A United Kingdom-based artist has announced his intention to spend 28 days wearing virtual reality goggles so that he can “experience life through another person’s eyes and ears.”
Mark Farid calls the project Seeing-I, and labels it a “social-artistic experiment” that seeks to find out how much of a person is their own personality and how much is cultural identity.
Farid “will attempt to engage with a broader spectrum of experiences by entirely immersing himself in the life of another person, whilst also looking at the implications of digital technologies,” he explains.
Farid has launched a Kickstarter campaign asking for £150,000 ($234,761) to get Seeing-I off the ground. The project went live today and has attracted only £152 ($238). The campaign ends December 18, 2014.
If successful, Farid will wear a VR headset for 24 hours a day for 28 days. The person whose life he will experience will be referred to as “the Other.” Farid knows only that this person is a heterosexual male who is in a relationship; Farid has never had previous contact with this man.
The Other will wear a pair of glasses that can capture audio and video, which will then be transmitted to Farid. He will conduct this experiment in a space consisting only of a bed, a toilet, and a shower area. Farid will be on display for an audience for the full 28 days.
Farid will see footage from the Other that stems from six days prior. This is to allow Farid’s team to prepare food and drink for him that matches what the Other consumed. As for why he chose 28 days for the duration of this experiment, Farid said it’s been shown (but not proven) that people lose and develop habits after three weeks.
Farid is taking medical precautions for this project, enlisting the help of a psychologist with special training in neuroscience. When the Other goes to sleep, the audience will be asked to leave for a period of one hour so this doctor can check up on Farid. He also assures people that the project is not an endurance test. If his team concludes at any point in the process that things have gone “too far,” or if Farid might be in danger of facing long-term or lasting effects, he will be instructed to end the experiment.
More from the Seeing-I description:
“During the 28 days, Mark will have no actual interact with any human; no one will react to him, he will not be touched; he will be a silent spectator–he will, however, be under constant inspection. Mark will eat what the Other eats, drink what the Other drinks, shower when the Other showers, and go to the toilet when the Other goes to the toilet, at the same moment. Otherwise, Mark is left to experience the life of the Other by himself, but will Mark embrace this life as if its his own?”
As the Seeing-I experiment moves forward, Farid hopes to discover the point at which he will lose his own identity and “inhabit the reality of the Other,” if that ever happens. “With no one to talk to, and no one to validate any of Mark’s thoughts, will his only source of validation–the Other’s life–become the life which makes sense to Mark? Equally, this may not happen: he may entirely retain his sense of self and exist in a strange no man’s land between his own identity and the Other’s.”
The findings of the Seeing-I experiment will be put together into a documentary that will feature input from academics, psychiatrists, psychologists, neuroscientists, philosophers, and artists.
You can read more about Seeing-I, and contribute to the campaign, at the Kickstarter page. The actual event is scheduled to take place in fall 2015. Farid has already done a 24-hour test of being fully immersed in another person’s life through VR. You can see footage from the test here.