Julia Vorhölter: Sleeping with Strangers – Techno-Intimacies and Side-Affects in a German Sleep Lab. [Abstract]

This article explores the challenges of knowledge production in a sleep lab. Based on ethnographic research, and drawing on affect theory, I investigate the peculiar mix of cables and care, sensors and senses, “natural” sleep and technological tinkering, intimacy and strangeness that characterize nightly life at the lab. I discuss how the production of relevant knowledge and good therapeutic outcomes depends on the careful co-management of technologies, environments, bodies, personalities, and their various entanglements, which I capture by developing three analytical concepts: intimate space (to think about the sleep lab environment), techno-intimacy (to think about the haptic encounters between technology, bodies, and emotion), and side-affects (to think about the undesired effects of body-minds on technology). Together, the three concepts bring out how patients’ entanglements with sleep-related technologies and environments evoke intense affects and emotions which incessantly interfere with knowledge production and therapy. In order to bring about “good enough sleep” for “good enough knowledge,” trade-offs between natural sleep and techno-medical interruptions abound. As every insomniac knows, sleep resists control. The sleep lab manifests this tension writ large.

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