Exploring flow with EEG

Home/Blog, Code, Engagement, Minecraft/Exploring flow with EEG

Following on from my major MA project, ‘Textiles in Flow’, I have continued to be interested in experiences of flow (Csíkszentmihályi) during making and participatory activities. During this project I used a model of experience sampling in order to assess achieved levels of flow during the textile translation based activity. Both active participants and observers on the periphery were invited to rate their emotions, with the results of these later fed into the weaving pattern that had been following using code. The pattern was then affected to demonstrate experiences, a disrupted pattern showing negative emotions and a clear pattern representing flow.

The outputted patterns were displayed in the form of laser cut punchcards as an artistic interpretation of the data. I have since been researching methods to make this process more immediate with data collection and visual outputs occurring simultaneous to an activity. I have also long had an issue with feedback forms and questionnaires as I feel they distract from activities and I am concerned that they may disrupt flow itself. To overcome this, I am keen to explore what unconscious experiences can be recorded and have been researching bio-metric feedback mechanisms including the monitoring of heart rate and brainwave activity.

Some initial trials with an arduino and a pulse sensor have been coded to produce some interesting pattern results.


The pulse sensor is a very simple and accessible add on for an activity and I will be testing this out in a few projects coming up.


I am also really excited to be working with CBiS Education in Leeds who will be supporting me in the acquisition of an EEG headset and helping with the development of an API that will access the raw EEG data. CBiS currently run an exciting programme working with school to introduce innovative technologies, including robotics, and applying it across the curriculum. The headset and basic programme that they provide uses sensors to tune into electrical signals produced by the brain to detect user thoughts, feelings and expressions. This technology poses real potential in the exploration of experiences of flow and I’m really looking forward to working with CBiS to develop this and apply it to my artistic practice.

My focus and interest as always lies within the field of recreating textile processes for participatory experiences. Before taking the headset into a public setting I will be researching and trialling the headset with experienced makers to set some control for flow situations, comparing EEG data results with the previously used experience sampling questionnaires.

Flow is a state which is recognised as occurring across many activities, not only focused making but also in sport and gaming. Gaming is another area of interest to me and with my recent forays into Minecraft, this is something that will be explored. Gaming, like textiles, has an immersive quality which manifests in both solitary and social contexts. The parrarels are numerous and as someone who utilises both analogue and digital tools, I hope to be able to demonstrate the similarities between the processes involved in terms of engagement.