Helgi Schweizer February 26, 2010: Ideas

From: Helgi Schweizer <jon.helgi@web.de>
Date: February 26, 2010 6:03:02 AM EST
Subject: Ideas

Dear Xin Wei.

Regarding the ouija-bord-experiment I shall ask Mirko Diclic, my phd- Student to give you an outline. He is (to my taste) sometimes disturbingly cautious and overly  meticulous but these traits are usually not abundant among psychology students, so I usually do not hurry him on. If he is dawdling away too long, I shall give you a short report.

At least one point could be of immediate interest: a dancing couple (or group) is acting very much in the way we observe in the ouija-Bord exeriments. We have already designed experiments to delve into these open questions, but the experimental facilities in Innsbruck are rather unsatisfactory.


As  to the ongoing brainstorm regarding ways to enstrange the body from itself I would like to point to the temporal aspect. That means we would have to conceive ideas to manipulate the alignment of the stream of behavorial decisions and the corresponding sensations. That means to interfere with the interaction between mind? and body? and environment? (and the other). Maybe the unitedness we experience is, at least to a certain extent, a temporal one. A hint might be derived from the so-called Lee-effect (William Lee), brought about by simply employing a short delay to the auditory feedback. The impact on speach production and memory! is stupendous: I was not even able to recite a simple nursery rhyme. The question would be, how can we generate a Lee-effect, particularly with regard to space (and place), either visual or auditory.

OK, these are just  spontaneous ideas. I shall go on racking my brain. If I only knew the technical means at your disposal, my comments might make more sense.

By the way, do you know Steve Mann from Toronto University. I do not know him personally, but he is a friend of a friend of mine who thinks we could have some interests, talents (or cracks in the head) in common. 

With warm regards,


Sha Xin Wei to Jon-Helgi Schweizer February 25, 2010: Ouija

Dear Helgi,

It is generous to imagine that I meant the same thing by naming our dance experiments regarding collective and "intentional" movement after Ouija :)  Our "experiments" in the form of dance improvisations were not at all precise enough to merit being called experiments like your Ouija experiment.  However I wish I could show you some of our work in video someday.  We have them mostly only on tape, and many hours would need to be condensed.


I certainly very much in sympathy with your populations of coupled oscillators.   There is for example, some work with Ginzburg-Landau "spin glass" "lattices"  that may be of use.  Ginzburg-Landau is a well-known model for quantum mechanical matter, so you may have already considered it.   The classical analogue would be magnetic domains of little magnetic needles.  At high heat the needles are in random directions, but as the magnetic material cools, the needles tend to line up in regions of uniform direction.   This "anneals" into regions of uniform magnetic direction.   Spin glass models can generalize this.


I've always admired one of your experiments that Helga described, having to do with having n people placing a finger (?) on a puck on a pivoting rod (?) and letting their collective pressure move the puck around.  When one asked them to guess how many people (agencies) were pushing the puck around, they tended to answer n+1, where n was the number of people.   After more than 10 years since Helga told me about some experiment, I am sure that I have caricatured the actual procedure.   So I should ask you what it was and the implication.   But it seems like an elegant and suggestive result.

Back to Memory+Place, may I post your recent thoughts to the group's (private) blog for our project?  They are rich thoughts, and certainly the philosophers and experimentalists would learn a lot by being closer to your experience.   I am writing very late at night, so please forgive me for these very casual, and not very thoughtful remarks.  But I did want to respond right away to thank you for this note.

Warm Regards,
Xin Wei

Helgi Schweizer February 24, 2010: Ouija

From: Helgi Schweizer <jon.helgi@web.de>
Date: February 24, 2010 5:11:07 AM EST
Subject: Ouija
Dear Xin Wei.

This seems to me almost spooky. We have been working on the Ouija-phenomenon for several years. Now one of my doctoral-students, Mirko Diclic, is performing experiments, we have been preparing for almost two years. The technical equipment in Innsbruck is rather desastrous, so we had to develop the  experimental apparatus ourselves. Especially we hat to develop means to measure details of very fast  joint movement. 

We have studied how joint action relates to facilitated communication and some magical stage- tricks. I think the  key to this mystery is an altered concept or theory of community (Gemeinschaft). Supposedly we have to rethink interindividual interaction in a somehow more holistic way. Mirror neurons may give a hint to some kind of "prestabilised harmony" other hints come from flocks of birds and fishes or even yawning people. We have especially be interested in dancing and the synchronisation of dancing couples. 

So far we have favoured models on the basis of populations of coupled oscillators, but I have to admit, that the required mathematics surpass my capabilties by far. We therefore concentrate on the experimental part, though I am not very happy about that.

The reply I wrote to your last mail may already be outdated, but the comments on Nessi are  out of time and space anyhow, so I send you the whole letter.

With best regards.



Dear Xin Wei.

Ok. We seem to be quite on the same track, and there was another Gentleman on the same track, Ivo Kohler, Helga´s and my  Professor in Innsbruck 
His famous Goggle-Experiments were not payed the attention they deserved, probably because he had a tendency to report his findings in a rather curious way. (He for instance pretended, that there was only one experimental subject you could trust, namely yourself).
He carried two sorts of Goggles modifying  the experience of space. One turned upside down, the other interchanged left and right. After a while (in the case of the left-right goggles, many weeks) the initial discoordination of the sensory and the motor „Space“ beginns to give way to a complicated process of realignment.  This process I think provides some extremly valuable  insights into the architecture of the subjective space.

Just one example how the brain relies on clues from past experience: Having seen the world for weeks with left-right-conversion-goggles, moving your head from left to right may still cause your surroundings move from left to right, but with one exeption: written things, they move in the opposite direction  but nevertheless stay in their correct place relative to the rest of the environment. In the case of upside down goggles there are more clues (as Kohler put it, mountains tend to be broader on their  base than on their top). The realignment  is obviously connected to the motor interaction with the environment. So for instance carrying a stick, you might have the things you touch with the stick, turn upside down and nevertheless  retain their relative position. (I suppose, you have much better tools to describe this miracle).

There are other interesting hints being provided by certain scarce cases of mental illness, especially of epilepsia and schizophrenia. Most famous is the so called out of body phenomenon. People experience themself as moving out of their body. Other interesting abnormal experiences relate to the bodily space, so for instance a person may experience himself  happy only on the right half of the body.

I think it  could be helpful to study these cases of malfunction in order to improve our understanding of space. I could go on reporting them to you if you think that could be helpful.

The question „what is nessi“ and my inability to give a satisfactory answer, upset Carl Pribram (and not only him) over and over.  I said she is rather a description than a simulation, but this is far from being an acceptable answer. Now, after a quater of a century, I would rather  say, she is the simplest mind in the simplest world , some kind of  ultimate abstraction of everything, inclusive myself. (pPease dont blame me for  such lunatic sentences).Back in the eighties, when we started programming Nessi (not knowing, it would take us two years to finish the work), the prevalent idea was to  overcome the drawbacks of spoken or written language. Back then,  my favourite metaphor was that of describing a clockwork, drawing a clockwork and showing a functioning clockwork. We thought then, the sourcecode could serve as an other form of description (of a theory). There was a dicussion of the so called „non statement view of theories“ going on back in those days and what was regarded as pivotal was the mathematical structure, the kernel at the heart of a theory. We thought, lets give them what they want. But as we brought Nessi along, they (my habilition committee) seemed embarrassed or even disgruntled. At the same time an ambitious young lady from Strassburg  wrote a thesis on Nessi. Nobody really understood her, but she was invited to San Diego and gave a presentation at the first (I suppose) congress on artificial intelligence. This saved my soul and the habilitation process .Nessi gained some attention as a mysterious curiosity. I have been told, that the they still keep a copy in San Diego and are still racking their brains. 

I shall dig into my shelfs and boxes, and look for some ancient remains of Nessi. There should even be an article written in English (A Paradigm Called Nessi). If I find the article, we shall scan it.

With best regards 


Sha Xin Wei February 23, 2010: Memory+Place docs, blogs

From: Sha Xin Wei <shaxinwei@gmail.com>
Date: February 23, 2010 10:24:07 AM EST
To: Helgi Schweizer <jon.helgi@web.de>
Subject: Memory+Place docs

Dear Helgi,

I'm on the way to UC Davis to present some other work of the TML, and prepare for a presentation of a set of studies on collective movement and degrees of apparent intentionality, called Ouija.  

So I look forward to thinking on your note after my Thursday presentation.

But briefly, I just wanted to see if we had shared with you the early documents for the Memory+Place seed project.

Xin Wei

Experimental Phenomenology: Memory, Identity and Place Orienting Readings

David Morris, Sha Xin Wei, Concordia University, 5 May 2009



Memory + Place Project

Memory+Place Experiment: http://memoryplace.posterous.com
MP Seminar:
MP Project Blog:

Xin Wei February 21, 2010: a preliminary response to "just ideas"

Dear Helgi,

What a pleasure to hear from you!   Thank you very much for your thoughts, which being both poetic and scientific are so delightful.   Please let me re-read your note and mull it over a bit before responding ... I won't be long because I'm eager to grow the conversation.   To be sure, I feel that in Montreal we are just feeling our way, so I would be open to much refinement.  May I summarize for you the preliminary ideas of the Memory+Place group for some sketches even if  they are very preliminary?   Would you be comfortable with me sharing our conversation with David Morris, my philosopher / phenomenologist colleague?

One first thought.  I do not know what David or I would define as "space" (yet).  We are interested in the person's corporeal comportment in a surround that includes the physical architecture, but also other objects and people's bodies in motion too.   We are not making a virtual space in the usual sense of images projected by computer onto a screen ("virtual reality").   However we do use the tools of spatialized sound, projected video, and theatrical lighting, responding in real-time to the corporeal activity of people in the room.  (We do not use sensors of physiological data like breathing or electrical signals because we don't have the knowledge in the TML to measure and interpret them well.)

Regarding "temporal  preferentially acoustic patterns like sounds or rhythms in different locations in the acoustic space and have them reconstructed after a certain  span of time" -- yes!   In fact, some of our most promising sketches so far, to my mind, involve walking across a floor with audible footsteps, transferring binaural sound from one person to another, with or without controlled delays.   The person may be listening to his own footsteps.   It may be necessary to ask the person to close his or her eyes.   I will flesh this out more in my next letter to you.

These sketches are far from an experiment, but we are still thinking about scenarios that could indeed explore your thinking that we are memory.   Now I will need to sleep on your letter.... Thank you very much.

On a different note, I've been curious by what NESSI does, ever since Helga mentioned it to me years ago.   Would it be of interest to re-implement NESSI in a present day computing environment if one could somehow get the support to hire an adequately prepared scientific programmer?   Would it take a lot of special neuroscientific or statistical expertise  to re-code it, with some sort of "rate" control ?

Warm regards,
Xin Wei

Helgi Schweizer February 21, 2010: Memory and Space

Helgi Schweizer <jon.helgi@web.de>
Date: February 21, 2010 3:19:07 AM EST

Subject: Just ideas
Dear Xin Wei.
Just to show my good will to contribute whatever is in the range of
my capabilities, I send you a thumbnail sketch of what  ideas rushed
into my mind mulling over space and memory.
One additional topic has occupied my mind now for a while, it is the
architectural psychology of the virtual space. I think, that the architecture
of the virtual space has somehow to be derived from the proved and 
familiar architecture of the real sensumotory space. Even though everything
seems possible in the virtual world, this ist not what we are looking for. 
There have to be certain limitations and restrictions that give us foothold.
Please dont nail me down on my today suggestions, tomorrow I may have
quite different hopefully better odd ideas.
With warm regards.

Dear XinWei. 

Maybe you can make use of some of the wild thoughts that have popped up in my mind in the wakes of our short conversation.

First and foremost, according to my theory (or psychology) we do not have a memory, but we are a memory. Memory, in other words is an aspect of mentality or even more radically of everything. This reminds me of Alan Turing´s idea (and machine) with the difference, that the machine itself is an aspect of the machine and so is logic.

Many years ago, we tried to illustrate this weird idea by means of a rather primitive computer program called NESSI. The illustration was nice, and I think quite innovative, but we had to fight the same difficulties as with written words: you cannot relieve the reader of thinking himself. Watching the animated pictures may yield more insight than reading words, but it is not self explaning at all. You still have to talk a lot. (Now Nessi is not explaning anything, since she is running much too fast and no one has bothered to slow her down and make her run under windows).

Remarkable I think regarding NESSI was her fundamentally statistical nature. She is something like „living statistics“ or a „statistical theory of everything“. Even of me and myself but nota bene not only as an individual but as my community as well („in one“).

This idea seems rather radical at least at the first glance. I am used to be blamed as a solipsist. Maybe I am, but not in the logical, traditional sense. This is where poretic thinking becomes mandatory. Poretic thinking is the thinking of the famous baron of Muenchhausen, the guy who managed to haul himself (and his horse) out of the swamp by pulling his hair. I prefer the metapher that poretic thinking means jumping over your own shadow.

The theory is in some sense a mathematical one, but the sense is queer, namely poretic.
The poretic thinker loves the circle (and the straight way), he is poretic and scientific in one.

Ok, this is where I start, calculable and uncalculable at the same time, or say always more and less calculable, but nevertheless reliable.  Thinking about space and memory causes me to ask: what do you mean by space? Are you talking about the sensumotory space, the visual space or some mathematical, abstract space? What do you mean by „memory“? How would you operationalise memory i.e. by reproduction  or by shifting of predilection or....?

 In the course of our experiments we have more and more  developped a bias towards using temporal patterns as „memory contents“. As I do not know precisely enough in what direction you are thinking, I would like to (experimentally) concieve of an experiment memorising  temporal  preferentially acoustic patterns like sounds or rhythms in different locations in the acoustic space and have them reconstructed after a certain  span of time.

I am quite aware that you might rather be thinking of something (very) different, but my suggestion could then serve as a test-item, directing my considerations elsewhere. For instance, you might be thinking of architectural space and people losing and findig their way. You might as well have some kind of virtual space in mind, or virtual architecture.

From time to time I have discussions with my younger son Elian, me trying to convince him  of some spatial concept for databases. (Not the usual tree-structure, but some kind of a growing urban environment, starting with a city map and ending up in a kitchen shelf). The interplay of the human mind (and memory) and the  computer-memory is a topic, that has fascinated me for decades.

At the moment, I am waiting for input from you. I would be happy, if my peculiar sometimes al little bit strange way of thinking could be helpful to you.

With warm regards.

Helgi Schweizer December 9, 2009:

From: Helgi Schweizer <jon.helgi@web.de>
Date: December 9, 2009 4:07:34 PM EST

Hi Satinder.

It is a real a christmas surprise gift to get this message from you. I hope, you are doing well in the UK. The topic Xin Wei has come up with is not only very exciting, but it is in a certain way also historically connected to me. The relation of memory and learning to the experience of space, to body movement and emotion was central to all the experiments my doctor-father Ivo Kohler invented and carried out in his very peculiar fashion. I was involved in some of them.
As you might know, Kohler was  in very close contact to James G. Gibson and admired his ecological psychology. Kohler became most famous for developping further the experiments of George Stratton, especially wearing prism-glasses that inverted left and right for several months. I think Kohlers experiments are worth being thought over anew, this time with emphasis on his notions aside, that he did not publish because he thought they were too strange or counterintuitve. Most of them were related to changes in space perception, but could only be described in a more or less qualitative way, that would not seem scientifically appropriate, at least not for publiction.

As to my present work, I am at the moment immersed in a somewhat different work, applying my fundamentalistic theory to a number of fields of practice. At the moment I am writing a book on Theater (in a very broad sense). It is my  book number twenynine. The focus is now, approaching the end of the book, on interachtive media and computer games. (Actually, my younger son is successfully running a browser game). As soon as I shall have finished this work, I would love to take part in Xin Wei's project. I think, I am still good for the one or the other weird idea when it comes to design experiments.

Dear Satinder, could you give me an idea, what are your fields of interest at the present? Although I am retired, I am still doing research on interpersonal synchronisation and rhythmic interaction, on manipulation of subjective time by music and especially by application of Ganzfeld. We have done a  lot of work developping further the so called  colour-light- music. This was a joint-project with the philharmony in Luxemburg. (Thats where the money is).

With warm regads.


Xin Wei December 8, 2009 : to Helgi Schweizer and Satinder Gill

From: Sha Xin Wei <shaxinwei@gmail.com>
Date: December 8, 2009 10:47:09 PM EST
To: Helgi Schweizer <jon.helgi@web.de>, Satinder Gill <sattisan@yahoo.com>
Subject: Memory + Place, David Morris, phenomenological experiment design

Dear Helgi and Satinder,

How are you?

I take this opportunity to introduce the two of you to each other -- being indirectly related via both Helga and myself :) --
but also because of this new series of phenomenological experiment on memory & place that I've initiated with a colleague, philosopher David Morris.  We're interested in finding a way to create experiments for holistic phenomena of human memory as part of bodily comportment making a space a place.   We're avoiding "pyschologistic" experiments, and also be open to artistic applications and insights...    

Helgi is of course a master in these areas, and Satinder has particularly good judgment on the scientific aspects of related phenomena of movement prosody, so let me send you what notes we have so far.   It is very preliminary, but we are now at the stage of designing some experiments using our TML's live media apparatus.  Please forgive the crudeness,  We are open to a conversation on  designing some experiments, if you are interested.

The next seminar discussion will be Thursday 5 PM ( Eastern Time Zone) in Montreal.  I plan to be present by phone only.  Skype may be possible, but I doubt it, but here is my Skype: shaxinwei

Warm regards,
Xin Wei

Attached:  Experimental Phenomenology: Memory, Identity and Place Orienting Readings

David Morris, Sha Xin Wei, Concordia University, 5 May 2009

David Morris November 6, 2009 : Sense of Orientation

Date: November 6, 2009 2:00:03 PM GMT
To: "MP Seminar" <mp-seminar@concordia.ca>
Subject: Sense of Orientation

Our discussion of the level at the last meeting reminded me of some
results of mine (in my book the Sense of Space) that the level that lets
us orient to up/down and toward things has an emotional dimension to it.

We're now thinking about a level that (we could say) lets us orient to our
surround as presently engaging us, orienting our present, vs. engaging us
with our past or orienting us to things as past, or orienting us by the

Likely that has an emotional dimension to. Being overcome by the past,
worried about it, etc. Or the classic Freudian example, of not being able
to see the book, etc., that is right there in front of you, and that you
are looking for, because it was a gift from so and so, with whom you've
had an upset--and yet you are precisely covering it up with paper whilst
searching for it, so that you can't see it. We're looking for that, and
the opposite, the thing that jumps out as reminding you of the past and
your future obligations.

Anyway, I am sending around a short paper that I gave at a conference for
therapists who work with orientation issues on a perceptual level, that
(if I remember rightly) opens up this point about emotion.

David Morris: 5-Nov-09: Stratton reading, ...

On 5-Nov-09, at 2:57 PM, davimorr@alcor.concordia.ca wrote:
Our next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday Dec 10, 5 pm.

We are adding Stratton's original experiments--documented in the form of
extensive first person reports--to our mix, on the hypothesis that issues
of memory might come up in them.

Amazingly, they are available online via Concordia's eJournals. It's in
two parts, in The Psychological Review, 1897, Volume 4, issue 4, 341-360
and Volume 4, issue 5, 463-481. If McGiller's can't get access let me know

Given our discussion and where it was heading, I think it would also be
good to take a look at Collin Ellard's book Where Am I? at this point, as
it gives concrete discussion of the psychology of navigation, wayfinding,
location--but in a conceptually and intellectually lively way.

I think that Xin Wei and I are both thinking that we need to start moving
now from the theoretical to more of a design phase. Tristana is also
gathering methodological material for us.



The Sense of Orientation: Our Emotional Bearing Toward Others
R2K: Research 2005—The Vestibular System, The Pediatric Therapy Network, Long Beach, California
David Morris, Department of Philosophy, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario
Ó 2005. DRAFT For R2K participants only, not for further redistribution.