Starting at the beginning of October, people across the United States started discovering flyers for a sleep study in search of volunteer subjects. “SEE YOUR OWN DREAMS RECORDED IN FULL COLOR”, the signs brightly proclaim. The posters directed prospective volunteers to the New Noology Network website along with a Twitch channel that regularly broadcasts sleep study sessions with test subjects. Applications to participate in the New Noology Network’s research may start out simple, but simple personality tests asking whether you like the taste of raw meat has quickly given way to video trials asking applicants to go on an audio-driven tour of their neighborhoods.
New Noology Research Trials: Livestreamed fMRI Scans
For the first few weeks of the New Noology Network, the primary outlet for interacting with the sleep study program was watching a series of hour-long livestreamed sleep studies. Livestream viewers were placed in front of a research station, monitoring two screens tracking the test subject. According to the Twitch profile, this Dream Recording and Re-Visualization (DR&RV) research presumes that memories and emotions are the key to mapping brain stimuli from waking life vision to dream vision.
For the most part, these streams were exercises in tedium, with livestream viewers monitoring two screens: on the left, viewers were presented with a report on brain activity. On the right, the monitor rotated between footage monitoring the test subject from two different vantage points, and a visualization of the Dream Recording and Re-Visualization project in action. Occasionally, a researcher would appear on screen to monitor the subject directly. Viewers also had the chance to vote on a hemisphere of the brain, which presumably influenced the research.
All this changed during a stream two weeks ago. Towards the end of the final stream, when something unexpected happens with the sleep study. As Inside a Mind explains, “the final few seconds of the stream reveal we’ve not actually been watching a science experiment, but instead it’s all part of a set…and before the stream cuts off, a strange van can be seen passing by.”
Welcome to the Global Consciousness Initiative
With the curtain pulled back at the remote testing facility, the New Noology Network changed tactics and reached out to online applicants, asking them to sign up for the Global Consciousness Initiative. While the DR&RV project was focused on the connection between waking and sleeping brain activity, the GCI’s focus is on “studying the effects of coordinated and crowdsourced activities upon global mass psychological states through analysis of measurable disruptions distributed network random number generators”: in short, a test into whether coordinated behavior by a few could influence psychological states of the collective.
To participate in the Global Consciousness Initiative trials, players are asked to listen to a series of audio clips, following the instructions to the letter. Each audio clip helps ease participants into the proper mindset, provides instructions on where to go, and finally asks players to record a short video completing a variety of tasks.
- Instruction 1: Record a video of your eyes, blinking six times slowly.
- Instruction 2: Stand in the threshold of the door to your home, and declare “I am not afraid”.
- Instruction 3: After walking outside, wander a bit and choose a particularly enticing door. Describe what lies beyond.
- Instruction 4: Continue wandering, and voicelessly mouth your name.
- Instruction 5: Repeat the word “stuck” three times: first as a whisper, then spoken normally, and finally shouted out loud.
- Instruction 6: Speak “I am [name]. I am me.”
The Global Consciousness Institute’s soothing vocal prompts and ambient musical backing track transforms the experience of recording the videos from an operational list of tasks into a meditative and personal experience, making it easier to get over the slightly transgressive act of yelling out “STUCK!” in the middle of a city. And while Trial 0 is centered around peoples’ local neighborhoods, select participants reported receiving a second set of trials asking players to extend the experience into their daily commutes.
A Slightly Older Noology Network: Shadows of Elsewhere
The New Noology Network’s Global Consciousness Initiative ended its initial trial by asking participants to say “I am [name]. I am me”, after shouting “STUCK” into the heavens. But during a recent visit to Philadelphia, I came across flyers from Elsewhere asking me to perform a series of mirrored tasks, including:
- Look into the camera and say “I am [name] and I am YOU”
- Film yourself telling us about a time in your life you felt stuck, and why
- Film yourself in a public space shouting “WHO AM I”
The funny thing is, I discovered these flyers days before the Global Consciousness Initiative released their list of tasks. So other than a passion for video scavenger hunts, what brought this particular flyer to my attention? Elsewhere.
Dispatches From Elsewhere and the Jejune Institute
Between 2008-2011, a perfectly ordinary office building at 580 California Street in San Francisco served as home to the Jejune Institute, a cult organization led by Octavio Coleman. By following a series of instructions leading the curious through the city, players uncovered information about the disappearance of Eva Lucien and stumbled across a group dedicated to opposing the Jejune Institute: the Elsewhere Public Works Agency.
Created by Nonchalance, The Jejune Institute delighted in taking real world locations, and transforming them into something magical and otherworldly. A local park might be repurposed as ground zero for a hyper-local pirate radio show, offering Dispatches from Elsewhere, while a statue celebrating Chinese philosopher Sun Yat-Sen hides a secret plaque on the opposite side with a hidden message. The story played out in five main chapters, with CardHouse.com offering a comprehensive summary from the player perspective that complements the official (fictionalized) documentary recounting of the experience made by Nonchalance collaborator Spencer McCall.
Jason Segel is producing Dispatches From Elsewhere for AMC, a project inspired by The Jejune Institute. The posters I discovered in Philadelphia appear to be part of that project, implying the New Noology Network is likely similarly connected as well. The parallels are definitely there: while the New Noology Network’s research projects explored recording dreams, the Jejune Institute’s Memory to Media Center focused on recording VHS tapes of people’s memories.
A New Noological Model: What is a Locationless Jejune?
If the New Noological Network is a return to the world of The Jejune Institute, it’s doing an admirable job of adapting location-specific gameplay to a global audience: while the experience launched through mysterious posters distributed across the country, the Global Consciousness Initiative audio missions provide players with self-directed tasks to introduce a dose of location-specific magic into their lives. While looking for an enticing door in my neighborhood in response to the GCI’s Task 0, I stumbled across a pair of doors adorned with stained glass windows I had never noticed before. More than anything else, The Jejune Institute taught me to notice and revel in the tiny details of the world around me, and the New Noology Network is embracing that spirit.
And yet, the New Noological Network is exploring different directions. Many of The Jejune Institute‘s contemporaries were exploring transgressive behavior in public spaces. Jane McGonigal’s Top Secret Dance-Off asked its players to don masks and dance in public spaces in response to online missions, while Improv Everywhere’s missions transformed daily interactions into surreal experiences through what the site likes to describe as “positive pranks”. Inherent in each of these experiences that asked people to do unexpected things in public was the unofficial contract: the experiences should be at least as magical for the unsuspecting bystander as it is for the person stepping outside the bounds of polite society. The Jejune Institute embraced that lesson wholeheartedly: people inadvertently stumbling into moments of Nonchalance witnessed Sasquatch dance parties and tinfoil hat protests.
The New Noological Network’s trials do ask for some transgressive behavior: in the first set of tasks, shouting out “STUCK!” in public is stepping slightly outside the norm, and randomly saying “GCI 01 dash 01 control group alpha” during the morning commute is likely to raise a few eyebrows. Both of these tasks are very modest tasks that are unlikely to inconvenience others much…but they’re also not designed to enhance the bystander experience, either. At least so far, the GCI tasks are designed to be more personal than that, with public spaces used for private reflection. Instead of a reclamation of public space for public play, the New Noology Network seems to be doubling down on the bubble of privacy headphones create in public.
To join the New Noological Network, register at nnn.de.com and an invitation to join the Trials should follow shortly after. If joining the Elsewhere video scavenger hunt sounds more interesting, you have until November 15th to email in your submissions. To follow along with the community, check out the r/NewNoologyNetwork subreddit and join the Discord.