For my paper portion of this project, I chose to write about The Bug by Ellen Ullman. In this novel, the main character is Ethan, a computer programmer who would rather spend his time with a debugging program than face anxieties that stem from his personal relationships, such as with his girlfriend Joanna. The freedom from reality Ethan experiences while computer programming gives him a high that he chooses to turn to in every moment of personal discomfort. Ethan becomes addicted to the drug that is coding, debugging, and programming a computer. Not only is Ullman’s book a fictional novel about a programmer searching for a bug hidden within his code, but the text also serves as a profile of an addict. A profile is a record that is made up of an individual’s behavioral and personality characteristics, with each personal trait serving as a data point in the larger profile database. This addiction profile is used by Ullman not only to track Ethan’s signs and symptoms of addiction, but also to show how a person becomes an addict through his own conscious choices. Every choice that a person is capable of rationally thinking through and acting on is considered a conscious choice, whether it’s how they choose to behave, which words they speak, or which thoughts they choose to dwell on the most. Addiction is often thought of as an illness driven by a deficient reward system of the brain, which is something an addict cannot consciously control. In The Bug, Ullman shows how Ethan’s conscious choices are the driving force for his addiction, and these decisions guide his unconscious choices and ultimately lead to his destruction. In my paper, I give many quotes and passages from the novel to support my argument, such as Ethan changing his college major when he was first exposed to coding and compulsively typing “Here you are, Ethan” to suck himself back into the code. As the novel progresses, Ullman even begins to specifically call his behavior compulsive and addictive. The conscious decisions Ethan makes that may accompany or cause an unconscious one, such as him getting upset or violent, are noted in Ullman’s profile. Each of his behaviors, thoughts, and emotions are important data points that only indicate a troublesome addiction when they are amassed. Ullman offers that an addict is merely the sum of his own choices, and each choice is deliberately made by Ethan.
For part 2 of this project, I created my own addiction profile similar to Ullman’s. Instead of writing a novel, I created a brief video documenting the behavioral choices of my subject, Nick. Each of the conscious choices he makes contribute to his addiction. I believe my video is a great example of how an individual data point, or each behavioral choice, does not indicate addiction by itself. It is only when these conscious choices are summed with unconscious choices that an addiction is apparent. A behavioral profile such as the one I created is a great way of identifying behaviors that may indicate addiction.
The link to my (unlisted) video can be found here:
The model I used was TLC’s show “My Strange Addiction,” which documents people who are addicted to very unusual objects or activities. Information on the show/a clip from the show can be found here http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/my-strange-addiction/