A virtual reality experience about anxiety and detachment.
Participant wears a breath sensor strapped to their waist, and a 3D head-mount, and get temporarily transported into a virtual world, running through grey abstract streets between sharp buildings, gradually submerged under the sea. A human voice then reassures the participant to not be afraid, and use deep breathing to detach and escape beyond what their eyes can see. It’s been described by participants as “a very emotional, cathartic experience”. Not about sound bites and who can shout loudest and who wins and who loses, FLOW is an alternative new-media experience that attempts to bring back one of the most essential human qualities – the ability, through self-reflection, to detach from the physicalities around us, and transcend consciousness.
On Jun 2nd, 2011, a Beijing based journalist Peter Foster filed an article in the Technology section of the Telegraph – A 17-year-old Chinese boy sold his kidney for an iPad2 and an iPhone. Growing up with messages that I’am incompetent to make our own decisions, and that I will never be happy enough, the fantasy of rugged individualism start to sound particularly attractive. Today, I are working longer hours, buying more things, consuming more food and resources, but I are increasingly feeling exhausted, unfulfilled, and scared. I are running out of time competing against ourselves and each other. As new media artists, I ask the question - Is there a way to use new media technology to direct our attention inward, to be our own spectators, and remediate our relationship with our less conscious self?
I have always been interested in how new-media technology can help people gather more information to answer the questions – What am I like? What are my irrational thoughts and emotions that I wasn’t aware of? I was influenced by Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert’s research on synthetic happiness. In a recent study about human mind wandering (M.A.Killingsworth & D.T.Gilbert, 2000), Dr. Gilbert points out that people’s mind wander frequently, and people are in general less happy when their mind wander, regardless of what activities they are engaging in. The concept of mindlessness inspired my further research into ancient eastern philosophy, particularly techniques for practicing detachment, such as meditation, mantra, breathing techniques etc. I have also conducted research on biofeedback therapy and virtual reality immersion therapy (VRIT). A study conducted by Rauch, Eftekhari and Ruzek (McLay, et al., 2012) examined the effectiveness of Virtual Reality Therapy in treating military combat personnel recently returning from the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. With a sample of 42 combat servicemen who were already diagnosed with chronic PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), 20 of the servicemen observed a significant decrease of symptoms of PTSD after receiving Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy. Additional information about binaural and biofeedback testing can be found HERE.