Walking the Commons / Brainwave Flaneur

Brainwave Flaneur Neural Cartography In The City Of Seoul

Utilizing low-cost EEG (electroencephalography) and geo-spatial tracking, the Brainwave Flaneur project correlates measured brain responses to curated environments situated throughout the city of Seoul. The use of EEG in-situ, or "in the wild", is a new frontier in neuroscience abetted by advances in mobile computing, increased robustness in sensors and new data processing capabilities. By measuring the evoked neural responses of multiple participants to prototypical and specific urban forms and conditions we can visualize a hidden cognitive impact of the built environment. 

The project focuses on the brain waves that speak to a fundamental aspect of living in cities: stress. The Beta and Theta brainwaves in particular are linked to ability to downshift the brain into a more relaxed state of mind. By engaging citizen scientists through participatory workshops and gathering a critical mass of data, we can look at how contemporary design strategies and components in architecture and urbanism can augment our cognitive experience of space.

The headsets that power the project are the product of OpenBCI, a NYC based technology startup that it democratizing access to this technology and empowering researchers and creatives all over the world to incorporate neural feedback and monitoring into their projects. The OpenBCI system is a 3d printed headset with a powerful bio-feedback sensor. 
Workshops offered to the public began with an educational introduction to the technology and a hands-on experience with a BCI (brain computer interface). Workshop participants did a simple biofeedback exercise in a comfortable setting then traveled to a nearby site for an in-situ observation period.  

Zones of study were located throughout the city, mirroring the biennale's city-wide siting. Zones featured vastly different landscapes ranging from elevated to underground pedestrian thoroughfares, sites of intense commerce as well as a dynamic arts complex, the Dongdaemun Design plaza. We're especially interested to see to what degree sites provide feelings of safety and even sanctuary from urban overstimulation, as well as how specific design strategies, such as introducing bio-attuned elements, can shift attentional responses, mitigate stress or otherwise impact physical and mental well being.


Data Analyst : David Jangraw (Neuroscientis, National Institute of Mental Health)