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Visual deprivation: Day 3
Jul 28, 2011, 10:09p - Consciousness

[For background see my first post on this experiment. This is a rough transcript of a dictation made on day 4.]

I sort of just feel like I'm a puddle of mud. I sort of just feel like I would behave if I'm sick, cause I don't really do much and I just lie around all day. So it just sort of feels like I'm giving myself some sort of sleeping sickness, or self-inducing some sort of sickness, which is not a good feeling.

Yesterday we did a few things. We went to the Arlington Library to look for a book on Braille. We weren't able to find the one we were looking for though we did find a bunch of Braille children books. I started to feel them and it's just impossible to make anything out. And I just don't even have the energy or the attention span to try very hard.

I got really dizzy while I was there. I guess it's a beautiful library (Becca kept saying) and I'd never been there before, and I got really dizzy going up the stairs and even up and down in the elevator. And on the car ride back I was feeling really car sick and really uncomfortable and unhappy.

I was thinking a lot about how I think that vision is the sense that gives us the most truth about the world. It's the most efficient at providing the truth. So even if you're blind your whole life, if vision was restored, that method would seem the most true. When we were in the library I kept trying to visualize or reinterpret the world in terms of vision and visual space, and that makes me feel very much like I'm in my head, that I'm not really in the world. I tried to imagine if I was blind my whole life, presumably I wouldn't be able to do that. I wouldn't be reinterpreting the world into imagined visual space, this would just be my direct, non-visual sensory experience of the world and that would mean whatever it meant. But I can't help but wonder, say if you're deaf-blind and you're just feeling by touch or you're just blind and you're hearing and touching, what are you doing with that information, what sort of space are you creating? It must be so qualitatively different than the space I'm trying to create which is largely dependent on what I imagine things I touch would look like, rather than them having some existence as a touched object in their own right. So that's a little interesting.

Another thing we did yesterday is we went out to dinner to Taipei Tokyo (our favorite restaurant in Davis Square) and that was sort of fun. It really lifted my spirits. And the food was really good. I just had some sushi, and that was really easy to eat with my hands though apparently I made a big mess of the soy sauce bowl, spilling it everywhere. And they didn't really say anything, even thought the waitress recognized us she didn't really ask what I was doing or what happened to me, which is fine. And the food was really good.

I've been talking a bit with Becca about how I think it's very liberating to be blind. I might title this post "The Freedom of Blindness". It's liberating but almost too liberating. When you're speaking you have no sense of whether anyone cares, all of the body language and facial expressions are lost, so whatever your natural proceedng uninterrupted would be of your speech, that's just the way it is. Because I can't tell how anyone else is responding to what I'm saying. Whether they're bored or really interested or think I said something crazy. So you're just free from all of the non-verbal social cues, which is extremely liberating. But then on the other hand I have no connection, I can't connect with anyone with what I'm speaking, cause I can't tell what their response is. So if you don't really mind what other people think I think it's great. If you just want to talk and feel unencumbered by social response this is actually quite fun. But if you sort of care about what other people are thinking and how they're responding then that's a whole other type of distance. In addition to the visual distance that's there, the visual simulation that seems to keep me in my mind a lot, there's also this social distance because there's no way of telling how I'm speaking. There's no eye contact, which is so important. There are no non-verbal cues.

In a couple of days we're going to Jude's party, where we're going to dinner and going sailing, so I guess I'm going to call the sailing place today and see if they'll let me on the boat without being able to see. Even if they do I'm not sure I'll do it. But I'm sort of sick of this. I just feel like I'm almost literally sick. And I don't think anything's going to happen when I open my eyes. Maybe every hour I open my eyes a little bit or something happens and a little shard of light comes in, or I wake up from a nap, even though I'm wearing this night mask, there's still a little bit of a light that can creep in from the bottom. So I get these shards of light and then, taking that miniscule amount of information I recreate, I can't tell whether I'm hallucinating something is happening in front of me or I'm building on these shards of light and recreating what I think is happening. I can't quite tell. So I may end the experiment in 2 days, which is a bit unfortunate. This is much worse, or much more difficult to do, than the semi-starvation experiment I've done. And maybe even more difficult than survival school, though maybe I can't really remember well enough to compare (since that was 4 years ago). I mean I can do things, but it's just that I can't really do things.

Read comments (1) - Comment

Yu-li - Aug 6, 2011, 6:57a
I like your introspective description. You really did something hard. I don't want to try that even though I wonder how it feels like.

About construction of space, I think measure theory can be helpful. ( Even without visual information, it must be possible to construct mental space of things as we have information on spatial order of things. I think what matters is (mental) metric (

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