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    Brainwashing the cybernetic spectator: The Ipcress File, 1960s cinematic spectacle and the sciences of mind

    Holmes, Marcia (2017) Brainwashing the cybernetic spectator: The Ipcress File, 1960s cinematic spectacle and the sciences of mind. History of the Human Sciences 30 (3), pp. 3-24. ISSN 0952-6951.

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    This paper argues that the mid-1960s saw a dramatic shift in how 'brainwashing' was popularly imagined, reflecting Anglo-American developments in the sciences of mind as well as shifts in mass media culture. The 1965 British film, The Ipcress File (dir. Sidney J. Furie, starr. Michael Caine) provides a rich case for exploring these interconnections between mind control, mind science, and media, as it exemplifies the era's innovations for depicting 'brainwashing' on screen: the film's protagonist is subjected to flashing lights and electronic music, pulsating to the 'rhythm of brainwaves'. This paper describes the making of The Ipcress File's brainwashing sequence, and shows how its quest for cinematic spectacle drew on developments in cybernetic science, multimedia design and modernist architecture (developments that were also influencing the 1960s' psychedelic counterculture). I argue that often interposed between the disparate endeavours of 1960s mind control, psychological science, and media was a vision of the human mind as a 'cybernetic spectator': a subject who not only scrutinizes how media and other demands on her sensory perception can affect consciousness, but seeks to consciously participate in this mental conditioning and guide its effects.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Marcia Holmes
    Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2017 15:26
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:31


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