Media and the Inner World

Paranoia and Television

Starts: September 16 @ 1:00pm

Address: The Screening Room
Weymouth House
The Media School
Bournemouth University
(Talbot Campus)
BH12 5BB

Media experts flock to Bournemouth to explore the most paranoia-inducing TV images from the past 40 years

According to The International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, paranoia has individual and institutional, social and cultural forms and determinants. There is probably at least a germ of paranoia in everyone, which may be activated in regressive states with increased vulnerability. Clinically, paranoia may be found in mild transient forms, paranoid states of varying degree and duration, fixed paranoid traits and paranoid character, and borderline schizophrenia. The range of paranoid conditions doubtless depends upon constitutional, characterological, and experiential variables.

As the world remembers television images of 9/11, eminent media experts including Paul Watson, the creator of the fly-on-the-wall genre, and Laurence Marks, leading British comedy writer, joined academics, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and media practitioners to explore how television triggers paranoia, 1-4pm, Wednesday 16 September, at Bournemouth University.

The event is part of a two-year nation-wide research project called Media and the Inner World, run by Roehampton University and the University of East London and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project is travelling around the UK holding symposia aimed at exploring how the media and popular culture impact on emotions and create therapeutic effects. This project is the first in the UK to bring together the two disciplines of media and therapy.

The Bournemouth event explored iconic paranoid moments in television including the live video footage of 9/11, news coverage following the 7/7 bombings, scenes from reality TV shows such as Honey, We’re Killing the Kids, Benefit Busters and Big Brother, and TV dramas such as Spooks and Edge of Darkness, to analyse how they impact on the viewers’ state of paranoia.

Paul Watson, who directed landmark documentaries such as Sylvania Waters and The Family, which are seen as the precursors to reality TV, and Laurence Marks of the famous comedy scriptwriting duo, Marks and Gran, who created Birds of a Feather and Goodnight Sweetheart, joined discussants in exploring issues such as the film making techniques used to create feelings of paranoia, the psychological and therapeutic effects on the viewer and even the role that TV can play in preventing individual or collective paranoia.

Findings from the project will help to create a greater understanding of the current preoccupation with therapy and emotion in contemporary media and popular culture. As Project Directors, Dr Caroline Bainbridge, Reader in the School of Arts at Roehampton University and Dr Candida Yates, Senior Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies at the University of East London, explain:

“What we have learned from the first two Media and the Inner World events is that conversations between media professionals, therapists and academics are key to shedding light on the role that the media has to play in shaping our experience of emotion today.”

“The live footage of the two planes that crashed into the world trade centre, shown over and over again, is possibly one of the most horrific images to hit our screens in recent years. Whether watching from PC in the office or at home, there was a collective shift in social consciousness to a state of uncertainty and possibly global paranoia. Our research aims to explore how such images impact on our mental wellbeing in a society where we are constantly bombard with emotional triggers.”

“We have come to Bournemouth University, a nationally recognised centre of excellence in media practice, to forge closer links with experts in the field and to extend the reach of our network to reflect the importance of places such as Bournemouth in shaping the future of media production and research related to that.”

 Discussion Points:

1. How does watching television create feelings of paranoia in the audience?
2. From the film maker’s and writer’s perspectives, what techniques are used to create feelings of paranoia in the audience?
3. What the pleasures and anxieties of paranoid television for audiences and film/ programme makers?
4. Are some television genres inherently paranoid?
5. How might television prevent individual or collective feelings of paranoia?
6. What is the relationship between paranoid television and paranoid societies?
7. Is contemporary society particularly paranoid and how does this relate to the nature and content of television output?
8. How have certain moments in history helped to create paranoid television?
9. What creates paranoia in those who perform on television?
10. How can psychoanalysis and psychotherapeutic ways of thinking contribute to our understanding of paranoia and the affective experience of watching television in an emotive culture?
11. Do programmes sometimes work psychologically as containers that help us to interpret and process paranoid feelings and cultural experience in more or less manageable ways?
12. How can we draw on psychoanalytic ideas to formulate an understanding of the relationships between feelings of paranoia and television output?

Speakers included:

Paul Watson
Documentary Producer & Director (The Family; Sylvania Waters)
Laurence Marks
TV Comedy Writer (Good Night Sweetheart; Birds of a Feather; The New Statesman)
Hugh Ortega Breton
PhD Student, Roehampton University
Karen Ainsbury
Group Analytic Psychotherapist, Institute of Group Analysis
Trevor Hearing (Chair)
Bournemouth Media School
Prof Barry Richards (Respondent)
Bournemouth Media School

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