Labyrinth Psychotica, Simulating Psychotic Phenomena
In medical literature, psychosis is often described as a severe mental illness during which thoughts and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. In a state of psychosis one might hear voices that others do not hear, see things that others do not see and have beliefs that others do not share, often causing someone to act in unfathomable ways. In order to understand and empathize with psychotic phenomena we need help. Like a flight simulator helps aspiring pilots in their journey of learning how to fly, we might develop technological tools that act as a prosthesis to our imagination, to better understand and communicate what it is like to be in psychosis and aid in the activation of processes of empathy. In the past, doctors took LSD to better understand their patients. As such actions are now considered taboo, one might consider possibilities of simulating psychotic experiences with the aid of technical innovations as a form of digital LSD. In recent years, several multi-media psychosis simulators have been developed as teaching and awareness environments for mental health workers, police and students to increase their knowledge and understanding of the subjective experience of psychosis. They aim at helping professionals to become more empathic towards their patients as well as towards their patients’ friends and families to what their loved ones are going through. During the conference I will introduce three of these simulation projects: Paved with Fear (2001), Mindstorm (2007) and Virtual Hallucinations (2005). With each simulation I will focus on how they simulate a particular experience that is frequently described, and is considered a classic psychotic phenomenon, namely the experience of media directly communicating with a person. I will explain why these simulation projects are important, but also why it is important to be critical and create a discourse surrounding their design. I will illustrate this by taking a closer look at how they simulate this particular phenomenon by analysing them against descriptions of psychotic experience in literature and discussing the implications of different design approaches. I do this in order to see where they might be improved and how installation art might contribute to discourse on psychoses simulation design by giving examples in which I refer to my own work Intruder 2.0 (2008) and The Wearable (2012).