At the time when I developed Disconnection, 90% of my day was spent staring at screens. It had been months since I’ve spent time outside, or took a quiet moment to collect my thoughts. Disconnection explores this tension: how digital technology can distance one from nature, and how digital experiences gradually subsume one’s reality. I wanted to create an experience that would make the viewer explicitly aware of this conflict.

The system senses the user’s affective stability and uses this to dynamically deconstruct a placid, natural scene. The concept is that stress, anxiety, and general lack of calm will manifest themselves as digital interruptions in nature. The digital noise that obscures the scene represents the mental instability produced by overuse of technology.

As user arousal increases, we adjust several scene parameters. An ofxCameraFilter blurs the screen, modifies contrast and adds noise. A ofxDelaunay mesh constructed from randomly positioned points also fades into view. Each vertex uses Perlin noise to randomly shift about the screen, with its speed also determined by arousal. Lastly, the system crossfades between two soundscapes, one clean and the other heavily distorted.

The system uses biometric input (skin conductance and heart-rate variance) from a WildDivine IOM USB sensor. It abstracts these values to judge whether the user’s level of arousal is above or below normal, modifying the visualization in turn. Each time the system is used, it records all readings in an external XML file. This archive comes to represent the user’s ‘baseline’ arousal, allowing the system to judge whether on any particular use their state is above or below normal.