Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology Lecture Series: Melissa Littlefield

Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Erik Jonsson Academic Center (JO)
Season: 2016-2017

Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology Lecture Series: The Power of Science Fiction Brain Control: The Science and Fiction of EEG Wearables About the Lecture: From Flash Gordon’s Brain Machine to Professor X’s Cerebro, the electrical potential of our brains has continually sparked imaginations. Human electroencephalography—the technological basis of most “brainwave” narratives—is best recognized by the wired cap found on subjects in neuroscience laboratories, but EEG has undergone a recent transformation from wet laboratory applications to user-friendly wearables for brain training. These wearables are marketed as transparent visualizations of our brain’s activity, but what are they actually recording, monitoring, and proposing to change about our brains or ourselves? Littlefield will trace contemporary discourses of brain control to both the science and the science fiction of the mid-twentieth century. She’ll explore the ideologies that inform the development of EEG-based technologies, the discourses that hasten their distribution, and the cultural hopes and fears that prompt their use. About the Speaker: Littlefield is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she has appointments in the Departments of English and Kinesiology and Community Health. She is also affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Technology, the Seeing Systems INTERSECT Graduate Training Program, and the Writing Studies Program. Trained as a Literature and Science scholar at Penn State, Littlefield’s research focuses on contemporary and historical intersections between neuroscientific technologies, science fiction, and popular media. She is the author of The Lying Brain: Lie Detection in Science and Science Fiction (University of Michigan Press, 2011), a socio-cultural history of mechanical lie detection and its relationship to neuroscience. Littlefield is also the co-editor of The Neuroscientific Turn: Transdisciplinarity in the Age of the Brain (University of Michigan Press, 2012). Her work can also be found in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience; Social Studies of Science; Science, Technology & Human Values; Advances in Medical Sociology; Crime, Media Culture; and in several edited collections, including Andrew Shail and Laura Salisbury’s collection, Neurology and Modernity: A Cultural History of Nervous Systems, 1885-1950.
For more information contact: