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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

NetDynam: An Analysis of Content and Process

The internet is a wonderful place full of information on every topic imaginable. Some people are delighted by this; others are horrified.One resource on the internet is called a mailing list. These exist in thousands of topical areas, some academic, some informational, some for support, some recreational. One subscribes and on acceptance becomes the recipient of e-mail from the list and can post messages oneself. There are lists with high traffic of 50 or 100 messages a day and others which remain inactive for months. ISPSO has a mailing list which sometimes has 10 plus daily posts and sometimes is silent. Today we going to talk about a particular internet mailing list called NetDynam, which began last October. People joined NetDynam based on the following statement . . . This is a list dedicated to an examination of online group dynamics: the purpose will be to examine the process itself of writing through listservers -- perceptions of the other participants, the dynamics of flame wars, power and persuasion, what is effective communication and why . . . This will ideally be done in an atmosphere of mutual support and trust but it -- emphatically -- will not be group psychotherapy. The purpose of the list will be the search for dynamic principles of online mailing lists in general. The operation of the list will be as open and non-directive as possible, based on the Tavistock model of group dynamics projects where rules and explicit expectations are initially kept in abeyance so that they may emerge, be examined and formulated, spontaneously.We will not pretend to present a comprehensive picture of NetDynam, but rather, to introduce you to some of what has taken place in the hope this will stimulate you to think about what might be possible in regard to group relations work via internet.Our presentation consists of four parts. I will begin, with an introduction to the beginning days of NetDynam, suggesting a resemblance to the early phases of any group. My talk will be followed by Fred Bauder's identification of potential objects for projection on NetDynam -- the cast of characters. Fred will be followed by Bob Young, who will give us some of his thoughts about why he has had a particular kind of experience on NetDynam. Finally, Shannah Whitney has some things to say about the list's behavior around its task. Later, we'll open the floor to questions. Now, let me introduce our panel. . . Fred Bauder, our absent member, is an attorney engaged in family law who lives in Colorado. He has an uncanny ability to digest dense material and says he has been interested in psychology, especially psychoanalysis, for a long time. Early on, he did a lovely summarization of Bion-on-groups for us. We're sorry Fred couldn't be here today. It would have been fun to meet him face to face too. Shannah Whitney is a psychotherapist from right here in New York. She had a classics and literary background before entering the Yeshiva Clinical Psychology PhD program and is now at the `all-but-dissertation' stage. She frequently brings material from the 'greats' to bear in our discussions as well as having a very lively imagination and wide-ranging intellect. Bob Young comes to us from London. Until fairly recently he has mostly been an inactive reader or 'lurker' on NetDynam. Prior to his appearance he was also present as a sort of mythical figure because some list members were familiar with his writings, which appear elsewhere on the internet. Bob has a psychotherapy practice in London, teaches in a psychoanalytic psychotherapy training program at Sheffield, and continues to publish and to write and moderate e-mail lists. He also directs a group relations training program in Bulgaria. That leaves me. I'm now from Chicago, a psychotherapist and analytic candidate, consultant to a children's mental health agency and a teacher in psychoanalytic psychotherapy programs. I've been interested in group relations work since I was about ten, when my mother came home from a national Girl Scout training talking about her experience of these methods, though much more actively since I spent some time at the Tavistock Clinic about ten years ago. I am especially interested in the application of group relations thinking to the study of elusive clinical topics and for the support of people who are carrying out emotionally taxing work.