The contemporary Quantified Self movement offers users a sense of control and the promise of bodily knowledge, by transforming people into compartmentalized numbers, comparative statistics, and relative quantifiable norms. Submission of this data to the algorithmic deities – the outstretched fingers of corporations and governments – promises a salvation: deliverance from human error through objectivity and reason by numbers.

In the mid-19th century Dr. Pawel Norway experimented with illustrating the dream content of his subjects using physiological data. The Dr. Pawel Norway Dream Machine is a reconstruction of these experiments adapted for both contemporary technologies as well as the gallery setting. It consists of both an interactive installation: the Dream Machine – and a participatory performance, Dream Analysis Demo.

1. The Dream Machine

The Dream Machine transforms user’s biometric data into unique video compositions, which are then projected into the public space of the gallery. Gathered in the privacy of the three custom Data Confessionals, the biometric data is used to gather personalized videos from Twitter.

Each unique number is translated into a search term and used to retrieve video results from the Twitter-sphere – which the Dream Machine believes it is a dynamic archive of the collective unconscious, producing visuals artifacts that embody the most popular symbols and metaphors of our times.

2. Dream Analysis Demo

Our highly-trained technicians demonstrate the dream visualization process in front of a live audience. They use actual audience volunteers to perform dream visualizations in real time.

Project Statement

The Dr. Pawel Norway Dream Machine is a critique on the Quantified Self movement – a movement born out of the ability and desire to quantify and track various aspects of life, from steps taken and calories burned, to other physiological data like body temperature, galvanic skin response, and the electrical activity of the brain – the biometrics used in the Dr. Pawel Norway Dream Machine.

The Quantified Self movement is not a simple consumer-driven trend, aimed to deliver observations and insights about the self. Rather, it is a movement that furtively threatens privacy rights (necessary for the successful implementation of democracy), further replicates systemic social inequalities (as decisions about what data and how to quantify them are made by those already in power), and privileges a quantitative understanding of the world, thereby diminishing aspects of life that cannot be quantified.

Finally, by transforming the Dr. Pawel Norway from fable into reality, the project reconstructs the boundary between science and pseudo-science, fact and fiction, foreshadowing a future where veracity becomes subject to digital popularity, including a range of dissemination and, of course, quantity of likes.