Mediating Alzheimer’s

Cognition and Personhood

2022
Author:

Scott Selberg

An exploration of the representational culture of Alzheimer’s disease and how media technologies shape our ideas of cognition and aging

With no known cause or cure despite a century of research, Alzheimer’s disease is a true medical mystery. Scott Selberg examines the nature of this enduring national health crisis by looking at the disease’s relationship to media and representation, showing how collective investments in different kinds of media have historically shaped how we understand, treat, and live with this disease.

With no known cause or cure despite a century of research, Alzheimer’s disease is a true medical mystery. In Mediating Alzheimer’s, Scott Selberg examines the nature of this enduring national health crisis by looking at the disease’s relationship to media and representation. He shows how collective investments in different kinds of media have historically shaped how we understand, treat, and live with this disease.

Selberg demonstrates how the cognitive abilities that Alzheimer’s threatens—memory, for example—are integrated into the operations of representational technologies, from Polaroid photographs to Post-its to digital artificial intelligence. Focusing on a wide variety of media technologies, such as neuroimaging, art therapy, virtual reality, and social media, he shows how these cognitively oriented media ultimately help define personhood for people with Alzheimer’s. Media have changed the practices of successful aging in the United States, and Selberg takes us deep into how technologies like digital brain-training and online care networks shape ideas of cognition and healthy aging.

Packed with startlingly fresh insights, Mediating Alzheimer’s contributes to debates around bioethics, the labor of caregiving, and a national economy increasingly invested in communication and digital media. Probing the very technologies that promise to save and understand our brains, it gives us new ways of understanding Alzheimer’s disease and aging in America.

Scott Selberg is a member of the faculty of the Department of Communication at Portland State University.

Contents

Introduction: Alzheimer’s and Media

1. Origin Myths: History, Histology, and Representational Value

2. New Media Pioneers: Neuroimaging a National Crisis

3. Use It or Lose It: Affirming the Self, Defining the Person

4. PET Scans and Polaroids: Anachronizing Personhood

5. Dementia in the Museum: Modern Art as Public Care

6. Dementia on the Canvas: Art, Therapy, and Creativity’s Values

7. Loved Ones: The Capacity for Representation, Recognition, and Care

Epilogue: “How to Not Forget”

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index