Dialogue is a bi- or multilateral way of being actively engaged in a discourse. It preconditions the skills of being able to listen, understand and react to other people’s communication (whether explicit, meta or nonverbal).
In the time of social media, we seem to be continuously and exponentially involved in dialogues. We use text messages, video chat, post, reposts, live broadcasts, share stories, blogs and images to express ourselves and harvest information on others. Even if we are constantly connected, however, are also susceptible to several pathologies that negatively affect our ability to participate in meaningful exchange. Our information ecology (bubble) is not only cast away from people with different views, demographies and cultures, but also displays a tendency to reverberate itself within itself (echo chamber, narcissistic demeanors). While social media thrives on instant gratification and peer-review, it also delimits the range of interactions to simple emotions (like, love, haha, vow, sad, angry) and popularity index (sharing). If once words were carved in stone, now they present themselves as untethered matter in the circulation of prolific contents. Devalued, deprived of substance and consequence (e.g. „"What does it mean when he [Donald Trump] says words?”) they fail to be the measure of accountability and thoughtfulness.
The project: brain-to-brain
Weight of words is an endeavour to engage with the spoken word and reinstate ‘heaviness’ in the process of thought transfer. The project draws heavily on vocality as an interface and reinforces the mutual aspect of conversations by quite literally giving weight to the consequence of what has been said. The project breaks down and micro-targets the affective dynamics of interpersonal communication and instantly feeds back the reactions into the circular process.
Weight of Words concentrates on storytelling on the one part, and on its individual interpretation on the other. The interactive artwork invites two participants to sit down in chairs facing each other. One of the participants receives a virtual reality headset – he/she is the Speaker – , while on his/her partner’s head an Emotive Epoch brain sensor is mounted – he/she is the Listener. After the equipments are adjusted and set in operation, the assistants leaves the participants to explore the interaction in privacy. While the speaker is asked to make oral utterances (either to recite a shared memory, share a stream of consciousness or just utter dissociated words) she/he can directly measure the effect of his/her words on the receiver by observing the landscape in the virtual reality experience. In VR, a bucolic landscape is rendered in 3D with a huge stone floating above the head of the Speaker. The scene evokes the historic genre of the Romantic landscape by externalizing and reflecting the dynamics of sentiments. The landscape is in effect an abstract visualization of the brainwave activity of the Listener in real-time converted from the data generated by the brain sensor device.
The approach of the artwork underscores the concept of subjectivity under digital capitalism coined by the Wired Magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelley under the term „the quantified self”. It refers to the pool of data that can be generated on an individual on a daily basis in terms of inputs, states (mood, arousal) and performance (mental of physical).