Marina Frangiadaki – Cry translator…… A great pocket mother?


Is your baby hungry? Does he want to sleep? Does he want its pacifier? Or does his diaper need to be changed?  

The cry translator has the answer.

Software on smartphones and other gadgets, available at low prices, translates your baby’s will.

Moreover, you will soon be able to detect even your own depression with software qualified as a “pocket clinic”. With the help of informatics, science seems to be at the service of the consumer.  

The cry translator is a software created already ten years ago. For two years, two researchers from Taiwan University collected 200,000 cries from about a hundred newborns. The data were then analyzed, compared and sorted, and allowed different cries to be related to the needs expressed by babies in order to create the software’s database. The application promises reliable and scientific results to parents, “desperate by their baby’s cries to translate their meaning”, according to the commercial site presenting the application (1).

Faced with the baby’s cries, the mother is appealed to incarnate the maternal Other, the Other of love. Psychoanalysis teaches us that at that moment no supposed maternal instinct can be its support. In the world of speaking beings, the baby’s cries cannot be heard only as a request to satisfy his needs.

“The possibility of connecting the real relationship to a symbolic relationship” (2) requires some conditions.  The subject’s cry must be heard at the level of the appeal. The Other constitutes himself as such by presenting herself as desiring, which is, lacking.  “What matters,” Dr. Lacan points out, “are the failures, the disappointments, that affect the maternal omnipotence. “» (3)

The so-called maternal love can then come to express itself, in its dimension of gift beyond the satisfaction of needs, as a substitute for the gap that the non-relationship opens for the speaking beings. “Still, she – the mother – must be able to find resources- other than biological resources- to be able to meet the challenge as a mother, without the help of any instinctual formula whose writing is lacking in humans” (4). This type of software would respond to the anxiety brought to light by this gap in knowledge.

A new version of this application is being prepared under the name, iCry2Talk (“I cry to talk”). In order to create better informed algorithms, the research team uses “experienced mothers” (sic) to send the recording of their babies’ screams and their interpretations of them. We then listen to the researchers’ appeal to learn from the mothers’ own translation capacity.  The illusion would consist in making the singularity of each subject-mother pass to the rule of the universal under the guarantee of scientism.

Translation : Jeroen Sollie
Re-read by Lorena Hojman Davis

  2. Jacques Lacan, “Le séminaire, livre IV, La relation d’objet” (1956-57), ed. Seuil, 1994, Paris, p. 67
  3. Ibid, p. 69
  4. Esthela Solano-Suarez, “maternité blues”, in “Être Mère”, ed Navarin/ Champ freudien, 2014, Paris, p.68
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