The Netflix series MINDHUNTER is fascinating as a history of personality tests. Yet I am drawn to another subject: the influence of technology on privacy.

MANHUNTER opening titles

MINDHUNTER shows how audio recording devices came to be used in psychological interviews. We tend to think of our time as the digital century, yet in the 1970s, analogue devices already behaved like today’s mobile networks.

You see this in the opening titles. Sound recording conjures up dark fantasies. Violent images glue themselves to the audio tape. These fantasies do not really belong to anyone. Neither the criminals nor the investigators understand them. They are like a collective data cloud, floating above some unconscious server.

The series proceeds through disturbing and witty interviews with serial killers. Compared to other TV shows, there is very little explicit violence. But the language is extremely violent. So violent, that it becomes an independent character. To quote an expression from psychologist Jacques Lacan: language ''speaks us'', instead of the other way round.

The interviewers make great efforts to understand the criminal mind. The serial killers talk a lot, but this only leads to endless questions. There is concern that information will leak out, that there will be a breach of privacy. By by the end of Season 2, you realize nothing will ever be revealed. This is because language operates OUTSIDE of ourselves. We are not really the agents of speech.

Today we make up elaborate schemes to protect the privacy of our networks. But if the mind escapes analysis, and our fantasies do not belong to us, whose privacy are we defending?

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