Brain as a language in the Future
After the Tower of Babel
One of the most aspiring communication approach without words and languages is a message for extraterrestrial life. In 1977, NASA launched Voyager Golden Record which are symbolic messages to the space. This enigmatic disk contains more than 100 symbolic pictures of human being, animals, human anatomy, multilingual greetings and natural sounds. As human being did not know the communication style of addressee, they prepared non-literature messages. On the other hand, most part of communication is composed of languages and words. People uses various types of communication tools such as Facebook chat and Skype video message. As for these communicational messages, there is an significant limiting condition, language barrier. However, there are various different types of communication using different sensory such as odor and temperature (Classen, 2005). This installation idea focuses on wordless communication among people in cerebral and synesthestic way.
Concepts of the installation
The narrative of the installation is based on three concepts. The fist one is “brain as a language”, which means that human brains will be able to communicate with each other without words in the future. For instance, some science fiction novelists such as Sir Arthur Charles Clark, Robert Anson Heinlein and Stanisław Lem have proposed characteristics of future human being or extraterrestrial lives. They can share their emotions and thoughts without uttering. Second concept is “coding and decoding in non-oral communication”. For communication between brains, it is significant to apply the way of coding and decoding in these communication. The last idea is “synesthesia”. Brains behaves as a switch of different senses. As invisible feedback from brains have no receiver unlike five senses, the installation needs to convert them into cognitive stimuli.
This one way communication transfers messages from previous participants to next participants as long as there are audience. It would be similar to a telephone game. Some message would convey same emotions, and others would evoke totally different emotions. Brains continues to transfer messages to other brains with changing their messages.
Step 1 : Searching for stimuli
The first exploration starts at searching for stimuli which evoke shareable emotions or meanings. For instance, scratch sounds on the blackboard tend to irritate people. Also, it is seemed that bell sounds in temples make them meditate. All input and output is saved, and clarified relationship between specific external stimuli and emotions. To achieve this purpose, research of non oral communication might be useful.
Communication without language
In the human history, people have tried to communicate with each other without languages. Morse code represents alphabet using just two sounds. Also, lighthouses have communicate with ships lights. Aboriginal Australian have “song lines” or ” dreaming track” which are routes relate to creators of creatures. Song lines is a system to travel across severe Australian wild land without risk of lost. Songs which describes landmarks, dangers and characteristics of each path have been passed down by word of mouth. Sound pitch is one of the most significant point in song lines because some specific pitch evoke scary or frustrate feelings. It is hard for strangers to understand wordless and enigmatic messages. However, these signals evoke some feeling such as briskness and spookiness even though they do not know these actual meanings. If there are stimuli which allowed people to share same or similar feelings, it will be wordless word.
Relationship between specific external stimuli and emotions are recorded in a comparison table for translation from feedback to next stimuli in Step 3.
Step 2 : Representation of feedback from the brain
Next step is the conversion from brain reaction to cognitive output such as visualization and sounds. EEG headset reads four different kinds of emotions strength; excitement, engagement, frustration and meditation. To demonstrate these emotions effectively, the installation utilizes the research of synesthesia.
External stimuli such as sound, visualization and smell are applied to specific sensory receptors. However, some people’s brains apply stimuli to different modality and cognitive pathway as they received stimuli. This neurological phenomenon called synesthesia shows that sensory discordance brings people to unusual impressive experience. According to Daniel Hammet who is well known as an autistic savant and “the Brain man”, he feels color, emotion and personality when he sees words and number.
Even though synesthesia is a controversial phenomenon in terms of verification difficulties, the basic idea that one stimuli provide unusual sensory reactions. For instance, Wassily Kandinsky drawed music composition on canvases. This feedback needs to be cognitive and suggestive for other audience (visualization and sounds might be feasible). Furthermore, emotion kinds and value size are significant for next step.
Step 3. Coding brain’s feedback to stimuli
The final step is coding brain’s feedback to stimuli for next participants. It is similar to translation in different languages. In this step, installation team uses the comparison table of stimuli and emotions. According to the table, feedback messages are translated into stimuli for next audience. As the table is based on hypothesis, it needs to be modified and improved continuously during numerous experimentations. After translation, new message made by previous brain’s feedback will be transferred to newt audience.
- Chatwin, B. 1987. The Songlines. London. Jonathan Cape.
- Classen, C. 2005. McLuhan in the rainforest: the sensory world of oral cultures. In D. Howes (ed.), Empire of the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader: 147-163. Oxford. Berg.
- Harrison, J. 2001. Synaesthesia: The Strangest Thing. Oxford. Oxford University Press.
- Ingold, T. 2000. The Perception of the Environment. London and New York, Routedge.
- NASA. 2014. Golden Record [Online] Available from: voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/sounds.html [Accessed: 26th February 2014].