SAM Seminar: Philip K. Dick’s Weird Objects: The Unsettling Lives of Radio Receivers and Psychiatric Paraphernalia

When:9 Sep 2014, 5pm - 6:30pm
Venue:Robert Webster building, lecture theatre 327
Who:Adam Hulbert (UNSW) & Chris Rudge (USyd)
SAM Seminar - Rudge & Hulbert

Philip K. Dick famously prefaced the 1953 publication of his story ‘Colony’ in Galaxy Magazine with the following claim:

The ultimate paranoia is not when everyone is against you, it’s when everything is against you. Instead of ‘My boss is plotting against me,’ it would be ‘My boss’ phone is plotting against me.’

Dick was to experience this kind of paranoia firsthand throughout his life. He at times experienced, for example, intimately personal verbal abuse from his beloved Magnavox radio. He was further concerned—auguring contemporary debates concerning electronic surveillance—that his prosaic objects were spying and reporting on him as he went about his daily writing. In his fiction, Dick problematises the cultural role of domestic objects, providing a useful techno-materialist groundwork for examining the transformational modalities between inert, benign things and ‘smart’ information-gathering technologies.

Reflecting Dick’s extensive experience of psychiatric therapy and his extraordinary passion for hi-fidelity musical reproduction and radio, Dick’s speculative fiction reimagines a range of objects representative of these fields. While sometimes his fiction reconfigures these devices as specters or machines with unclear motives, Dick’s writing often also endows these objects with a kind of ‘human’ consciousness or familiarity, generating important thought-experiments for biopolitical philosophy and mediated culture.

Exploring some of the living artifacts in the literary and philosophical universes of Philip K Dick’s fiction, Adam Hulbert and Chris Rudge of the Philip K. Dick Reading Group will examine the implications of Dick’s approach to everyday objects for the philosophy of biopolitics, psychiatry and communication.


Chris Rudge’s paper is titled: “Doctored Images: Doctors and their everyday devices in Philip K. Dick’s 1960s novels”.

Adam Hulbert’s paper is titled: “The Elsewhere, Elsewhen and Otherwise of Radio in the Novels of Philip K. Dick”.


Chris Rudge is a contributor to a forthcoming book on Philip K Dick’s later novels;
and Adam Hulbert is host of the Philip K Dick Philosophical Podcast.


SAM Seminar Series 2014
Convenor, Collin Chua – c.chua@unsw.edu.au

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