Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Greenberg and the Milgram experiments

one of those brain itches i get from time to time is the squeaky problem of ethics of the arts and sciences. and a very good question for that is whether ends can really justify means. we will take two cases for analysis: controversial photographer jill greenberg and controversial social psychologist stanley milgram


jill greenberg's claim to fame/infamy is her series of photographs that feature portraits of young children in obvious distress. the photos are visually arresting and effective. but more interesting was the method: snatch candies from the subjects and then capturing the moment of shock/anguish/anger. the kind of thing they the images have clear human interest and has great composition. in short, it is good art. greenberg assures us that the lollipops were returned to the children within 30 seconds and everything was with parental consent. but then again is all that a good enough excuse for something that might amount to exploitation?

Still on the subtly sinister genre we have Stanley Milgram's classic experiments on obedience to authority. Like any good psych experiment the concept is both simple and ingenious. Volunteers are instructed to "train" a "subject" (who is actually an accomplice of the experimenter). The "training" includes a mechanism whereby the volunteers must administer "electric shocks" to the "subject" as a "punishment" for "mistakes" (the annoying quotation marks are to show that most of what happens is scripted, and the accomplice only pretends to be shocked because there is no real electricity used). Eventually the volunteer (who remains clueless as to the real objective of the experiment) is asked by a man in a lab coat to increase the "voltage" steadily with each "mistake", the highest possible being 450V. It was discovered that most volunteers (about 70%) would obey and continue the experiment even if the "subject" they are "punishing" is showing clear distress. The implications of Milgram's research are far reaching but the question remains: given that the results were important and contributed to human knowledge, was it justified, was it ok to decieve the volunteers and expose them to the distress of going through an experiment that in a way manipulated their emotions to an extent? Did the ends justify the means?

Of course it is expected of both artists and scientists to push boundaries, but shouldn't the line be drawn somewhere? I admit that being a social scientist I know that the temptation of designing research insensitive to human dignity is very real. "The Truman Show" pretty much sums up a psychologist's wet dream (or repressed desire). And how about the arts, with Prophet Mohammed cartoons in an increasingly volatile world, should artists bow down to political correctness? So, how far can you go before you find yourself becoming a rapist?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

balita galing sa pahayagang plaridel, agosto 25, 2006:

isang dibuho ukol sa pangyayari: