[-empyre-] The Self and Post-Reality

B. Bogart ben at ekran.org
Sat Jan 18 04:41:32 EST 2014

Hello all,

I just had to jump in here on this sub-thread as it very deeply
resonates with the current work I am doing.

In my current PhD project I'm looking at the (neurological) mechanisms
of dreaming as inspiration to develop a generative site-specific artwork
(Context Machine). It turns out that the current neurological and
cognitive theories of dreaming come right to the core of the relation
between reality, perception and even self.

I began with one of the most prominent theories of dreaming, that is the
AIM theory of dreaming developed by J.A. Hobson. The jist of the theory
is that signals originating in the brain-stem stimulate sensory regions
of the brain such that they generate "virtual reality simulations"
(Indeed Hobson does actually use the word phrase). This virtual reality
has obvious adaptive value, as it allows the dreamer to experience
stressful or dangerous situations without actually being in peril (See
Revensuo for a theory of nightmares as prototypical dreams). One of the
really interesting things here is that Hobson considers the experience
in this virtual reality (dream) as the mechanism by which the
"protoself" develops. The thought is that the unconscious (or at least
unintentional) actions in the dream are taken responsibility and
accounted for by a developing self. Part of this argument is because REM
sleep decreases over a life-time, and foetuses and infants spend much of
their time in REM sleep, presumably developing their selves.

In my own work I've taken multiple theories of dreaming, mental imagery,
mind-wandering and perception and developed an Integrative Theory. The
jist of the conclusion is continuity between perception, dreaming and
mind-wandering. Dreaming is not a special case of cognition, but rather
is what our brains are always doing. It's just that when we are oriented
to particular tasks, or flooded with sensory information, we attend to
"task positive" processes. In the current conception (in development)
dreams are a pure the exploitation of a predictive model of the world
that is trained during perception. The effects of prediction on
perception (priming effects), and limitations of the sensory ability of
our eyes are well known and expose the constructedness of perceptual
images. What we perceive is quite far from what our eyes see.

In short, we are always living in virtual realities. Our perception is a
simulation more than anything else, just a simulation highly anchored
and correlated with sensory information. When we mind-wander or dream,
the absence of that sensory anchoring causes the simulator to slide away
from reality, partially due to it's imperfect representation of the
world. Not only are we living in simulations of our own construction,
but perhaps our very sense of self is a result of that process of

I thought an artistic-neurological perspective could be nice to include

B. Bogart

On 14-01-07 02:51 PM, Alan Sondheim wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> - Hi Kevin, I wanted to quote you, but in the linux terminal I'm using,
> your text disappears! I'll do my best. Apologies for my terminal
> condition...
> Kevin writes:
> "Alan, your response gives us much to consider, and I agree that ?the
> clarity of virtual worlds? as described by some is ?disturbing.?  Some
> of what you write reminds me of artist Randall Packer?s notion of a
> third-space, post-reality. While I appreciate works that
> create/demonstrate this collapse between the real and the virtual, I
> also think that this is an opportunity to go beyond that model of
> ?unmasking,? a model that embraces making?invention?that escapes >
> ?protocols, scripts?, etc."
> -- I'm not advocating a post-reality or any other temporality, however;
> I'm saying these conditions have always already existed. It's not a
> collapse, it's not something that _occurs_ that way; it's continuous. So
> that 'going beyond,' or 'unmasking' - all these verbs - for me, this has
> already existed; technology may foreground it, but it's always been there.
> "Alluding to the work of Eric Havelock, Walter Ong, and Greg Ulmer, part
> of the problem with many discussions on the ?self? is that this concept
> might be outdated, outmoded, in the digital.  We forget that the ?self?
> is itself an invented concept?one that has become pinned down and
> mythologized from print cultures.  As we continue our digital turn,
> artists, programmers, designers, philosophers, etc. need carve a new
> path towards not a new definition of the self but a new concept
> altogether."
> -- But I'm not discussing selves or self, I say "In relation to Stelarc,
> I wonder if he does not _have_ a body, and even the particulation of the
> body - does not this reflect something beyond or behind us? And what
> selves are there, and are there shelves, not selves?" - in other words,
> shifting the discourse from self to shelves, avatar shells in other
> words, choice - this has nothing to do with a "new definition of the
> self" but everything to do with inventory in virtual worlds as well as
> the smeared phenomenology of that inventory.
> -- Btw, it wasn't a spelling error but deliberate trope. Could you say
> something more about OOO in relation to all of this? I haven't read it
> (other than in relation to programming) -
> Thanks greatly, Alan
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