Psychoanalytical Reflections on Digital Virtuality

An investigation of subjective meanings and psychodynamic conflict dimensions with young adults when dealing with social media (Facebook)
Financed by: Initial funding from the IPU 2013

Since 4/2013 / Project Head: Prof. Dr. Elfriede Löchel

Project Description

The investigation focuses on the subjective experience of internet-conveyed contacts and relationship experiences by taking Facebook as an example. The starting point is the lack of basic social psychology research on the also clinically relevant issue of whether and how the by now everyday internet and social media usage intervenes in the construction of subjectivity and inter-subjectivity. In the public discussions here in the German language areas and especially also among psychotherapists, the analysis and examination of these questions is frequently marked by dramatising fears. Clinical casuistics can be found to an increasing extent in international literature which shed light on how the relationship of the patient to a medial object can be brought to the fore in a treatment process. Yet beyond the spectacular pathological phenomena, the one aspect that is lacking are systematic investigations into the subjective meanings (fantasies, desires, fears and conflicts) which are revealed in the everyday dealing with internet-conveyed contacts.

With this background in mind, an explorative pilot study was conducted as a first step (initial funding IPU 2013), in which, by means of a qualitative methodology based on the tradition of "depth hermeneutics", both conscious as well as unconscious experience and conflict dimensions were investigated taking Facebook usage as an example.

The evaluation of the pilot study occurred with the participation of students who were able to learn about the depth hermeneutic methods for the interpretation of research interviews in this context and be able to apply them in MA papers. For this purpose from the 2013-14 winter semester onwards, an interpretation group as well as a "virtuality" research colloquium were established for MA and PhD papers in this field of research.

The results of the pilot study are to flow into the development of further issues and research projects. From the 2016 summer semester onwards, the establishment of a "virtuality/social media" research cluster is planned together with Prof. Dr. Christine Kirchhoff (psychoanalytical cultural studies at the IPU).