hand, by the Goopification of mushrooms and the intensification of interest in regular ingestion of psychedelics and psychedelic-adjacent substances as a lifestyle maintenance routine.


Society for the Social Studies of Science
September 4-7, 2019, New Orleans, Louisiana

“Trust and Vulnerability as Technoscientific Practice”
The increasingly central place of digital infrastructures in the organization of the self, combined with the manifold incitements towards the circulation of personal media has made trust a central problematic of contemporary identity construction. Digital intimacy in particular can be a minefield of trust challenges and experiences of acute vulnerability: leaky infrastructures, malicious actors and organizations, data-hungry states haunt the construction of both self and body. The political economy of the digital is built on both the maintenance of trust, and the inequitable distribution of vulnerability. In this paper I look at trust building practices on infrastructures designed for circulation and exposure. The building of trust, both with others and with the infrastructures themselves, requires a bricolage of tactics and strategies and a complex understanding of the semiotics of digital platforms. I focus in particular on emergent “innovations” in digital communication, including emphermality, live-streaming, and geolocation to develop a vocabulary focused on the “quotidian and banal activities of sexual self-elaboration through Internet technologies — emergent habituations, corporeal comportment and an array of diverse switchpoints of bodily capacity” (Puar, 2012: 151).

Difference and Media Teach-In 
May 8-10, 2019 Bard College, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY

“Lost Chats: Queer Identity Formation in the Digital Age”
As part of this year’s Difference and Media Teach-In, students will create a live ethnography by telling stories of growing up queer on the internet. Through stories of transversing various digital mediums, student storytellers will explore questions around the negotiation of aesthetic and community, the public and the private, the fleeting and the permanent, and persona and personhood. In keeping with this year’s theme of “oligarchy,” questions of ownership and mediation will also be considered as the digital terrain is increasingly controlled by few major corporate entities–Google controls the means of exploration, Facebook validates the authenticity of persona, Apple helms the hardware with which the internet is “materialized.” Two speakers will join the student storytellers. Benjamin Haber (PhD, CUNY Graduate Center, sociology) and Daniel Sander (PhD, NYU, performance studies) will inform the event with their own stories and scholarship on queer circuits and the various modes that neo-liberalism and digital capitalism mediate the queer digital.

Association of Internet Researchers Conference
October 10-13, 2018, Le Centre Sheraton Montréal Hotel, Montreal, Canada

“After Identity: Geolocation and the Politics of Proxy”
In this paper, I explore the discourses and diagramatics of the growing industry that uses location as both a social proxy and as an alternative form of subjectification to more traditional social techniques based in mining archival material. I’m interested in the affective distance between geolocation information that feels more abstractly related to the self and more ostensibly “personal” information like preference and demographic information.

Eastern Sociological Society
February 22-25, 2018 Hyatt Regency Baltimore, Baltimore, MD

“Queer Theory and the Digital Ephemeral”

Theorizing the Web 
April 7-8, 2017 Museum of the Moving Image, New York, NY

“Queer Temporality and the Performance of Risk”

Queer Circuits in Archival Times: Experimentation and Critique of Networked Data
May 20-21, 2016 New York, NY

“Gheez this is Uncomfortable: Performing the Impotence of Masculinity”
With T Clutch Fleischmann