Using fMRI the process collects calibrating data from volunteers who are watching short video clips, and uses this data to later predict the visual content of what they are currently watching. The result is a ghostly image created from an amalgam of videos, which has a quality to its blurriness as if peering into someones thoughts through a glass darkly.
From the article:
In the long term, the hope is that such technology could be used to build brain-machine interfaces that would allow people with brain damage to communicate by thinking and having those thoughts translated through a computer, Gallant said. Potentially, you could measure brain activity during dreams or hallucinations and then watch these fanciful states on the big screen.
This study is a few years old and one can only imagine the process has become keener in its predictive abilities. The possibility that such a process could "see" into the dream images of an active brain is an exciting proposition and is what I find of most relevance to the project for which this blog was created.
One of the goals of this project was to recreate a sense of "consciousness" through the juxtaposition of short online videos and to conceptually connect the functions of human memory with media-based "memory". The question at hand amounts to: Is the activation of media based memory through mechanical means essentially relatable to human thought? And, if that thought could be seen and heard, what might it look and sound like? What about desires, beliefs and emotional states?
The study and the project are relatable in that they use the vast and growing store of online video as the basis from which to begin this synthesis, pulling these videos out of their original context and re-contextualizing them as the building blocks from which to peek into a consciousness otherwise unseen or un-see-able. One could imagine a more sophisticated version of the process used in the study could perhaps capture a lyrical moment or series of moments otherwise inexpressible through traditional art forms, one perhaps only possible though the cold machineries of "generative" computer based art.