Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Theory and Criticism


Nick Dyer-Witheford

2nd Supervisor

Allan Pero

Joint Supervisor


This project explores the synchronicity of psychoanalytic and cybernetic practices from the mid-to-late nineteenth century by recovery and analysis of a shared material media culture. This project takes as a starting point the work of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, who observed the affinity between cybernetics and psychoanalysis, “two roughly contemporaneous techniques,” related to the emergence of the two distinct types of sciences: exact and “conjectural.” I investigate their shared patterns of figuration in the two fields, before they developed significant, and even irreconcilable, differences. This project demonstrates that what Lacan discussed explicitly in the 1950s, particularly, in his “cybernetic” Seminar II, was an expression of a more implicit connection between cybernetics and psychoanalysis ab initio. It offers a media-archaeological account of the pre-history of psychoanalysis (or proto-psychoanalytic practices) that considers the development of the psychoanalytic technique both through and against the technological mediation. The final part of this dissertation switches from the subject of the architectural and institutional panopticon of the nineteenth century to the “interpassive” user-subject of the perverse panopticon of the social media network. My discussion resonates with the current concerns expressed both within academia and in the Lacanian clinic about the degree of mediation, the limits of surveillance, the capacity of the network to exploit the subject, the automation of the gadgets that manage our lives, and the symptoms produced by all these aspects of the human-machine assemblages or even the erasure thereof in the capitalist discourse of global economy.