Mirror, Mirror: Mirror Neurons and Shareware

Neuroscientist and TedTalks scholar V.S. Ramachandran’s exploration of the role of mirror neurons, which he nicknames “Gandhi neurons” for their role in human empathy, raises fascinating possibilities for our understanding of the ways we transmit meaning through media, and the impact representations of human acts has on our ability to emulate and spread ideas. The implications for widespread shareware are enormous. Mirror neurons have been linked to the “monkey see, monkey do” aspects of human (and primate) behavior, leading to clues about our processes of empathy, imitation and mimicry.

Multimedia Artist Amy Caron collaborated with Ramachandran and other neuroscientists on a live performance event, Waves of Mu, that is currently touring the United States. Why performance and multimedia? The project website provides an explanation: “Because comprehending the complexity of a human brain seems impossibly overwhelming. WAVES OF MU aims to make neuroscience understandable and enlightening through creative experience.” The piece looks to expand public understanding of mirror neurons, a relatively recent discovery of brain research, which play an important role in viral media, trending and the evolution of human messaging and behavior.

Dura, Pia, and Arachnid Maters (performers) inside installation

"Waves of Mu" live performance installation. Photo credit: Susan Teare

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  1. Clarence

    Though Waves of Mu is described as art for education, or art in the service of science education, I would imagine that one could say something more interesting. David Edwards in his book ArtScience, discusses the three forms of ArtScience: art in the service of science; science in the service of art; or emergent phenomena that comes out of creative processes in art AND science. If Caron is really trying to create something more innovative, what is it exactly? There is a discussion of mirror neurons and the exhibit and interactive space seem to have visitors experiencing the mirror neuron effect, but what is the outcome? THe IFC special on this project suggests that Caron is trying to help people understand that what they observe ( dummy news) might actually change how they behave and feel. Is there something gained from this experience? Edwards built and invested in La Laboratoire to house a space for just this kind of work… does Caron’s work fit this model? could we say that the mirror effect of participating in her project is the emergent phenomenon? http://www.lelaboratoire.org/

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