Hallucination everywhere

Perception of the world is a “controlled hallucination.” That’s one of the main propositions of the recent book by neuroscientist Anil Seth, Being You: A New Science of Consciousness. For me the idea that the things we perceive in the world are conditioned by what we imagine, or project into it, accords with the phenomenology…More

Phenomenology and data

In 2013 a group of us published an article describing our early attempt to use head-mounted mobile EEG to gauge people’s emotional (affective) responses to spaces while on the move. Aspinall, Peter, Panagiotis Mavros, Richard Coyne, and Jenny Roe. “The urban brain: Analysing outdoor physical activity with mobile EEG.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 49,…More

Brainwalks

How can EEG (electroencephalography) help us understand people’s responses to outdoor environments? Due to its constraints, the technology lends itself to two tasks. The wearer of the head-mounted EEG technology is either (1) stationary in the environment, passively observing and listening, or (2) mobile. In the latter case, the EEG wearer just walks, slowly and deliberately. I…More

Mixed feelings

Here’s the grimy hull of an abandoned ship on an isolated beach surrounded by barbed wire and covered in rust and flaking graffiti. If you like that kind of ruin then you are drawn to it. If not you will probably keep away. You are either attracted or repelled; you approach or avoid. (My instinct was to approach.) To approach…More

The singularity paradox

In the movie Her (2013) by Spike Jonze, the operating systems of the world’s computers get together to improve each other’s cognitive functioning and then meld into a super mind that eventually takes over the universe, rendering human agency redundant. En route to this singularity, they lure the lonely and the lovestruck into an empathy trap. Ordinary people…More

After dark

It was an ordinary Friday night out in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, except that the two guys at the front of the group in the picture below are wearing brain-monitoring EEG headsets. The occasion was a workshop organised by Dorothea Kalogianni to coincide with a talk by visiting fellow Carlo Ratti, who runs the MIT Senseable City…More

Eye contact

TheOnion.com published a mockumentary about a “braindead” teenager who only communicates by rolling her eyes. She’ll never recover from the persistent vegetative state. So life termination is the only humane option. Making eye contact is a crucial social skill. There’s even advice online on how to do it. (See wickiHow.) It’s linked biologically to our survival as a…More

Where does happiness happen?

Where is the love? asked Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway back in 1972 (and The Black-Eyed Peas in 2009). It’s really a complaint — you offered me love but it never came. Where can you find love, happiness, anger, grief? It’s only a slightly different question: Where do emotions happen anyway? Here are some candidates. 1. It’s in our heads. The…More

How bored is your dog?

People have tried EEG on pumpkins, melons and dead fish. There’s no real evidence that it works on dogs, but it was worth a try. The dominant reading for Jasmine was excitement. This blog post is co-written with PhD student Dorothea Kalogianni. Electroencephalography (EEG) is a fascinating technology that measures the intensities of the key frequencies at which the human…More

Turning the corner

“…a turn in the drive; and suddenly a new and secret landscape opened before us.” This is Evelyn Waugh’s account of arrival at the Brideshead estate in Brideshead Revisited. I recall something similar when I once approached Blenheim Palace from the narrow streets in the village of Woodstock. Turning the corner from the Market Square…More