Hallucinating Facts: Psychedelic Science and the Epistemic Power of Data.
Degree: PhD, Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought, 2020, Virginia Tech
In the age of Big Data, scientists draw upon the ever-expanding quantities of data which are produced, circulated, and analyzed by digital devices every day. As data grow in number, digital tools gain in their ability to yield precise and faithful information about the objects they represent. It would appear that all forms of knowledge may one day be perfectly replicated in the form of digital data. This dissertation claims that certain forms of knowledge cannot be digitized, and that the existence of non-digitizable knowledge has important implications for both science and politics. I begin by considering the fact that digital tools can only produce knowledge about phenomena which permit digitization. I claim that this limitation necessarily restricts the sorts of information which digital devices are capable of generating. I also observe that the digital turn has inaugurated a novel mode of capitalist economic production based on the commodity of digital information. Thus, the increasing dependence of scientific authority on digital methods is also a concern for political economy. I argue that the reliance of scientific authority on digital data restricts the scope of scientific inquiry and makes ceaseless economic expansion appear both necessary and inevitable. It is therefore critical to indicate sites of research and practice where non-digitizable knowledge plays an essential role in informing scientific processes. Such an indication is not only pertinent to scientific research, but points up the ways in which data facilitate unregulated economic growth.
Psychedelic drug research serves as my lens on digitality and political economy. Specifically, I explore the ways in which quantitative and computational methodologies have been used and critiqued by scientists who study the psychiatric benefit of psychedelics on human consciousness. Taking a historical approach, I demonstrate that psychedelic scientists have always faced the paradoxical task of translating the unusual and ineffable effects of psychedelics into discrete, measurable variables. This quandary has become more pronounced in the age of digital tool use, as such tools rest on the logic of metrical and discrete analysis. I suggest that the therapeutic mechanisms of psychedelics can only be fully revealed by methodological techniques which explicitly address the epistemic limitations of digital data. Noting that the ascendance of Big Data is contemporaneous with a rise of interest in psychedelics as adjuncts to psychotherapy, I assert that psychedelic science provides abundant materials for a critique of the ostensive epistemic authority of digital data, which operates as an alibi for technologized capitalism.
Advisors/Committee Members: Debrix, Francois (committeechair), Luke, Timothy W. (committee member), Heflin, Ashley Shew (committee member), Hester, Rebecca (committee member).
Subjects/Keywords: Data; Big Data; Technology; Digitality; Political Economy; Epistemology; Psychedelics; Hallucinogens; Deleuze; Foucault; Critical Data Studies; Critical Information Studies; Critical Theory; Continental Philosophy; Philosophy of Technology
to Zotero / EndNote / Reference
APA (6th Edition):
Stamm, E. (2020). Hallucinating Facts: Psychedelic Science and the Epistemic Power of Data. (Doctoral Dissertation). Virginia Tech. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10919/97368
Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):
Stamm, Emma. “Hallucinating Facts: Psychedelic Science and the Epistemic Power of Data.” 2020. Doctoral Dissertation, Virginia Tech. Accessed April 09, 2020.
MLA Handbook (7th Edition):
Stamm, Emma. “Hallucinating Facts: Psychedelic Science and the Epistemic Power of Data.” 2020. Web. 09 Apr 2020.
Stamm E. Hallucinating Facts: Psychedelic Science and the Epistemic Power of Data. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. Virginia Tech; 2020. [cited 2020 Apr 09].
Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/97368.
Council of Science Editors:
Stamm E. Hallucinating Facts: Psychedelic Science and the Epistemic Power of Data. [Doctoral Dissertation]. Virginia Tech; 2020. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/10919/97368