Presentation mid-term, Nov. 24th 2016
My goal is to investigate the extended brain experience by creating and engaging with material things to enhance the present moment as a way to channel stress through mindfulness.
To what extent can material things facilitate or amplify our connection to the present moment as a way to channel stress through mindfulness?
- the quality or state of being mindful
- the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis
Experience 1: Galvanic Skin response and mindful breathing
I wanted to reproduce the experience of “holding my mind into my palm” and “controlling it by letting go”, which I had while researching haptic neurofeedback with mockups.
This implies to have body signals related to stress and calm that manifest themselves in the behavior of the hand-held object. I chose to use Galvanic skin response because it is straight forward (the sensors measure a voltage difference in skin conductivity) and more stable than brain waves. Moreover, I can work with those signals without the help of an EEG expert.
It was actually my first real physical computing experience. I am quite happy because I didn’t know what I could reach.
First I had the data displayed on a graph to see the response. I experimented with the sensors at different times of the day or in various mind states. The exercise was to calm down, relax, concentrate on the breathing to stay in the present moment and be mindful. The result was expected (conductance voltage lowering as I was more mindful and calm.
I wanted to see if by focusing on the feedback it would facilitate or amplify the process. I focused on the graph, trying to “make it decrease” with my mind. It helped. This told me that having a haptic feedback would probably amplify as well.
So then I created thresholds to have different LEDs lit depending on the conductance voltage. The next step was to activate a vibration actuator and eventually an air pump (to create a “pulse”).
I was excited by the results, but to be honest these results were expected and known science (besides the haptic feedback as a way to amplify mindfulness) and I was more excited by the fact that I succeeded to program and assemble the electronics by myself.
The negative side of this experiment is that it took me time and as I was diving into this process, I often lost track of the purpose of this whole set-up (not to mention the permanent stress related to technology and programming).
Experiment 2: Amplifying the heart beat
In parallel I was trying to facilitate the connection to the present moment by being immersed in our own heart beat. I tried to amplify the sound using a contact microphone but nothing happened. I tried other microphones but what worked was a stethoscope. I made different versions: with a microphone, making the tube longer or shorter, improvised a PET stethoscope.
Expected result: I wanted to amplify the heartbeat a little like when we are under water and we can hear some of our inner sounds. I like listening to my heart with the stethoscope but it became quickly annoying (ears, echo, must hold it right, not touch the tube.
Idea: I wanted to experiment this in a wearable and have a textile speaker with a copper coil and a magnet (like on a glove) to bring the sound of the heart to the ear with the hand.
The thing is, I do this anyway by feeling my pulse, my heart with my hand. And it’s nicer.
Experiment 3: I am the forest (running meditation)
I include this experience become this is my real experience of extended mind. I run in the forest. When I run, I focus on my breathing and try to be mindful and connected to my steps, my posture, my pain and the forest.
When I breathe in, I feel that I am becoming the forest. When I breathe out, it is like a valve between my head and the rest of my body that is opening. Through that valve, all the stress flows through my whole body and goes back to the ground. Like electricity.
The forest is my filter, like a reset button.
Why do I bring this up? Because my mind extends itself into my body and into the trees. Not into the phone that I carry on my arm for the GPS and kilometer count.
I looked at these ancient practices and basic things – together with today’s technological solutions.
My intention was to consider the sensing and processing technology as the materiality of today (as opposed to the materiality the prayer beads of say, some hundreds years ago)
This is why I went with GSR etc.
But as I mentioned before, I started to drift away from my main purpose.
So I looked at my previous experiments and how they related to each other.
Stress – mindfulness/flow – Breathing making
Name them (without details)
I learned different things but they are all connected.
They bring me to the conclusion that agency in the context of stress and well-being is really about taking the time to
- Learn to be affected
- Move your body
- Do something you enjoy
- Meet people (face to face)
This also brings me to the conclusion that my social contribution cannot be to add another technological promise to relieve stress and increase the overpopulated world of things. What I want to contribute is my learning and knowledge as well as the experience.
So the focus of my work now is to write, document and illustrate my research in the form of a book. This book, my thesis, will be installed in the exhibition in a context that I will create for the visitor to experience a personal space isolated from the public and from the wireless network. The form of the book, the reading experience and the materiality defining the personal space (cocoon, carpet) have yet to be defined.
These are the next steps for the next presentation.
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