PrayStation

Peace is an ideal, difcult to attain, harder to maintain. Conficts and negotiations are tied to the fnite nature of the world. Resources are limited and sharing them has caused tensions since times immemorial. With PrayStation 2, Justin Love and Philippe Pasquier explore ISEA2017’s theme through an interactive EEG-based video installation.

The piece consists in an initially empty digital canvas, a prayer dial and an electro- encephalogram (EEG) headset. The user is invited to put the headset on and select the belief system that best corresponds to its spirituality amongst the eight most popular ones: Christianity, Islam, Agnostic, Atheism, Hinduism, Chinese Folk and Confucianism, Buddhism, and Animism. The user is then invited to pray, meditate or focus. The system analyzes a user’s brainwaves for activity that is similar to praying or meditation, tracking levels of relaxation and focus [1, 2]. As the user reaches the appropriate mental state, virtual agents, a few pixels in size, appear on the canvas and start painting an iconic image representative of the chosen belief system. The more focused the user gets, the faster the agents work, the more relaxed the user gets, the larger the agents are thus impacting the canvas more.

The agents stay alive for some time trying to conquer, and convert, as much of the canvas as they can. Throughout the day, as gallery visitors try the installation and pray, a variety of agent colonies and imagery representative of the various beliefs systems chosen by the participants, will compete to conquer this large, but fnite canvas.

On one level, the piece acts as a metaphor for memetic and the competition between beliefs systems. On another, PrayStation 2 is reifying prayers and gives concrete evidence of our spiritual existence, thus confrming our communion with the intangible. As such, PrayStation puts forward the idea of technology-as-placebo for spiritual or existential comfort and raises questions about the limitations of technology.

[1] L. I. Aftanas and S. A. Golocheikine, Human interior and frontal midine theta and lower alpha refect emotionally positive state and internalized attention, high-resolution EEG investigation of meditation. Neuroscience Letters, 310 (1):57-60, 2001.

[2] N. P. Azari, J. Nickel, G. Wunderlich, M. Niedeggen, H. Hefter, L. Tellmann, H. Herzog, P. Stoerig, D. Bimbacher, and R. J. Sietz. Neurocorrelates of religious experience, European Journal of Neuroscience, 13 (8): 1649-52, 2001.