Consciousness as Interface

consciousness as interface

Robert Fludd, The Mind of the Microcosm (1619)

or, to put into the earth the front part of the head, from the forehead to the chin

Judith Barda & Greg, And putting our head in it seemed meaningful to us in that moment. And it was. (2000 and something)


Beginning from an idea introduced by Thomas Metzinger that conscious experience is an interface, “a control device”, this exploratory workshop seeks to construct simple techniques and machines which may potentially be used to visualise such an interface. These will include flickering, stroboscopic circuits; copper and zinc plate batteries with electrodes to be attached to the eyelid; static amber discharge machines; and noise generators.


Metzinger parrallels conscious experience as a virtual reality, living in a “virtual world”, and states that conscious experience ”functions by creating a user interface…It filters information, has a high bandwidth, is unambiguous and reliable, and generates a sense of presence…The Ego is a special part of this virtual reality. By generating an internal image of the organism as a whole, it allows the organism to appropriate its own hardware. It is evolutions answer to the need for explaining one's inner and outer actions to oneself, predicting one's behaviour, and monitoring critical systems properties. Finally, it allows the system to depict internally the history of its actions as its own history.1) It is this notion of the conscious mind and experience as a virtual user interface I am interested in and if it is possible to visualise such an interface.

We use this interface constantly as it is part of us, but what happens if we can visualise it? To actually see ourselves visualising our selves; navigating our Ego; consciously observing our own perceptual mechanisms at work? In order to try and visulise our own virtual user interface we must construct techniques and equipment to enable us to direct our experience at the world and ourselves at the same time, thus viewing our own body as subject.2)



consciousness : being aware of an external object or something within oneself


interface : a device or program enabling a user to communicate with a computer

interface : a surface forming a common boundary between two portions of matter or space

inter : to put into the earth

face : the front part of the head, from the forehead to the chin


Our entire reality has become experimental. In the absence of any stable destiny, modern man has reached the point of unlimited experimentation on himself. Jean Baudrillard (2001)

Your finger is a finger, your eye is a mouse

or, your eye is an eye and your finger is a mouse.

If in the morning, on waking, when the eye is very susceptible, we look intently at the bars of a window relieved against the dawning sky, and then shut our eyes or look towards a totally dark place, we shall see a dark cross on a light ground before us for some time. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1810)

Goethe's Theory of Colours, although discredited and considered a misunderstanding of Newtonian optics, was based on the premise that colour was the result of a mixture of dark and light. The use of extreme light and extreme dark are critical to the proceeding experiments with stroboscopic light. Goethe's theory delved into human perception, colour and the individuals ability to “see”. There are several examples, such as the one noted above, which anyone can reproduce. Such techniques in relation to the conscious interface treat the eye, light and dark as the graphical user interface (GUI). We will also understand that the finger is a finger and the eye is a mouse by introducing some of Jan Purkyně's self-experiments. Through doing these techniques we will sketch the various after images imprinted on the retina.


to do

[C,H,O]-[Fe++Fe+++2O4]-[Zn]-[Cu] + Acid + Eye

or, sending an electric current into your eye.

After doing the preliminary schematic sketches for the consciousness GUI, electricity will be introduced.

Electrcity can be traced back to ancient Greece where the mineral amber, when rubbed by cloth, was found to attract and repel light weight objects. It is allegedly Thales of Miletus (624-546 BC) who discovered this through experimenting with amber and lodestone.

The construction of the first machine to aid in the visualisation of a conscious interface will therefore be based on the static electric properties of amber. As well as simply rubbing amber with fur and placing them on closed eyelids to see if any images are generated, we will attempt to build an electrostatic generator with the amber and attach electrodes to the eyelids. Experiments will also be conducted with lodestone.

Subjective visual phenomena, Purkyně (1819)

Anatomist and phsyiologist Jan Evangelista Purkyně (1787-1869) experimented in depth with subjective visual phenomena and constructed a battery with copper and zinc plates attaching electrodes to various areas of his head, including the eye, which produced fast flashing images.3) The battery was most probably a voltaic pile. This experiment will be recreated as a machine to generate the GUI of consciousness.

Purkyně's drawings relate closely to the below experiments with stroboscopic light and the visual images produced.


to do

Opening flicker portals in optic nerve fibres

or, staring directly into a high powered stroboscopic light firing at around 15-25 flashes per second.

Unusual visual images perceived when observing flickering light have been known of and well documented for sometime. Gustav Fechner (1801-1877), the founder of psychophysics, observed colours in moving black and white patterns known as the Fechner colour effect. Purkinje made many studies into visual perception and noted a relation between Chladni figures and patterns observed in the eye.

Visual vertigo and flashing lights after use of foxglove, Purkinje (1825)

Chaldni figures

Example of Form Constant model

These images also resemble Heinrich Klüver's (1897-1979) Form constants, geometric visual patterns observed during hallucinations or altered states of consciousness. These images were also noted by Grey Walter in his experiments with flicker which were published in his book The Living Brain (1953) which inspired Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville to create the Dreamachine.

Stroboscopic patterns have been written about more recently in the sciences, for example, The Stroboscopic Patterns as Dissipative Structures by Steven Stwertka in 1992 and Stroboscopic visual training improves information encoding in short-term memory by Gregory Appelbaum in 2014.

This set of experiments will result in the construction of electronic circuits creating wearable stroboscopic goggles and the use of high powered strobocopes to access the consciousness GUI. The above images will be viewed, but they will be far more potent and psychedlic in color and intensity.


to do

Noise generators

or, noise generators.

…all wrest music out of a reasoned, ordered plane and thrust it back into the world of objects and raw materials. Joanna Demers, 2010

White noise generator, Alan Lippett 2004.

Through this set of experiments a series of noise generating circuits will be constructed, some of which will interact with the above experiments by converting the visual light into audible sound. It will also involve the creation of various instruments professed to interface with consciousness by various groups including QUANTEC who claim their “white-noise” diode and other instruments can be applied to benefit such diverse areas as management consultancy, coaching and counselling, agriculture and forestry, vetinary medicine, environment, Baubiologie & FengShu, and wellness and hotel (whatever that means).4)


to do

Engaging the Holoflux

or, upon reaching a heightened state of awareness of conscious experience flowing around you, allow yourself to fall into the wormhole.

We create, and we are created by, our myths. It is through our personal and collective myths that we explore our own identity, the nature of the world around us, and our connection with past and future. Richard Mann, 1974

…the holoflux includes the ultimately flowing nature of what is, and of that which forms therein. David Bohm, ????

Engaging the holoflux will be the final part of the workshop in which particpants will create some kind of performance framed within holographic theories of David Bohm and Karl Pribram. Bohm proposed that the universe is in some sense a holographic structure, and Pribram proposed that consciousness is dependent on holographic structure. Hopefully this holographic structure will become visible and is the same, or at least similar, to the idea that through these experiments we will be able to visualise a conscious interface.


to do

Date and location

Saturday 10th October & Sunday 11th October 2015, 12 midday - 7pm.

Room 18, Floor 19, Block B, Wah Tat Industrial Centre, Kwai Hing, Hong Kong.

Cost: Pay what you want

Please email to reserve a place.

Information for participants

Please note: this workshop may not be suitable for people suffering from photosensitive epilepsy. If you do suffer from this, or any related condition, and would like to take part in the workshop please contact me to discuss further.

Things to bring with you:

  • coloured pencils or pens
  • paper/notebook
  • soldering iron if you have one
  • anything you think will be of use or interest

The workshop requires no prior knowledge or training in anything. However, if you are experienced in any of the topics or related fields it would be good if you would like to join the workshop and contribute your knowledge.



  • Bache, Christopher. Dark night, early dawn : steps to a deep ecology of mind, Albany, N.Y. : State University of New York Press, 2000.
  • Baclé, Louis-Lucien. Future life in the light of ancient wisdom and modern science, Chicago : A.C. McClurg & Co., 1906.
  • Bohm, David. Thought as a system, London ; New York : Routledge, 1994.
  • Crone, Robert. A history of color : the evolution of theories of lights and color, Boston, MA : Kluwer Academic, 1999.
  • Draaisma, Douwe. Metaphors of Memory: a history of ideas about the mind, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Geiger, John. Chapel of extreme experience : a short history of stroboscopic light and the dream machine, Brooklyn, NY : Soft Skull Press, 2003.
  • Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Theory of colours, Cambridge, Mass. : M.I.T. Press, 1970.
  • Mann, Richard. The light of consciousness : explorations in transpersonal psychology, Albany, N.Y. : State University of New York Press, 1984.
  • Metzinger, Thomas. The Ego Tunnel : The Science of The Mind and the Myth of The Self, New York : Basic Books, 2009.
  • Newton, Isaac. Opticks; or, A treatise of the reflections, refractions, inflections & colours of light. Based on the 4th ed., London, 1730;, New York : Dover Publications, 1952.
  • Pickering, Andrew. The cybernetic brain : sketches of another future, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2010.
  • Pylkkänen, Paavo. Mind, matter, and the implicate order, Berlin ; New York : Springer, 2007.
  • Schroll, Mark. Understanding Bohm's holoflux: Clearing up a conceptual mistunderstanding of the holographic paradigm and clarifying its signifigance to transpersonal studies of consciousness, International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, v32 n1 : pp.140-163. 2013.
  • United States Bureau of Naval Personnel. Basic electricity, New York : Dover Publications, 1970.
  • Yantis, Steven (ed.). Visual Percpetion : essential readings, Philideliphia : Psychology Press, 2001.
  • Zielinski, Siegfried. Deep time of the media : toward an archaeology of hearing and seeing by technical means, Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 2006.

Related works

  • Judith Barda & Greg. And putting our head in it seemed meaningful to us in that moment. And it was. (2000 and something)
1) Metzinger, Thomas. The Ego Tunnel: The Science of The Mind and the Myth of The Self, New York: Basic Books, 2009. pp104-105.
2) This again refers to Metzingers' writing about virtual out of body experiences and self-hood. See the Ego Tunnel pp 98-104.
3) Zielinski, S. (2006). Deep time of the media: toward an archaeology of hearing and seeing by technical means. Cambridge: MIT Press. p197.
consciousness_as_interface.txt · Last modified: 2015/10/07 02:00 by r
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