‘Vital signs’: EEG wearables and the nervous system of the city

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Human electroencephalography (EEG) has become a mobile, extra-laboratory technology capable of collecting human brain signals while wearers are on the move. Many of the wearable EEG projects that artists, academics, and companies have undertaken are based around the idea that the technology will grant us ‘instrumental intimacy’, or better access to our own bodies and minds. A related but divergent trend in EEG data projects uses the human as a mobile sensing device whose brainwave data can be collected and aggregated for the purpose of urban planning. Many of these neurogeographic projects encourage city developers to reconsider not only how urban planning data is gathered, but also which data is underrecognized and underutilised. In this essay, I examine two examples of EEG-based projects aimed at altering urban design: #wildcities, Dan Raven-Ellison’s ‘guerrilla’ EEG project that played a role in London’s National Park City status; and Multimer, a company invested in rendering city spaces legible to new kinds of consumerism based on brainwave data. In both examples, the environment (not the individual) is figured as increasingly understandable and malleable via aggregate EEG analysis, while humans are often reduced to instrumental antennae, producing, channelling, and collecting the brainwave data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalStudia Neophilologica
StateAccepted/In press - May 17 2021


  • bio-mapping
  • EEG wearables
  • human signal mapping
  • Neuroscience
  • urban planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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