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BrainHack: Bringing the arts and sciences of brain and neural computer interface together

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BrainHack (BrainHack: Bringing the arts and sciences of brain and neural computer interface together)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-12-31

BrainHack is a project that operated in the context of the artistic appropriation and innovation of emerging technologies, in this case Brain Computer Interfaces and Interaction (BCI).

BrainHack has brought many interdisciplinary groups of artists and scientists together that exchange and mutually inform their practice on applications and the implementation of neuro-technologies. The project achieved this by among others organising three Hackathons in Amsterdam, Prague and Dublin wherein a great variety of artists – installation artists, performance artists, new media artist a.o. – and a great variety of scientists – humanities scholars, (clinical) neuroscientists, information-scientists, a.o gathered and experimented with the creative applicability of BCI, presenting the results to the general public. In addition to that the project has selected and mentored trans-disciplinary spinal projects from the hackathons, produced a trans-disciplinary performance artwork using BCI, reached out to the greater art, science and technology community and produced several surveys and articles about the what ethical implications of artists working with BCI society can learn from.

The insights of these creative trans-disciplinary collaborations in BCI technologies and how these are relevant to EU policy and the H2020 STARTS programme can be found in:
- The projects ‘Manifest of Neuro Artistic Technologies’;
- The scientific peer-reviewed articles the project produced by Technical University Delft about what we can learn from the ethical complications happening when artists work with emerging technologies in neurosciences;
- The interdisciplinary spinal projects that were the result of the hackathons of which one winning project was selected to be incubated in Silicon Valley by the DART17 program;
- The continuation of various art&science collaborations that still go on at the moment of writing: the art project EEG Kiss and University of Berlin, the ERC funded project BrainBeliefs and hackathon participant Marloeke van der Vlugt that collaborate making a brain plasticity visualisation application for school children.

BrainHack proved to be a catalyser factor to push beyond traditional use of neuro-technology as it published scientific articles about non-clinical uses of BNCI. Austrian GTEC, as a result of the support the company gave to the BrainHack hackathons, started its own hackathon series and currently is bringing a non-clinical headset and software to the market for creative use and purposes.

BrainHack has produced a number of ethical surveys and articles that not only create an understanding of the ethical implications of artistic uses of BNCI, but also the emergent ethical implications of developing BNCI technologies at large. Being part of the EU STARTS program family the results of the research about these ethical issues and the public effect will be used to further all the projects under STARTS, where the art prove to be a strong complementary innovative practice in understanding how to make future technologies more humane.

BrainHack interlinks diverse BNCI communities from both the artistic and creative fields and the scientific and technological fields by collaborating with the international NeuroTechX network. The project has been presented by its project partners at a great variety of forums in the creative and techno-sciences sector, among which the most important global BCI conferences and at museums such as Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels and at the important Ars Electronica festival and conference in Austria. The aggregation of the open source repository or interdisciplinary BNCI soft- hardware and projects proved more difficult than initially planned, mainly because artists and creatives involved develop more than only the technology – they also work on the meaning and social value of BCI. The open source repository does however include the NeuroTechX network and is growi
BrainHack organised three International Hackathons in Amsterdam, Prague and Dublin. The winning projects were selected by a specially composed interdisciplinary jury of high level experts from the artistic and BCI research field. Spinal projects were selected and mentored towards pitching to win the DARTS17 Award. The website that is designed links to different communities, contains many blog posts about BCI and arts. Also a Github page was dedicated to the code and experiences produced by the teams of the Hackathons. Ethics surveys and ethics articles were produced and published in major scientific peer reviewed magazines. Of every hackathon many video documentations were made and a longer documentary style video was made about the hackathons all together. Writing articles about the project and presenting these articles at the most important BCI research conferences globally established links to the BCI community. The project established links to the creative BCI community by collaborating with NeuroTechX the international network of neuro-technologies experts and enthusiasts. The project and its results – the interdisciplinary collaborations between creatives and technologists - was presented by all the project partners at many different scientific and creative forums such as conferences, museums, festivals. The project produced an artistic BCI performance with dancers and audience participation titled Demultiplexia shown at the 2017 STARTS Conference at Bozar center for fine arts and a number of its hackathon collaborations are still developing further such as EEG Kiss (Karen Lancel, Hermen Maat and Open NIRS – Near Infra Red Spectroscopy – Berlin University), the interdisciplinary CogNovo group of Plymouth University that won the Amsterdam hackathon is still working on its neuro-consciousness prototype RE/ME in the U.S. and Marloeke van der Vlugt and Taco van Dijk are working with the ERC funded project BrainBeliefs on a brain plasticity visualisation prototype to enhance brain plasticity among young people.

BrainHack dissemination activities included multiple articles that were presented a several conferences and other occasions such as festivals, museums, technology exhibitions, the EU Parliament and a performance of and art&science work titled Demultiplexia shown at the Brussels Bozar centre for fine arts.
BrainHack results reach beyond the state of art and create an impact beyond the project formal period by the fact it has proven within the EU STARTS family of projects that the arts within emerging communications technologies have great complementary socio-economic innovation potential. The project has created a meaningful context to better understand the ethical implications of BNCI technologies and their creative applications. It has shown there is an emerging potential for non-clinical research and applications of BNCI, proven by the development within SME GTEC that has sponsored the hackathons and now has developed its dedicated line of technology to creative practices.