Josh Berson Cartographies of Vigilance
Hi, so today I want to talk about a project which does not yet exist, or rather it has been funded, it’s actually starting. But it’s just getting started, so I’m going to give you some background.
So a couple of years ago I broke my foot and at first I thought this was a great calamity, but it turned out to be one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me, because it gave me the chance to explore the arrhythmic quality of our movements, and how the arrhythmic quality of movement over a number of timescales, from taking a single step up to the circadian day and beyond. It’s implicated in how we experience the world and our social relations.
So I want to talk about how I got from self-observation to the view that to really understand our rhythms of activity at rest and motor readiness or motor vigilance. We need to take an environmental review.
So at the same time as I was learning to walk with crutches I was also using a light box, and in 2009 I experienced what was the second episode of major depression. A year after I got over that, a year after I recovered I moved to Berlin, and after that first winter in Berlin, I decided okay, I’m going to get a light box because otherwise the winters will crush me.
Then a year and a half ago I came across a Valkee light simulation device, designed very obviously to resemble an iPod. And I started to think, well, a lot of people are investing a more energy than they used to into managing their motors of rhythm vigilance, and why is that.
So what are the underlying environmental causes?
Okay, the third thing that happened around that time was after I got over that depression, I found myself suddenly highly un-trainable. All of a sudden I wanted to listen to dance music all the time, and practically anything could make me dance. But my personality as you can see kind of hypomanic.
So I was exploring these dramatic changes over a number of timescales right, the two beat her second walking rhythm, and the circadian rhythm, and eventually I decided I need to start doing something more active. So I started writing pixel shaders to explore translating the rhythmic oscillation movement from one-dimensional into another. This is from an installation we have going up in Mumba about a year from now, so you’re all invited.
Well, I’m not alone right in spending a lot more time focused on vigilance rhythms, and certainly in this room a lot of people are looking at this from a self-quantification or a self-observation perspective, whether it’s by wearing accelerometer bands that were first designed 35 years ago to measure mortar variation in vigilance in people with rapid cycling bipolarism, or whether it is through light stimulation, non-therapeutic light stimulation.
But if you want to ask, what are the underlying environmental phenomena that are causing us to make vigilance management a central part of our self-care. But you can’t look at that as an individual phenomenon. You have to think of it as a phenomenon that of our niche, of the environment we construct.
So you can’t actually study this by looking through self-quantification, and you can’t study it in a lab. You need to actually go out into the world and look at the environment that we are constructing, and you need to ask the values that we are bringing to the niche construction process right.
Who has a say in creating the environment and defining the fitness criteria of the environment that we are creating for our qualities of movement, right. Who has a say in creating our somatic niche, the niche that defines how we hold, move, and display and experience our bodies. And how can we expand this circle of people who have a say in defining that somatic niche, or in defining what is a good way that we hold and move our bodies.
So what we really need are not just lab studies, we need cartography of motor vigilance, cartography of our rhythms and rest activities. Well, as I was thinking about this some friends came to me and said hey, could you actually design a study for us for this big thing in London that we are putting together.
So that’s what we are doing. Starting in the fall in London we are going to be running a two-year study from the Welcome Trust to create cartographies of our rest and activity. We are holding a breakout session this afternoon to discuss this and to start planning it, and the methods for this study are inspired by the Quantified Self. So I would love it if all of you would come to the breakout session and help was talk about what kinds of measures we should be collecting, and how you create the panel for this study.