Mood_Modulators_01. Project Description

Mood_modulators_01 is the first series of devices aimed at increasing body’s life force. They are being developed at the Laboratory for Mood Modulation that has recently been inaugurated. The launching of the prototype is planned for the coming year 2010. This particular model works on body_sun_exposure (BSE), and consist on a small local network of communication devices that are activated by sunlight. BSE has been linked to serotonin secretion in various medical studies. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that among many other functions also regulates mood in a positive way and has been studied as a cause of seasonal mood disorders – ironically abbreviated as SAD.

Each device functions as an implant on the body that when being exposed sends messages to all the other nodes in the network. In doing so we aim at creating a sense of a networked body that gets electrified whenever one of its parts is exposed, increasing the opportunities of BSE. Establishing an intimate relationship both among nodes and between implant and bodies is the main challenge of this project. For that reason the network needs to be small and the implants wearable. On the other hand, the strong feeling of connectivity that can engender the idea of a networked body relies on the efficacy of real-time data sharing.

This implant acts as a modulator of the effects of BSE. How is that possible? First of all we expect that the system will encourage bodies to increase their exposure given that this is the way they can establish a connection with the other nodes. We expect that this exposure within the fiction that the system engenders is different – in whatever way – from ordinary exposure. Furthermore we expect the reception of a light message to unleash another set of body reactions. A light message can only be received and experienced in real-time and it can only happen because a node is being exposed at the same time. These two conditions will be the quasi-cause of effects in the body. Sunlight has not touched the skin of the receiver but it has electrified a network of implants and allowed a degree of real-time connectivity that we believe can have some subtle yet profound effects on bodies.

The project is in its very early stages and has not been tested yet. We are open to unexpected outcomes and are hoping this system will be the first in a series of experiments. By overlaying this network onto everyday life we aim to create little interruptions and open up new channels to smuggle mutant affects.


At the Laboratory for Mood Modulation we are concerned with gaining awareness of how our bodies are managed affectively by means that go beyond rational argumentation moving towards the more ambiguous world of affective persuasion. We are interested in understanding how mood can be modulated and what modulators we shall seek in order to enhance body’s capacity to act. We have carried out research on the media exploitation of threat and its effects on human physiology. However, the effects on bodies are often very unpredictable and affective control is a technique very difficult to master. If it were easy disciplinary control would have disappeared already!

We are looking to design systems that enable mutant streams to enter the body. Such streams are intended to increase body’s capacity to act without directing action towards a particular goal. That is what differentiates the research being done at our laboratory with the one done in the field of branding for instance. A body that has increased its life force will more effectively interrupt reality and reshape it. A body with decreased life force will take things as they are sold to it. We are aware that increased creativity can always be and will probably be capitalised. But we said it was not our intention to direct the actions of those activated bodies and therefore such question escapes the limits of our enterprise.

Although our first experiment works with sunlight as the motor for body activation we would like to work in future projects also with the sensuality of darkness. Or, even more challenging, explore the potential of greyness. Starting our experiment in a city like London is no accident. The fact that the levels of light are very low in this country functions as an enabling constraint. It is the reality of severe underexposure that drives the creative process. Furthermore it is obvious that this project would make no sense in a city where high sun exposure is a given. In mood_modulators_01 it is the fact that sunlight is scarce that allows the signal to become loaded with affection.


The following concepts and authors are relevant to our project:
Sonic Fiction as a practice that blends the sensuous impact of music with persuasive power of encapsulated fictions. The relationship between the two – the physical/affective and the fictional – is very interesting, the latter functioning as an enhancer of the potential of the former. There is a whole inexplicable experience that is enhanced by an entire body of fictional explanation. A completely non-verbal process put to work together with the words of speculative thought and the affective power of the slogan. This technique could be helpful to develop our first experiment with mood modulators. We will use the sun wave for the physical and non-verbal encounter and encapsulated speculations about the functioning of the network for its enhancement.

All we are doing is bringing writing and putting it onto the second deck and just accelerating it as much. [1]

Direct body activation in Brian Massumi. In his essay “Fear. (The Spectrum Said)” Brian Massumi presents some very inspiring ideas about the colour coded terror alert system in the US. This system aims to ‘inform’ the population about the degree of risk at any particular moment. Green is low, blue guarded, yellow is high, orange elevated and red severe. Massumi explains how the government, with this sort of mechanisms acquires a direct connection with the body, bypassing rationality and acting upon the level of affect.

Addressing bodies from the dispositional angle of their affectivity, instead of addressing subjects from the positional angle of their ideations, shunts government function away from the mediations of adherence or belief and toward direct activation. [2]

Mood_modulators_01 wants to experiment with a similar way of direct activation effected by the sunlight as a trigger of chain reactions.

The concept of physiology of hope and fear in Robert A. Hahn and Arthur Kleinman. These authors explore the interrelations between cultural constructions and the physiology of bodies as mediated by the central nervous system. Their ideas will serve to back up the notion that the system set in place for mood_modulators_01 as a cultural construct can be taken as an agent with effects on bodies just as sun can. What we are aiming is to develop triggers for a physiology of hope:

Hope is associated with heightened activation of the autonomic nervous system (“fight” complex of Selye’s Generalised Adaptation Syndrome), personal animation, and social connectedness. It is believed that this biopsychosocial integration corresponds with levels of circulating hormones, immunoglobins, thymus-dependent … [3]

Body sun exposure in medicine journals. In a study carried by Dr Kristen Boschma and colleagues at the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne the researchers conclude that serotonin secretion varies with sunlight exposure and also offer “further evidence for the notion that changes in release of serotonin by the brain underlie mood seasonality and seasonal affective disorder.” This study gives some scientific base to the project although by no means the secretion of serotonin exhausts the possibilities of mood_modulators_01. It is interesting to combine this facts with those acknowledged by Robert A. Hahn and Arthur Kleinman to design a double effect on the body: that of sunlight, that of mutant affects transported by a system.

Darko Suvin, the science-fiction critic, reviews a document entitled “An Appraisal of the Technology of Political Control” published by the European Parliament – a report on a study carried in the STOA Programme. This document, written by Steve Wright, gives in one of the sections an overview of “the evolution of a 2nd generation of so called ‘less-lethal weapons’ from nuclear labs in the USA” [4]. These type of weapons include, among many others: ultra-sound or microwave systems that cause disorientation, vomiting and beshitting oneself; high intensity strobes that induce epileptic fits. This direct attack on the body on a non-verbal level, on the level of physiology is very relevant to the project. However it is even more interesting to complement this deployment of weaponry with the direct body activation that Massumi talks about. To master this type of combination is the goal of mood_modulators_01, but with radically different purposes.

Affect: good and bad encounters in Spinoza [5]. As Deleuze explained in one of his lectures , for Spinoza affection is the effect of one body onto another. For him, there are good and bad encounters. A good encounter would produce a positive effect on the body; it would produce an affect of joy and consequently increase the body’s power to act. On the contrary, a bad encounter would produce an affect of sadness and diminish the body’s power to act. As simplified as this explanation may be, it is suggestive enough for this proposal. Bodies are in a constant flow of encounters. The aim of the laboratory for mood modulation is to construct on top of those good encounters to arrive at new modes for body activation.


1. Eshun, K. “Motion Capture.” Abstract Culture(Swarm I).
2. Massumi, B. (2005). “Fear (The Spectrum Said).” Positions(13): 17.
3. Hahn, R. A. and A. Kleinman (1983). “Belief as Pathogen, Belief as Medicine: ‘Voodoo Death’ and the ‘Placebo Phenomenon’ in Anthropological perspective.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 14(4): 3-19.
4. Wright, S. (1998). An appraisal of technologies for political control. D. Holdsworth. Manchester, European Parliament.
5. Deleuze, G. (1978). Lecture transcripts on Spinoza’s concept of Affect. Cours Vincennes.

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  • Bio

    Olga carries practical and theoretical research in the field of media arts. She works as a co-editor with while she pursues a practice-based PhD at Goldsmiths. Her research project looks into assemblages of sunlight, human bodies and machines. She is particularly interested on subtle modes of communication across bodies of radically different nature. She looks at the ways in which electronic circuits, computational systems, endocrine processes and neurological happenings intermingle. The tools she develops are speculations about the undercurrents of body communication.
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