What is the utility of patented neurofeedback devices? What is the connection between these inventions and consumer and marketing technologies? How did some patent applications connect measurement devices to telepathic communication and psychological therapy?
Andrew Ventimiglia’s talk discusses a book project that traces a genealogy of the promises and the imagination underpinning these devices to military and spiritual/experimental technologies in the post-war era. By focusing on patent applications, Ventimiglia explores the significance and the controversies of these devices, focusing on Puharich v. Brenner, 415 F.2d 979 (D.C. Cir. 1969), a case regarding a device that claimed to expand extra sensory perception and to assist in the study of the so-called extra sensory phenomenon.
The talk also referred to other patented devices such as e-meters, a particular detector used by Scientology trainers to examine mental states and to identify non-conscious traumas (U.S. Patent 3,290,589). What was remarkable about these devices in the context of their official (patent) examination is how they elicited a tension surrounding discourses between science and deception, and between official discourse and conspiracy theories. Moreover, these inventive devices not only raised issues of validation, but also opened up questions about individual agency in a modern mass-mediated society.
In making the brain visible as writing, the controversies generated by these devices and the patents that were taken out allow us, according to Ventimiglia, to connect a history of patents to a contested terrain whereby ever-lasting concerns such as scientific legitimacy, truth, manipulation, and fraud were at stake.
Dr. Andrew Ventimiglia is an Assistant Professor of Mass Media with a specialization in media law and ethics in the School of Communication at Illinois State University. andrewventimiglia.com
Video by LiU communications officer Per Wistbo Nibell. Text by Jose Bellido who also chaired the event.