Mac versus Windows: psychopathology of daily informatics
I have been using a computer for more than twenty years (the first one was the unforgettable Commodore 64): I use a computer on a semi-professional level utilizing the power for editing written and multimedia material. My profession has little to do with informatics: I am a physician and I have been practicing psychoanalysis for over twenty-five years; my work implements could simply be a sheet of paper and a pen, and thus have been for a decade. The fact that in my family there were two computer graphic designers, inevitably brought into my house a splendid creature, which made my days easier: a Macintosh Classic with B&W screen. In the first years, beside it sat, not without shame in respect to the white swan, an Olivetti 286 in which was installed the DOS (the dawning of humanity!): the ugly duckling, unfortunately, could never live the Nemesis of the fairytale and thus remained. To those appliances the classic rigmarole of the Maclover followed: LC II, LC III, Performa, Ibook, G4, G5.
This brief preamble is needed to inform the reader that I sufficiently know both operative systems to be able to make, half jokingly, some considerations drawing from my professional competences.
I well know that recently the Windows platform makes use of a less desperate operative system than the preceding one, but I know just as well the evidence, that can only be denied by Windows fanatics, of the absolute stability of Mac with OsX compared to the tendency of Windows’s crashing.
The psychoanalyst is a strange being: his aptitude of disassembling the real data (analysis from an etymological point of view, as everybody knows, means decomposition) leads him to question phenomena which others would find banal or insignificant. Well: I have always ask myself why a human being who could use a reliable appliance, easy to use and intuitive, prefers instead to waste his time using an operative system characterized by crashes, instability, hardware installation problems, viruses, etc.
Leaving behind the masochistic component of the human psychism (everybody, more or less, has unconscious feelings of guilt to expiate and that beautiful frozen screen is an excellent occasion for penitence after having spent two hours on Photoshop!) I believe that the mental structure of the Mac users is different to that of the Windows disciples. The difference is that which passes from animism to the acquisition of hypothetico-deductive thought.
In an article much more serious than this one entitled “Trauma, memory and cybernetic structure of the mind” I reminded: “Many experts of cybernetic like to affirm, «The human mind is structured as a computer». It seems to me to be a very particular way to proceed. It would probably be better to say that man has architected in a conscious, preconscious and unconscious way the computers on the basis of the structure of his mind. We know how great a part the projection in the human inventive has”.
It is obvious that this fact is true for the hardware projection as well as for the software one. To understand why a human being insists on using a fatiguing, farraginous, unreliable and unpredictable system, there is a simple and very common explanation in psychoanalysis: that activity which rationally seems uneconomic and heralding sufferance, unconsciously determines a pleasure which does not appear in a manifest way.
In simple terms, the Windowsman enjoys himself in a manner that “… you people – who use Mac – wouldn’t believe”. The pleasure derives from two fundamental components: the tutelage of one’s own omnipotent experience and the repetitive performing of the so-called “compulsion to repeat”. Don’t be afraid: these concepts are no more difficult than ‘directory’ or ‘loop’ or other tricks which you may be familiar with. I’ll explain, the human being is born drenched with omnipotence: each child thinks that every event in the world depends on him. In simple terms, he places himself “at the centre of the universe”. As fragile as a twig in the infinite cosmos the child must safeguard his idea that the world is, at the most, an extension of himself.
The tiring and endless activity of configuration, optimization and messing about, which the Windowsman computes in a daily manner in order to obtain performances that the honest Mac machine autonomously supplies us with, safeguards the omnipotence of the user and his illusion that the machine is his own creature that he can command with magic arts.
Furthermore, the compulsion to repeat is by definition the unconscious and irrepressible necessity to put oneself in an invariably painful situation, even if absurd and humiliating. Freud discovered it during the observation of a particular game of a child, in this case, his nephew Ernst. A pushing away and bringing to game, of “Fort-Da” (gone and there). Freud’s nephew often repeated a game, which can be commonly seen by anybody who lives with small child: he would throw a wooden reel away from himself, out of his sight, exclaiming: “Fort!”, (Gone!) and “Da!” (There!).
After that, the child, who was far from stupid being Freud’s nephew, tied a thread to the reel, automating the game, throwing it repeatedly over the edge of his cot and pulling it back to himself saying: “Fort! … Da!”. What was at stake – Freud hypothesized – was the control of the anguish produced by losing the object (the wooden reel which symbolized the mother). *
This is the game that the Windows’s user plays: seeing with anguish his work disappear, sweating frantically attempting to reanimate the system, downloading drivers, patches, tricks and the more one has the more one uses, to safeguard the illusion that he is the master of the machine.
Every time that he reanimates it and the windows reappear as by magic on the screen to evaporate the drops of cold sweat that bead his forehead, he delights deeply with his re-found omnipotence.
We poor Mac users accept the idea of having faithful, silence and discrete servers, who don’t ask us for anything and perform autonomously the assigned tasks: they are apart from us.
We know this well when we leave them on standby for a week and then at the first touch of the keyboard they come to life as if they had just drunk four cups of steaming coffee! Am I joking? Am I being serious? I’ll go and ask a good psychoanalyst and then I’ll let you know…
Written by: Quirino Zangrilli © Copyright
Translated by Linda De Nardo
* “This was, thus, the complete game (Freud writes) disappearance and reappearance – of which he was able to perform, as a rule, only the first part, untiringly repeated as a separate game, even though the main pleasure was undoubtedly tied to the second part of the game… the child was compensated, in a manner of speaking, for this renunciation (the disappearance of his mother AN) by staging the act of the disappearance and the reappearance making use of the objects that he was able to reach” (S. Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle , Works, 1920)
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