Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Silicon in 'Pure Gold'? Theoretical Contributions and Observations on Teleanalysis by Videoconference 1

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Silicon in 'Pure Gold'? Theoretical Contributions and Observations on Teleanalysis by Videoconference 1

Article excerpt


The development and massification of contemporary technologies has extended throughout urban social life, creating opportunities for creativity, yet also posing a threat to heartfelt relationships with reality (Turkle, 1995, 2009).

Psychoanalysis has not been unaffected by these transformations. The growing number of articles on the impact of cyberspace on culture and subjectivity (Hiebert, 2007; Parker, 2007; Sand, 2007; Schirmacher, 2007), and more specifically, related to the practice of psychoanalysis in conditions mediated by the internet (e.g. Akhtar, 2004; Bird, 2003; Caparrotta, 2013; Gabbard, 2001; Migone, 2009, 2013; Scharff, 2012, 2013), suggests that this dimension of clinical work has also become a relevant issue in the task of contemporary psychoanalysis.

Most analysts continue to favour analysis in person (Wanberg et al., 2007). However, the adoption of online analytic settings has been on the increase every decade (Scharff, 2013), giving way to interesting discussions about its feasibility and indications for use (e.g. Bassen, 2007; Caparrotta, 2013; Hanly and Scharff, 2010).

Teleanalysis by videoconference: New traction on an old debate?

There are several modes of communication available for remote psychoanalytic work - or teleanalysis - including the post, the telephone, virtual communication devices such as instant messaging (online chatting), text messaging with cell phones, e-mail and videoconference, among others. Each type of interaction includes structural conditions that affect both its potential and its limitations, thus addressing them all together could oversimplify the debate. For example, the issues that arise when working via diachronic communication (e.g. post and e-mail) and those associated with synchronic communication (e.g. online chatting) may share some elements in common, such as the predominance of the written register, but the ways in which response times and response expectations are determined in the dyad certainly entail different problems specific to each device. We can say the same thing about communications in which the written code prevails (e.g. post and e-mail, chatting, instant messaging) compared to those communications with exclusively or predominantly verbal interactions (e.g. telephone, videoconference).

In this sense, and following the taxonomy proposed by Zhao (2003), interactions via videoconference and over the telephone are more similar to one another than to other forms of human positioning, such as sending instant messages or mail or virtual interactions mediated by digital representations of the participants (e.g. 3D avatars). Both videoconference and telephone interactions are carried out synchronically (i.e. 'in real time'), unlike sending mail, e-mail and online messages. Furthermore, both types of communication involve the interaction of two speakers who are present, though the proximity between them is virtual. They are thus situated as forms of bodily telecopresence; that is, a 'form of human colocation in which both individuals are present in person at their local sites, but they are located in each other's electronic proximity rather than physical proximity. Although positioned outside the range of each other's naked sense perceptions, the individuals are within immediate reach of each other through an electronic communications network' (Zhao, 2003, p. 447).

The literature on telephone and videoconference analysis thus forms the basis on which the hypotheses here are based. For the purpose of this study, I focus the literature review on the possible effects of these devices on analytic work, and not on their technical aspects (e.g. how settings are established, arrangement of equipment, etc.), their clinical indications (e.g. clinical population indicated or contraindicated for teleanalysis), or other considerations. This review is limited to considerations that are applicable to the argument presented here. …

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