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About hackers and depression

Some material related to hackers’ psychological well being/health in the article CRACKING SUICIDE: HACKERS TRY TO ENGINEER A CURE FOR DEPRESSION, By Adrianne Jeffries. Full text here.



(…)Bernadette Schell, vice-provost at Laurentian University, studied hackers for more than a decade. (…) She wanted to know whether hackers matched their portrayal in the media, which at the time considered them maladjusted cyber-psychopaths. ”I kept looking for everything that would support these myths,” she said. 

“What I found was that the hacker community was a very well-adjusted group of individuals.“ At the time, the perception was that hackers were computer addicted, high-strung type A personalities. But the hackers in Schell’s study turned out to be emotionally balanced, “self-healing” type B personalities. They were a bit more introverted than the average population, but still socially connected. Most were employed and made more than the median income level. Incidence of depression was not higher than in the general population. (In fact, some studies have shown that engineers, a group that has a lot of overlap with hackers, have one of the lowest depression rates compared to other occupations.) The hackers were so resilient that even being sent to jail or charged for hacking crimes did not affect their reported stress levels long term.


(…)The roboticist, hacker, and Discovery Channel personality Zoz, also known as Andrew Brooks, served as a student mentor while getting his PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. He ended up counseling a lot of depressed undergrads who tried to reverse-engineer a solution rather than seek help. Many hackers even refer to their strategies for dealing with depression as “hacks.” 

(…)Of course, depression can be difficult to synthesize into a math problem. The cause is usually a combination of cascading factors that are often difficult to trace. The solution can be even harder to pin down.

“It can be incredibly frustrating to be sitting there, looking at your own brain, and going, ‘right, I entirely understand that something is not quite right with the way that my neurotransmitters are communicating with the receptors in my brain,’” Patterson said. “‘I recognize that I can tinker with this balance and otherwise engage in manipulations of my own mental state to try to resolve this situation. I understand all of this, and why is it not working?’”


(…)The popular impression that hackers have a high suicide rate could be because many of the hackers who killed themselves were at the top of their fields, and the highly gifted are statistically more likely to suffer from depression. The community’s facility for dissecting, analyzing, and communicating on the internet — a medium that naturally amplifies its message — has also contributed to the perception that there is a hacker suicide crisis.

In reality, the situation is getting better. While there are still some negative associations with mental health issues among hackers, that’s true of most cultures. Like the broader public, awareness of mental health issues is growing, and resources like, which has information about depression geared to hackers, and IMAlive, an instant message version of a suicide hotline, have helped countless hackers through their issues. Hackers are also eager to help each other; the line for Baldet’s talk started forming 20 minutes before it was set to start, and she was mobbed by questioners afterward.

Six months after Sassaman died, Patterson appeared on a panel called “Geeks and Depression” at the 2011 Chaos Communication Congress (CCC), an international hacker conference.


(this article was first published 28th August 2013 by Le massage en images)

Habit “turns us into machines”

“Lack of choice makes strain habitual”

“As long as superfluous effort is invested in any action, man must throw up defenses, must brace himself to great effort that is neither comfortable, pleasurable, nor desirable. The lack of choice of whether to make an effort or not turns an action into a habit, and in the end nothing appears more natural than that to which he is accustomed, even if it is opposed to all reason or necessity.”

“Habit makes it easier to persist in an action, and for this reason it is extremely valuable in general. Nevertheless, we easily over-indulge in habits, until self criticism is silenced and our ability to discern is diminished, which gradually turns us into machines that act without thinking.”

Text: Moshe Feldenkrais, in Health Exercise for Personal Growth.

Illustration: Fritz Kahn, Man As An Industrial Palace, 1926



Here I am back from my tour with time to reflect on the wonderful experiences I’ve lived this summer in company of La Quadrature du Net,  the french organization in the defense of civil rights and freedom on the Internet, and friends from around the world.

Invited to join their village as a hacker-masseuse on the OHM2013 festival for hackers and makers in the Netherlands, I took part with all my heart for a week, along with a team, to bring massage and care to a place where it was not much represented…at all.


Our “Hacking with Care” team was composed, for massage, of myself and physiotherapist student Baptiste, who had come to lend a hand (two actually!), of JB hacker-maker of MyOwnStretchWare (nice piece of “reverse engineering for public health”), with whom we put the proposal together and who was also behind the funky initiative Nail art for nerds, and of dancers Karine Rathle and Anne Goldenberg from Quebec, with whom we teamed up to propose workshops.

The Nail art for nerds, carried out on a playful DIY basis proved great to bring awareness, sensation and meaning (messages, symbols, logos were painted on nails) to the tip of these ultimate 21st century tools which are our hands and fingers. Massage was MUCH wanted all day long and MUCH appreciated. Workshops had great, happy, responsive, audiences.

Indeed, the two consecutive workshops Karine, Anne and I gave on the third day made for a sensational afternoon. First, Karine and Anne conducted Atten!ion Som(t)a(c)tic, an embodiment workshop in which participants were invited to explore through various postures the physical and more subtle sides of their relationship to their devices (computers, phones…), and to pain and pleasure when working with a machine. Then, to an already quite relaxed and very enthusiastic crowd, I gave a hands-on massage workshop, named after the festival : Observe-Hack-Massage ! My intention was rather simple: With the same passion everyone around felt for their discipline, I set to explain to bright crafty people how the same hacking spirit they apply to pretty much everything can also be applied to the art of massage and body care – a dimension where most had been more shy all week – with great enjoyment and results ! It was very exciting, and people were still exchanging massages on our village after the workshop was over. I heard some were already talking of setting up a massage corner in their hackerspace, and already thinking about how to build the massage table themselves…

At the end of the camp, it was obvious the “Hacking with care” team had done a wonderful job. Each activity invited people to engage with each other (and their devices !) in a variety of (new) ways, brought awareness about one’s body, one’s relationship to others, to machines and to work, and helped soften some barriers between genders, in a community still dominantly masculine (it felt more balanced on our camp..).

Most of all, all these activities blended very well with the magic conviviality of the tea house, which was at the heart of La quadrature du Net’s project for OHM2013.

The tea house was ran collectively by LQDN’s team and visitor volunteers, who were spontaneously taking turns at being Tea Masters -very horizontally though- and served a fine selection of tea to everyone from dusk ’til dawn. Various workshops and debates took place sitting at these handmade tables, sipping erva maté or pu-erh, discussing topics such as Net NeutralityCopyright Reform, or how to “make datalove” to your neighbor, as heartily and rightly argued by spokesperson for LQDN Jérémie Zimmermann in the talk he gave.


It was a beautiful gathering and bridging of talents and hearts. We all got a LOT of positive feedback. Many people expressed many gestures of gratitude and support for the hacking with care project, whether they had individually received a massage or not.

We know now there is clearly room for more hacker-masseur and hacker-masseuses like me (and other body and soul practitioners) in the hackers world, just as there are, I believe, many massage or other healthcare/body practitioners who could benefit (and so would everyone they care for) from injecting some of that hacking spirit into their own practice.

A downside of this beautiful success ? I didn’t have much time to attend talks or workshops given by others… Indeed, for the proposal to be as successful as it turned out to be, I kind of had to stick around the massage booth ! I have lots of catching up to do !

Luckily, La Quadrature du OHM’s Village attracted many talented persons in its DIY dwellings (almost pumping them in and out like a strong loving heart would do). In the end I had the opportunity to exchange thoughts with the passers by and I learnt a lot, thanks to a genuinely generous attitude I find many had in common. I even got the chance to swap sessions and received one of the most beautiful massages in my life (which is always a lesson in itself). Hackers, you will learn, are certainly not all disembodied goofs like you’d expect them to be. Clichés are often worth crap, but they seemed to make even less sense there in this community. There are many colors to the hackers hats, not just white or black or grey, and sometimes rainbow ! Speaking of which, we were called “hippies” a couple of times, which I actually take as a compliment, if not a manifest, in times so perverted with murderous greed and totalitarian fear. Shouldn’t ideals of love, goodness, sharing and caring, be key ingredients in any form of resistance to human-made evils ? Doesn’t the world stand better chances to be a nicer place for all if/when these ideals are “built-in” our technologies ? LQDN seems to think so, and I think so too.


So it was an important week… For us, and for two civil disobedience heroes in particular: Private Bradley Manning -from now on Chelsea Manning- who was convicted on July 30th of 17 charges including 5 counts of espionage and theft, and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum by Russia and left the Moscow airport on the 1st of August of that week.

French readers who wish to find out more about these events and what went on in OHM2013 can read a series of articles written “en direct” from OHM by journalist Jerôme Hourdeaux for Mediapart.

Finally, I would like to say once again THANK YOU to everyone and to LQDN especially. I hope to be back with more projects and collaborations soon, we sure have lots of ideas to explore and put into practice !

I will be giving the Observe-Hack-Massage workshop again, starting with a session on Thursday December 12th, at the Biopulse School of Massage in Paris. Contact them directly, not me, for information and registration.

Meanwhile, if you want to help La Quadrature Du Net to keep on keeping ‘on, you can make a donation on their website (or reach them if you have other helpful propositions to make). If you want to help me to keep on keepin’ on, well, be sure to book a massage or workshop next time I’m in town ! It will do everyone good ;)


(this article was first published August 22nd 2013 by Emily King – Le Massage En Images here)

“Feel what the medium has done to you”: Artist Yin Aiwen


Taking media analyst Marshall Mc Luhan’s famous theoretical pun that “the medium is the massage” almost to the letter as a staring point, chinese artist Yin Aiwen designs a performance-installation in which massage plays a central part, until the initial statement appears to be reversed, and “the massage” re-installs itself as “the medium”. A true human massage ultimately appears as a possible antidote to the panoply of psycho-physical pains quite willingly (=unconsciously?) inflicted to oneself by the modern human, otherwise “massaged” into a disembodied alienation by the soft, gentle, falsely-caring mass media machinery.

I as a masseuse happen to think highly about massage, and this work strikes me as interesting. I may have a few hesitations about the piece (mostly about the dispositive), still I feel it is conveying important, inspiring, and potentially emancipative material.

The dispositive is as follow: Yin Aiwen gives a 15 minutes a chinese medical massage to a participant installed in a massage chair, at the headset of which is installed a tablet playing a video-montage of clips from mass culture. A voice over reads, in a more or less relaxing, therapeutical tone, a text exploring the relationship between media, machines (computers specifically) and the receiver’s body, their pain, their vitality, all along questioning them, engaging them in instructive feedback loops with their sensations. A small audience is invited to watch the session.

It is almost a clever piece of reverse engineering, Yin Aiwen giving a massage and deducing, from the informations she collects at her expert fingertips, the design of the “end product”, the end product here being the human being in the capitalist world… So that she could then re-build this human being, re-model them, correct them, free them from this socio-economical-mechanical blocking ?

I have not assisted to the performance myself, so my judgment and impressions are of course limited. I only watched the video documentation, which I find was already quite an experience, and I strongly advise you to watch it ! As for the text, for which I post below a full transcript, it contains some gems and, in the light of my own experience, it speaks a lot of truth, however in somewhat dark aspects of it.

In the end, the piece altogether appears to be slightly too demonstrative, still too spectacular to my taste, authoritarian and somewhat cruel for the receiver (!) but Yin Aiwen completely admits it, for it serves her purpose : “The harsh, ruthless massage has no interest in your pleasure”, she writes. It gets the “message”/”massage” across…

However I believe this “message” is in essence one that emerges from massage during a private session. Indeed, a good massage will “inform” you of your condition. Here and now, and before, and even possibly give you an insight on after. It will move and question those layers of histories embedded in your flesh, sometimes it will allow images, memories, dreams, fantasies, to flash behind your eyelids, without a video being necessary. It will present to your consciousness, at your own pace, material very personal, possibly life improving; hints, cues, directions given by your senses to finding yourself again, connecting with yourself so that you be again the one “living” rather than the one being “operated” by. This way of the massage is known, and listened to, by many massage artists, practicians and therapists.This piece speaks to me of the substance of which good massage sessions are made of.

Find out more about the Massage is the medium by Yin Aiwen here.

Welcome to the plug in systems.
Your body will be massaged in a few seconds,
Please relax…
You are going to experience a story that is specifically made by you, enjoy.
Please relax…
Some cream will be applied to your neck and shoulders,
It’s going to be fine,
Things will be nice and smooth…
That’s right
After your fifteen minutes massage, you’ll feel free like never before.
Now your neck is being touched, does it hurt ?
Have you noticed this type of pain before ?
I know you work in front of the computer a lot, picture that scene :
Do you see your face with the screen light on, glowing in the dark, just like everyone else ?
You work late quite often, don’t you ?
The quiet night… Only the sounds of your keyboard is in company.
Do you feel those blocks here ? It hurts a lot, doesn’t it ?
You must be the kind of person that is constantly thinking, probably getting annoyed by it sometimes.
Your tired brain creates this block.
It’s in the way in which your brain gets all the supplies.
So when it gets blocked, the supplies – oxygen, nutrients, and blood – will have difficulties to get into your brain.
Tiredness must be an old friend of yours.
That’s why you need this massage :
To clear out the scene, to make it work again…
Computers change you, starting from your hands,
Grow into your chest, get into your back, then to your neck, and eventually, to your brain…
I know you thought that your body was irrelevant, didn’t you ?
Otherwise, you wouldn’t let it be like this…
As if it’s just the operator of your mind, and you thought your mind is eternal,
travelling in the infinite universe, pluging into the mortal nervous circuits, being free…
The strain muscle you have, many people have it nowadays.
It used to be a professional injury for people doing paperwork.
But nowadays, almost everyone has it.
Even children have it.
See how stiff your front neck is.
It indicates the condition of your chest
Like here, the end point of your chest muscles, and the starting point of your arms’…
Do you feel how it goes all the way down to the hand that types the keyboard ?
Your injured body has become the burden of your digital soul.
It’s ok, many people thought so.
People say fickleness is the theme of society now
Streaming tweets, 24/7
Optical transmission, day and night…
The facebook « one for all, all for one » utopia, right in front of your eyes…
Your fingers dance on your keyboard non-stop
Your Iphone camera flashes at every corner of your life
Your exciting brain on wire, all season…
You are so willing to share yourself to the world,
That you are pleased to shatter yourself into a hundred and forty pieces…
All the consequences then fall on your back,
Sink into your neck, permeate your brain…
They change you so quietly that you thought it’s your choice.
Do you see your face with the screen light on, glowing in the dark, just like everyone else ?
Physical pain is easy to forget of course.
That’s why you constantly hurt yourself.
Do you see how badly you have hurt yourself ?
It’s so painful it almost becomes emotional.
Feel it…
Feel what has happened to you…
Feel what the medium has done to you…
Think about what you have done to yourself…
Can this pain that you have done to yourself make you regretful ?
The medium is the massage.
The sweet exciting kind of massage, catering to your every wish,
Manufacturing your desire, regulating your recognition,
Until you can’t tell if there is another kind of life anymore…
All you can see is what has been given,
ALL that has been given is ALL you can imagine…
In the world of cyber capital
Everything is soft, fluffy, gentle, fulfilling…
Like a massage.
Satisfying your longing to be cared for, to feel special, to feel loved…
All you need to do is to pick a set that is all designed.
Yes, the special design, only for you…
And a million duplications of you.
You think this massage is made for you, don’t you ?
Like this, it happens for a reason,
Reasons that are based on your condition
But so many people have the same condition,
The same analysis of you…
I did it to dozens and dozens and dozens of people.
You are the same, you are all made the same.
Together you are precious, together you are special,
Together you are unique, together you are alone.
It’s not enough that machines code your life.
It’s not enough that they design every inch of your life.
You will only be perfect when its perspective becomes yours,
Your only perspective.
Only then you will have your true freedom :
Boundless, painless, senseless, heartless…
Do you see your face with the screen light on, glowing in the dark, just like everyone else ?
In this optical fiber world, you are transcendant.
Your face is flattened after the speed of light.
You can barely see others faces, and others can barely see yours.
So you talk as loud as you can, in one way or another,
So you can grab as many hurried travellers as possible…
After all, the mass man needs the proof of his living…
So fifteen minutes of attention is already an extravagance.
If possible a massive killing weapon is in favour.
So taking a massage to you becomes a very odd, even uncomfortable idea, doesn’t it ?
You needed to have so many decent reasons to give yourself in, didn’t you ?
But you need this massage.
Through others hands, it reminds you that you are still human.
Through the pain, it reminds you that you are not entirely numb, yet.
You are more than the electrical signals from your neurons.
Your communication with people is more than a faceless P2P transmission.
The massage is the medium.
This person behind you, who’s touching you, trying to find out what happened to you,
Do you see her as a human ?
Two euros slide in a coin slot, and a piece of hamburger jumps out…
She’s not a walking commodity, providing catalogue services,
But that’s why you felt uncomfortable about the idea, isn’t it ?
It’s a better design that pryes your heart with a decent distance…
Have you noticed the silent communication between you and her ?
Or are you just struggling to fight with your body, learning about yourself ?
It’s ok, she knows what you have been through.
Underneath the fingertips size of skin that she connects to you, your trembling muscles are shedding a tear…
She knows.
The pain you’re experiencing is the last mayday your body screams out to you, do you hear that ?
Feel it…
Feel your blood running through your body…
So powerful, as if you are alive again…
Feel this warmth inside, as if you are being cared for…
Feel what is happening now…
Feel where they came from, and where they will go…
Feel it, before this massage comes to an end…
I would like to thank you for dedicating yourself to this experiment.
I hope it means something to you.
Before you unplug yourself,
Please take a deep breath,
And I would like to ask you : Do you think I am human ?

Carpal Tunnel: Anatomy, Syndrome and Exercises

VIDEO Carpal Tunnel Syndrome exercises that really work – Boing Boing.

Anatomy of the region:



Q/A (from


“Tendinitis is a condition that is created by some type of irritation or inflammation of the tendon. Since tendons are the connecting tissue that adheres muscles to the skeletal structure of the body, this inflammation can be extremely painful. Tendinitis can come about as the result of certain types of physical activity and exertion, as well as be the product of other health ailments that are creating adverse effects on other parts of the body as well as the tendons.

One of the most common causes of tendinitis is overexertion. When the muscles become strained due to heavy lifting or any movements that place the muscles and tendons into unnatural positions, there is a chance of straining the tendons and creating temporary irritation. Repeated activity of this nature may inhibit the ability of the tendons to recover from each episode and lead to tendon inflammation. When this is the case, it is often necessary to visit a physician and obtain medication to help reduce the swelling and the discomfort while the tendons heal.
Full article on wisegeek here 


“The carpal tunnel is a narrow area that is located under the ligament, a band of tough tissue, of the wrist. It consists of both tendons, which are connective tissue between the bones and muscles, and nerves. One of the primary nerves in this area is known as the median nerve, which is located down the forearm into the wrist. When the median nerve becomes irritated or otherwise affected, it can cause pain in the tunnel and lead to the condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome.

When the area near the carpal tunnel, especially its tendons, becomes swollen or inflamed, it can result in the tunnel becoming more narrow and pressing down on the median nerve. This narrowing of the tunnel is often due to repetitive movements of the wrist that may end up irritating the median nerve. It can also be caused by having a naturally smaller carpal tunnel, which can make even slight constriction of the tunnel press down on the median nerve and cause symptoms.”

Full article here + how to “treat carpal tunnel syndrome”