Most of us at this meeting are users – sometimes heavy users – of electronic and digital technology. We use it to present information to people in particular ways and forms in order to achieve a variety of purposes: to inform, communicate, engage, excite, challenge, influence, educate, entertain, and more. In what we do, we naturally tend to focus on technological concerns, seeking out faster hardware, brighter projectors, smarter interfaces, new combinations of media, and so on. In this talk I want to look at a rather neglected component of the whole process, something we take for granted simply because of our intimate familiarity with it: the human brain. I will describe how the new science of neuroplasticity is teaching us that the brain can no longer be regarded as a fixed, closed, passive receiver of information from the senses – a mere processor for the information that is controlling our body through a kind of one-way communication. We are now seeing the recognition of growing scientific evidence that the brain is in fact almost nakedly open to external influences, and is capable of rapid and radical change by remodelling itself through learning and interaction with the environment. And what should concern us most is the peculiar vulnerability of our brain to the influence of electronic media.
Author and article information
Artist-in-residence, Computer Science Department
University College London
London WC1E 6BT