Participatory WebVR Experiment, 2020
On an average day, do you spend over 6 hours online, feeling bored, overwhelmed, anxious all at once? If so, you are by definition addicted to the Internet, which warrants mandatary treatments such as military training and self-isolation, according to Tao Ran, the Chinese psychologist who is a leading expert in Internet addiction in the world.
“Solitary Confinement” is a web-based installation that portrays people who found themselves locked in a small room without an exit. The virtual-room is set-up to recreate Tao Ran’s adaptation of Morita Therapy in internet addiction treatment, which routinely forced patients to self-isolate and write a diary for days to correct patients’ minds and behaviors. Participants can only communicate through collective writings on a shared notebook from various times and spaces. What kind of representation does this phenomenon have? How are those historical events or trends be examined and understood? This project questions not only on the optimistic expectations for internet connectivity, but also how Cookies change the future of Solitary Confinement, cultural interaction, and debates on how reality itself is a cultural product manifested in the term and concept of Internet Addiction.
The term “Internet Addiction” was coined in 1995 by American psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg as a parody of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 1997, Goldberg stated that Internet Addiction was a joke, and he thought it was ridiculous to medicalize every behavior by putting it into psychiatric nomenclature. Regardless of Goldberg’s satirical intention, psychiatry started to pick up on the term both within the US and abroad. Around the 2000s, the concept of “Internet Addiction” spread across East Asian countries, championed by three Chinese experts, Tao Hongkai, Tao Ran, and Yang Yongxin. In 2008, China became the first country to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder.
Despite the authoritative declaration and rising popularity of clinical terms, the medical profession has not yet established a clear definition to claim Internet overuse as a disease. Due to the ambiguity of the associated symptoms and insubstantiality of treatment methodology, many Chinese institutions employ military training models, usually in conjunction with abusive violence on teenage and sometimes adult inmates with fatal cases. The history of Chinese internet addiction treatment was gradually fading out of people’s memory over time, while the Internet and networked device are embedding in our lives and used as tools of dominance. The Cyberspace has been shifted from an anonymous and empowered free space to a space of total surveillance.
Morita therapy is an ecological, purpose-centered, response-oriented therapy created through case-based research. I regard the integration of Morita therapy and Internet addiction treatment as the metaphor of social issues internalization. That’s because Morita therapy is about the self-reflection in cognitive behavioral therapy, while Internet addiction is a phenomenon with specific family and social problems. For example, the game industry is one of the essential national economic sources.
- Co-produced bu Mengtai Zhang and Po-Hao Chi
- Programming: Lo Jo-Yu