nano: New American Notes Online interviews Tony D. Sampson
Tara Fee: What views of the role of culture and/or sociality are challenged by the neurological science in this new book?
Tony D. Sampson: My aim in the first part of the book is to ask what can be done to a brain? For example, I take the emotional brain thesis—made popular by Antonio Damasio and Joseph Ledoux—and show how it has informed new modes of efficiency analysis in the digital workplace. This trend in the neurosciences has greatly influenced commercial design theory, marketing, and notions of what constitutes the so-called user experience. As follows, developments in emotional design and neuro-web design play a part in situating digital subjectivity as mostly unconscious or rather nonconscious. One interference I offer in this context is that of a revitalized Antonio Gramsci confronting a kind of neuro-Taylorism running through the history of human computer interaction. This is a series of paradigmatic shifts in which a worker’s brain, once free from the physical labor of the factory, becomes captured in neurocapitalism. Another revives the aesthetics of Aldous Huxley’s dystopic fiction to explore the extent to which neuropharmaceuticals and the introduction of neurotechnologies in education and marketing coincide with Deleuze’s control society thesis.