Thursday, 19 December 2013

Author gets wired while writing, for the cause of science

Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg has been literally wired recently as he writes his latest novella in his small apartment in Midtown Manhattan.

This is his most recent of a dozen books that have promoted him to one of the most celebrated novelists in his country.

He wears a piece of headgear, while he’s writing this novella, with 28 electrodes to monitor his heart rate, brain waves, galvanic skin response (a measure of emotional arousal) and his facial expressions.

Come next autumn, when the book is published, there will be 50 Dutch volunteers who will read the book under similar monitored circumstances.

The data will be used to see if there is any link in the way the book is written and the way it is read.

Ysbrand van der Werf, researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam said: “Will readers of Arnon’s text feel they understand or embody the same emotions he had while writing it, or is reading a completely different process?” Ysbrand designed the experiment with Jan van Erp from the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research.

This experiment is part of the field of neuroaesthetics, which has been trying to identify what underpins our experience of music and art, and is now turning its attention to reading.

Mr Grunberg said of the headgear: “After about a half-hour, your head starts to hurt.”

He’s also getting a bit spooked by the process. “I find myself having all these fantasies,” he said, “like that I was part of an experiment supposedly looking at my brain while I was writing, but the real point was something else entirely.”

Good plot for a novel!

1 comment:

  1. sounds sci-fi enough to be a book in its own right...!