A few years ago, in a paper titled ‘Machine Phenomena’, I explored situations in which the metaphor of the machine is understood and used concretely to express positive or negative, idealised or denigrated experiences — ranging from, for example, the use of innocuous expressions like ‘I need to charge my batteries’ to experiencing being controlled by an influencing machine. This article became a chapter in the book ‘Even Paranoids Have Enemies: New Perspectives on Paranoia and Persecution’ (ed. Berke, Pierides, Sabbadini, Schneider), published in 1998 initially by what was then Routledge.
Since then, from time to time, I check whether, and where the concept of ‘machine phenomena’ is being used and to what effect. So it was with pleasure I came across an interesting article, by Grace Halden, titled ‘Incandescent: Light Bulbs and Conspiracies’, in Dandelion: postgraduate arts journal and research network, v.5, no 2, Spring 2015.
In my reading, Grace Halden (2015) illustrates how light, in the form of a lightbulb, became what can be seen as a machine phenomenon (Pierides, 1998), becoming entrenched in concrete fantasies of benevolence and evil. She points out
through examining general technology (such as machines), anxieties surrounding ‘modification, transformation and replacement’ emerge despite the technology being traditionally associated with protection and assistance.
Halden uses the texts of The Light Bulb Conspiracy (2010), The X-Files (1993-2002), and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) to explore how this innocuous, commonplace object, with an enormous beneficial impact in the modern world,
has been used to symbolise the malevolence of individuals and groups, and the very essence of technological development itself.
Interesting stuff. Check it out!