The Primal Screen

Conference, Audio, Video or Powerpoint Presentation

Title: The Primal Screen
Year: 2000
Authors: Civin, M.

Elsewhere (e.g., Civin 1999, 2000) I discuss in detail the many ways in which the disembodied text of email serves to promote and facilitate the part object relatedness that forms the bedrock for the splitting and projective identification of paranoid-schizoid experience. For many influential top executives who feel unconsciously vulnerable to potentially career damaging levels of anxiety, the part object relatedness of email provides a natural outlet. Because email has become so central to the communication networks within the high-pressure environments of organizations, the projectively identified affective states of these executives, split off or dissociated from their own consciousness, has the potential to run rampant within the organization. I attempt to illustrate here the potentially debilitating impact of CMC facilitation via projective identification of these dissociated affect states in two widely differing organizations, and, briefly to provide an explanatory theoretical outline based on Kleinian and post-Kleinian psychoanalytic views.

My interest is to isolate computer mediated communication (CMC) systems as one aspect of organizational culture, as one way in which the affective experience within an organization is moved in the direction of uniformity, even in the face of a vast sea of differing personalities, motivations, personal histories and backgrounds. I argue that the CMC systems that are the very backbone of information gathering and dissemination within many organizations may lend themselves to epidemic proliferation of dissociated affects of top executives. I use a case study approach more for illustration than for substantiation. I outline the theoretical basis for my argument and provide two detailed accounts, drawn from my own psychoanalytically oriented consultation experience, that illustrate the role of CMC in 'dissociated affect epidemics', and suggest such affect epidemiology has sweeping ramifications for CMC design, implementation, and for consultation within the contemporary workplace.

The theoretical backdrop for the argument I present derives from a neo-Kleinian orientation. Of particular importance to the themes I will be discussing are post-Kleinian elaborations of Klein's (1935, 1946) ideas on projective identification, scotomization, and part object functioning, Racker's (1968) concepts of concordant and complementary identification, Matte Blanco's (1975) theory of bi-logic, and Searles's (1960) thoughts on the role of the non-human environment in psychological functioning.

This theory begins with the assumption that within the high-pressure environments of organizations that have become tightly linked by CMC systems, many influential top executives are plagued by a level of anxiety that, if it remained in consciousness, might lead to career damaging paralysis in their abilities to function. These affective states, split off or dissociated from consciousness, constitute the fossil fuel of projective identification. My purpose here is to examine the potentially debilitating impact of CMC facilitation of the broadcasting and amplification of such dissociated experience via projective identification.

Keywords: computer mediated communication (CMC) systems, organizational culture, organizations
Language: English

Date: 6/15/2000
Location: London, UK
Name of Event/Conference: 17th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations
Sponsoring Organization: ISPSO

Submitted by:
Elizabeth Novogratz

Corresponding author:

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