A few months ago we presented the Electronic Man, a global performance created in occasion of Marshall McLuhan’s centennial celebrations, held throughout the planet.

The Electronic Man

The Electronic Man

A conceptual and theoretical analysis of the project has been accepted for presentation at the Planetary Collegium‘s annual conference: Consciousness Reframed 12 “Presence in the Mindfield” 

Here below, the abstract we presented for the conference/publication:

Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie “Modern Times” shows human beings changing the ways in which they perceive the world by establishing contact with a new set of technologies.

Time-keeping devices are possibly the most effective agents of change represented in the movie: visually ubiquitous, these devices have had radical impact on lives of human beings well out of the walls of industry, drastically changing our perception of time in ways that are not only powerful and all-encompassing, but also very intimate, influencing the very structure of the our perception of the world.

“Time” is now a machine-mediated experience in our whole lives, from as soon as we wake up in the morning by listening to an alarm sound.

Our sense of time is not the only one changed by technologies, as our experiences of space, our vision, our proprioception have changed as well, and several entirely new senses have emerged since the entrance of digital technologies and networks in our daily lives.

This concept can be framed into the wider set of theories connected to Neuroplasticity, starting from the early insights of William James (1890), up to the experiments of Ramachandran in the beginning of the 1990’s, to the studies of Merzenich and Jenkins (1990) and to the analysis of behavioural consequences of synaptic rewiring by Doidge.

We joined the worldwide celebrations of the centennial of Marshall McLuhan’s birth, in 2011 with an act of global performance art by investigating and enacting the scenarios for the emergence of new, externalized senses through the use of ubiquitous technologies.

McLuhan’s theory of the Electronic Man according to which the “Electronic man like pre-literate man, ablates or outers the whole man. His information environment is his own central nervous system” (McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969) was juxtaposed to de Kerckhove’s description of how “we are invited to refine our proprioception to extend our point of being (rather than our point of view) from wherever we are to wherever technically extended senses can allow us to reach” (The Skin of Culture, 1997).

The objective was to envision, design and realize a global system which would enact a digital sense, externalized on a mobile device such as a smartphone.

Stickers connecting to the performance through a QRCode were disseminated across cities in the world. By scanning the QRCode people can join in the performance. Whenever anyone interacts with the performance, all the smartphones of the other participants vibrate, thus establishing an instantaneous neo-tactile sense.

More than 35000 people joined in the performance, across continents, nations, languages and cultures.

The paper will analyze the methodology, design and implementation of the performance. The analysis and evaluation of the results of the performance will be also disclosed and described, from the point of view of the possibility to create new synthetic, accessible, usable and effective senses externalized onto digital devices, extending people’s sensorial experience of the world to their global info-scape.

And here below is the information about the conference:


PRESENCE IN THE MINDFIELD: Art, Identity and the Technology of Transformation

12th Consciousness Reframed International Research Conference

The conference will look at the exploration of the plurality of self through which we navigate the actual and virtual universes of our making. Transdisciplinary discourse, the adoption of new technologies, the invisible forces and fields of the sciences, the recuperation of abandoned metaphysical and spiritual models of being, can all find expression within the context of this conference.

Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal

November 30 to December 2, 2011.

Organisation: Skilled Art Project

In cooperation with the Planetary Collegium, University of Plymouth, England, Fábrica das Artes, CCB, Lisbon and Artshare, Aveiro, Portugal


CLICK HERE to find the full list of presenters