Recognizing motives: The dissensual self

Keywords: self, motives, aesthetics, motivation, counselling


This article proposes to approach issues around the self and its derivate concepts such as motivation through a methodology of rearticulation. For this, we build on the idea developed in the (broadly) Vygotskian tradition of the self as mediated by cultural artifacts in activity, viewed as a transformative social process that reconfigures sense and meaning. We aim at suggesting these potentials by rearticulating activities in which people display (represent, avow, reflect, expose, externalize, etc.) their motives. Most contemporary ‘motivational technologies’ stage a pragmatic self-calculation. For some, these technologies confirm a common-sense, managerial self; others read them as a ‘poetics of practice’ that performs and produces new motives and selves in a liminal space of discursive creativity. These two readings are superseded as we – with art theory from Vygotsky through Brecht to Groys, Bourriaud and Rancière – consider drug counsellors’ experiments with aesthetic practices of self-display in which sense is reconfigured as dis-sensus, as meaning deferred. Aesthetics provide a lense through which we can appreciate how an artifact-mediation can be also a struggle for recognition that reconstitutes emerging selves, senses, and motives.

Author Biography

Tine Friis, Medical Museion, Copenhagen

Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen


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How to Cite
Nissen, M., & Friis, T. (2020). Recognizing motives: The dissensual self. Outlines. Critical Practice Studies, 21(02), 89-135. Retrieved from