Is There a Place in Human Consciousness Where Surveillance Cannot Go? Noor: A Brain Opera

光:一曲大腦歌劇 — 人類意識中是否有一個監控無可觸及之處?

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date15 Aug 2017


Noor: A Brain Opera is the world’s first EEG brainwave enabled opera. It is based on my research into the increase of network surveillance coupled with global governmental funding that aims to map every neuron in the human brain over the next few decades. I situate this mapping with the rise of the posthuman, or biologically based human animal that is incrementally merging with both computerized machines and biological interfaces. According to Katherine Hayles, the posthuman or cyborg is indicative of new human terrain. I argue that it emerges from the same forces that created ubiquitous network surveillance, which will ultimately surveil consciousness and the brain. My argument draws on the origins of discipline and surveillance as expressed by the writings of Michel Foucault, and control societies enabled by the rise of the digital to enhance ubiquitous surveillance, as theorized by Gilles Deleuze. Surveillance and the posthuman intersect with consciousness, as consciousness will have the potential to be policed and controlled. Consciousness is further analyzed through its linguistic, philosophical, functional, sensate, and innate biological structures. Also investigated are the theories of the “core”, or neural correlates of consciousness, the discussion of qualia (the ‘isness’ of things), and quantum consciousness linked to the granular nature of qualia.

Using a consumer grade brain computer interface (BCI) headset I created “Noor: A Brain Opera” to rhetorically ask, “Is There A Place In Human Consciousness Where Surveillance Cannot Go? ” I produced the opera using methodologies based upon Donald Schon’s The Reflective Practitioner with his arts practice as research, and Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory (ANT), gathering my data and analyzing my experiences by keeping over 300 pages of detailed logs. “Noor” employed an Emotiv EEG brainwave headset that measured a performer’s brainwaves using preset emotional thresholds of interest, excitement, meditation and frustration. These key findings included proof in the form of the opera that these emotions could be used to launch databanks of videos, a sonic environment and a libretto. The performer’s brainwaves were displayed in real-time while interacting with an audience inside a 360-degree immersive theater. This opera suggests that the posthuman, consciousness and surveillance are coalescing at an accelerated rate. My thesis expands the known ability of brain computer interfaces (BCIs) as a tool for creative arts practices. It provides a foundation for future research into using brain signals as the primary driver in building multi-model performances.

    Research areas

  • Brain Computer Interfaces, surveillance, consciousness, post human, eeg