mdp thesis

a cognitive mapping experience

Moving Forward, Go Deep (Post-WIP review)

So don’t make an App… that was loud and clear. However being the embodiment of my methodology and research, I believe it was a good survey of the current foundational problems and assessment of the topic within reality right now. As drugs are approached by power or authoritarian forces, it meets resistance and control, which is where I approached it from the beginning, due to the nature of my own personal processing and creation. However in the long scheme of things, this resistance might just be a bump in the road right now so to put forth designs that use the affordance of an altered state of consciousness might be more fruitful for the future.

Possible Design Briefs to Tease Out:

1)  New States of Consciousness: How can the affordances of being in this particular state under the influence of drugs inspire new social moments, new relationships, new communication models, structures of Q+A testings or behavioral systems, or new empathy interactions? If a drugs brings out the particular nuances of certain cognitive functionalities that affect our senses, invoke mild hallucinations or warp our current sober or normal understanding of concepts like time and space, what kinds of new designs can be created to work within these mental imbalances? (From disability to superpower enhancing) …How can we use these drugs as cognitive tools with the aid of new kinds of technological tools that provide support? …What are the specific moments of interactions within these states?

2) Moment #1: The point of the Unreal within a Real Space – When does the unreal seemlessly interacts with the sober reality that we’ve come to know? When is that tipping point of hallucinating (from altered states to even the in between dream state of exemplified by sleep paralysis (with its symptoms of being fully conscious but hallucinating due to being asleep-in the in between state of awake and sleep, aka hypnogogia)? Usually these moments in normal healthy human beings cause fear, anxiety and confusion, but can also be a source of insight, awe and wonder in the other extreme. How can the ambiguity in what is real and unreal create new meanings and understandings? Can these unreal gestures superimposed or composited into the real world create ways to deal with our own human nature – like our past memories or our desires and intentions on a personal scale? Instead of overloading the senses like the psychedelia artists (projection artists, infinity machines and psy-clubs) of the sixties sought to convey to disrupt and drop out of reality, how can these experiences be moments of processing and assigned meaning? Symbology like that of Freud’s interpretation of dreams realized through design that creates an interpretation of unreal reality… what can designed experiences like this do for a user?

What if what you are experiencing is real?

Does it matter if it is real or not?

Why do you want to know if it is real?

What even is reality right now?

3) Moment #2: Guided Moments in Times of Fear – This aptly connects with moment 1, mostly as a precursor to that moment but more focused on mental moods and changes in sensations that lead to confusion and then fear or anxiety and the trappings that can happen within that state rather than visual or apparent hallucinations. How can you actively turn something negative into something positive or even expressive? Where and when and how do these switches happen? How can the Guide be developed and pushed further into an empowering tool or one set based on your intention and focus?

4) Moment #3: New forms of Social Media/Spaces & Expressive Communication – With the influence of an altered state, how can our current understandings of technology and social media change? If current technology makes us more individualized and secluded from each other, with interactions based on screens and in the digital realm, how can drugs bring out these needs to physically interact with each other or be connected in new ways? What are physically empathetic and connected ways to interact intimately on MDMA? How do we communicate when vibrating on similar frequencies, reading minds or activating “God mode” in suspended disbelief on LSD (or even at all with each other on a psychedelic when we are bombarded with sensory overload or traveling to other realities)? If taking such natural medicines make us more aware of ourselves in our body and in our society and how connected we are fundamentally to each other (like such of DMT), how can we create better social structures that house such states?

Analogous Inspiration:

  • Octopus’ Expressive & Telepathic Communication
  • Virtual Reality Technologies
  • The World of magic and fantasy (if everything has life and energy, technology has the power to breathe life into objects and things… part of the ideas within psychedelics that everything is living in a connected web)
  • DeepDream Algorithm, Pattern and Image Recognition and Learning
  • Tie In to Wearables and IoTh Tech somehow and throughout…

HTID (Flexy Perspective)


A fiction of events

We took the first half when we arrived, it took about 30 minutes for the initial effects to take over. I began to feel very chatty, my mind was floaty and began to feel my eyes feel heavy. I sat down finding it hard to dance in a coordinated way. After sitting we began to talk about everything, life, our friendship, and the project. I felt so happy to be with a close friend sharing this experience. It was then that we met friends sitting next to us, we talked to them for what seemed like a few minutes but when we checked the time we had been sitting and talking for about an hour.

We got up and wondered to the dance area outside, we danced and talked about the stages, the vibes, saying how amazing everyone looked. This Dane and chat continued for the rest of the dj set we were watching. We then moved to the indoor stage. We danced some more and enjoyed the environment. I then started to play with my orbit, it felt amazing to dance with it, to have it tug at my finger tips, massaging my hands as I dance. The feeling led to visuals when closing my eyes.

The time passed so quickly, I felt at times I would close my eyes and start to dance, then I’d get lost in the moment and time would fly by. One moment we an hour left of the show and the next I open my eyes, and boom the dj is saying good night.

I felt happy, disoriented, and energetic. …it was fun memorable experience.

Asking the Right Questions: How did America end up in this $#!+?

INSIGHTS from “Marijuana History” article and “The First & Last Days of the Drug War”:

Anslinger (the head of the Narcotics Bureau in the 1930s-1950s) became obsessed with drugs as the quintessential symbol for fear within the heart of the American people at the time. Coming to the end of the Prohibition era, alcohol had been resurrected as legal from a failed attempt at prohibition, spawned by the Temperance Movement earlier in the last century. Even though this was made legal again as many public wide opinions toward alcohol were changed because the demand was so great and the illegal operations of speakeasies were so popular, the other narcotics were still scrutinized, fallen short from the public eye overshadowed by alcohol. When Anslinger came on board, he was determined to eradicate all narcotics from the American system, including eventually marijuana, even though these drugs were used by medical practitioners for patient treatment.

Drugs became a game of who to blame, the sensationalist media had a scapegoat to rattle on all things drugs (marijuana) that made you insane and caused one to murder or commit suicide. This was the age of newspapers and crime where the public and of racist tendencies, a much different time than now.

INSIGHTS from Energy Control and Doctor X’s Drug Testing lab in Spain:


from their lab that works with the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and agreement with police to supply data about dangerous drugs to broadcast… (assumption) does this effect create a better society that enables more purer substances to be made? [Think Europills from Europe i.e. “DanceSafe Article”] are very potent and strong even compared to American standards. The fact of warning people on the streets which pills are laced or dangerous ensures buying effectively and safely in an unregulated market, but what kind of effect has it had on Europe?

The World of the Deep Web: an interesting tangent and investigation into the deep space of the internet in lieu of sites like Silk Road, which in effect the deep web or sites like Silk Road represent a type of lawless open anonymous space where anything goes and no one is judged… a mix of chaos, anarchy and liberalism at the heart. The deeper I dig into the drug world, I start to realize how synonymous drugs are as manifestations of ideas. So thus laws being the control of drugs, our ideas are monitored and controlled under this meta- surveillance.

Quality Control and DIY Policing within the Unregulated Market: So who produces these? The chemists and underground labs… It must take a mass operation, like the mafia or cartel, to supply our demands of course. Yet for those who are purists (i.e. Pokeballs manufacturer, Shulgin, Huxley) who care about quality at least are the ones set as an example of who to profile to catch [Bunk Police’s “What’s In My Baggie?” Documentary]. Their arrests made public and broadcasted or even just to be made an example of – and rightly so maybe because individuals are easier to catch than a shadowy organization, the real criminals. The lack of quality control in this unregulated market and the consequences of the drug war have created an imbalance of who to catch and what to look for – discouraging purity and education and (to bump up the arrest quota) encouraging big operations to lace or mix their ounces with poison or other unknown substances, which can surely lead to death.

This is the difference of today’s drugs than those in the 60s. Even then, lsd was stronger and very pure, compared to our weak and adultered variant today. (Maybe that’s why the hippies had such a profound holistic movement compared to our raver- E driven culture content to escape into the pleasure world than create change in the real world, it comforts you rather than catapults you out of yourself as a disruptive force…) Today, it is not about that all encompassing experience or quality. Demand is demand no matter what form or use and supply channels are only getting more complicated and dangerous, hence all the safety organizations that have recently formed in the past 5 years to try and address these problems with a DIY type of policing and health movement. When users grow and the demand for the high and pleasures of the mind are ever increasing, the need will only grow and become normal. It’s time to approach this complex problem sensibly.

Alienation from nature and the loss of the experience of being part of the living creation is the greatest tragedy of our materialistic era. It is the causative reason for ecological devastation and climate change.

Therefore I attribute absolute highest importance to consciousness change. I regard psychedelics as catalyzers for this. They are tools which are guiding our perception toward other deeper areas of our human existence, so that we again become aware of our spiritual essence. Psychedelic experiences in a safe setting can help our consciousness open up to this sensation of connection and of being one with nature.

LSD and related substances are not drugs in the usual sense, but are part of the sacred substances, which have been used for thousand of years in ritual settings. The classic psychedelics like LSD, Psilocybin and Mescaline are characterized by the fact that they are neither toxic nor addictive. It is my great concern to separate psychedelics from the ongoing debates about drugs, and to highlight the tremendous potential inherent to these substances for self-awareness, as an adjunct in therapy, and for fundamental research into the human mind.

It is my wish that a modern Eleusis will emerge, in which seeking humans can learn to have transcendent experiences with sacred substances in a safe setting. I am convinced that these soul-opening, mind-revealing substances will find their appropriate place in our society and our culture.

– Dr. Albert Hofmann
Thursday, 19th April 2007

Conversations with Jameson


When I first started talking to Jameson about this week and the various conversations and sentiments I had it had started off very passionate. So far I had on my agenda of potential products that would aid in harm reduction of drugs and an empathy experience created from the body of research I will be conducting. So far most of my professors had responded favorably to the idea of taking the Human Center Design approach, market development and the business of social impact into an American context, one that focuses on a developed world’s issues rather than development in a developing country (or tackling the issue of world poverty for example). That said, Drug Culture is my case study into attempting to design within this scope, employing strategic research and design thinking to attempt to prove my case within the complicated world of drugs. However upon observing the heated debate we had over the term “War On Drugs”, the pervasive racism from targeted drug searches and lament on just what one would create or even address the negative and real problems, he asked me “Why are drugs illegal?” I could think of generalizations I had from looking at the history of the War on Drugs to when it first became illegal with paranoia over marijuana in the late 1930s and 40s with propaganda fueling its ban, to the hippies era in the 1960s and how LSD was publicly advocated by Timothy Leary (as the military was using it to conduct questionable experiments) universities went up in arms and either flocked to protest the Vietnam War or celebrated peace and love on the grassy plains of Woodstock. All were banned and the most recent uproar of a substance was MDMA – a drug we are in the midst of feeling its effects on culture. That drug was actually legal when it was created and was administered by therapists for sessions with patients. After being manufactured by a chemical pharmaceutical company, someone branched off to develop the product and started selling it to clubs and venues where it gained traction. Of course the therapists didn’t want another LSD outbreak to happen again and wanted to keep it within their circles, but the MDMA gained traction as it was called the empathy drug it became the love drug and started to be called by the street names Ecstacy and Molly then soon after became banned. Controlled substances have a controversial nature of being (mis)used like wildfire by tons of young people that leads to its ban, to deduce from circumstantial evidence. However this doesn’t explain WHY they were banned in the first place because pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol and cigarettes are widely abused marked by death that grows in numbers daily. We are only now dealing with the consequences of such laws and policies with nothing in place to repair its damages it is now creating. Politics are really complicated…

After the Avila Beach show, I thought some more on this subject on the politics of drugs… I remember thinking on the way out even seeing a police car that the way this event was handled was very smooth and clearly a lot more ravers and drugs I can perceive being taken yet event staff and security were okay with everyone as long as no one was being too rowdy or going out of control. It made me think about how specific locations cater to different cultures and laws might prohibit certain types of acts to be pushed out but yet in other places around the world or even in the states laws can be lax (think Las Vegas’s welcoming EDC and LA banning it- perhaps due to the family and racial demographic of LA?). For certain places due to a death or suing, when illicit activities at events or venues are openly challenged and the media is engaged, cities or events need to publicly validate such fears and oppositions but in locations where governments don’t care (or not held accountable) or where nothing tragic has happened, things can keep going as “normal”. Sometimes it really all comes down to fear in a way.

I ended up thinking how my empathic experience in the car would use fear to place people in another person’s shoes – creating “theme park” like experiences that use fear techniques but to create isolated manifestations towards awareness or impact, much like the immersion of documentary films but in the physical world. It uses fear to tackle fear. This was also based on how LSD and other hallucinogens during a trip would create points of high intensity, confusion and nonsense to create episodes of what is called “a bad trip” that one feels physically and mentally – transgressing that of technologies that aim to create immersive experiences such as theme park rides, video games or even the internet. How can technology move closer to this? Can it even embody that or do drugs actually have some sort of inherent quality to them that makes them so special to embody both the physical and mental plane of experience?

And are Drugs the only catalyst for these communal collective “revolutions” or “conscious awakenings” to occur in our society? Is it specific to our day and age?


From fear leads to play and how to play with my topic of drug culture without getting too boggled down by all the politics. (Ironically most times fear comes before the dawn breaks on a trip… where self awareness is expressed and possibilities open up) I started to think more on the angle of looking at how various communities are formed by the catalyst of drug taking and how communities now are formed that come closer to being realized in our society. Communes were idealistic but lacked diversity and logical basis. With the recent criticisms of Burning Man and how it has caved into capitalism and being dominated as a sandbox for the rich and Silicon Valley tech hubs which has curbed attendees (and mainstream) attention, it seems like many idealistic utopian faring communities loose their original message and intent as they grow in popularity only to be stereotyped in the end. But behind the guise of its culture contains many areas of possibility and by diving headfirst into such a niche community, it may provide ways at looking at social spaces that strive towards impactful environments. To look at communities and individuals who do play with drugs can be paralleled with those that are immersed in video games, internet culture, etc. How technology can actually merge with the drug like experience or come closer to that – like how big massives attempt such urges – and thus creating more connected and social beings are ways to take my topic out of its political under pinnings and imagine a new or advanced space for temporary social environments and immersions.


  • Socially Created Temporary Communities Enabled by Drugs and Recreation
  • Relationship of Drugs and Immersion Technologies with Empowerment
  • Recreation of Fear Towards the Healing Aspects of Psychedelics

Conversations with Felix

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I talked with Felix over Skype after my first week of meetings on my thesis topic. We went over how I was talking about the whole subject and how some students and professors had responded. Then we moved on to review my interview questions I had created for Users and Sellers editing them.

Overall, as we talked about drug politics and drug communities it became an interesting discussion on really who am I to be designing for and whether I want to focus on Harm Reduction and Safety or the messy politics (outdated term of War on Drugs). I think that conducting interviews and just jumping in will start to guide my project rather than thinking about the finished or speculated thing I will make to encompass this. Also the way I pitch it to people is very important and I can tell that by talking to various friends and Felix that those who are in the community are very responsive to the topic but talking to outsiders they focus on the topic rather than the design issue and then it loses them.

Feels Concert (Elaine’s Account)


We park a ways down the road about a mile away from the venue. In front of us was a truck carrying a group of young people that got very excited when they pulled in  front, waving their arms in the air as they hopped out. Jameson and I got the two beers from the back and started drinking them before heading to the venue. The sun was about to set on the horizon as we got closer, passing a beach port on the left. It was a nice sunny day on the beach as this concert was outside. I had an air of nostalgia as I heard the music cascading through the open air. It had been at least 5 years since the first 420 Fest I heard djs playing on an amphitheater venue. We walked up to the almost non existent line and the security checked my fanny pack but no pat down. That was so surprisingly easy, I thought – the security even asked me what my poi balls where, I joked as I described them and they laughed saying they looked like mangos on strings. It was sunset as we walked in through this archway bridge and into the grassy resort grounds. I first noticed a pair taking a selfie on the bridge and then a small group of colorful women twirling hula hoops on a patch of grass. Then the stage appeared in the near distance as the groovy sounds of Jai Wolf ripped in the air. There were people dressed beachy bohemian with tanks and dip dyed shorts, some girls in rave gear with fluffies, leg wraps and bikini wear. Guys wore t-shirts and pants but some had bandanas, kandi and backpacks.

We first went towards the back middle where the production crew was set up. I mentioned to Jamie about my drug project and ironically a guy in front puffed out a long smoke and was holding a pipe in his hand as he walked into the crowd. After I snapchatted to some friends, we headed towards the back. I wanted to see the other hula hoopers and poi dancers towards the back. We hung out there and I started to wander, taking photos of glovers and noticing the free water offered. We went into the crowd and I saw a group of guys and girls taking selfies in front of us. They were all sucking on pacifiers of different colors, some had hoodies on as well. Kudos to what they were on or taking later. After a bit of dancing including getting really excited as Jai Wolf played Indian Summer to close, where many attendees ran into the crowd at this point, Trippy Turtle came on. The energy changed and got much more groovy than feels and people were jumping to the beats. After a bit of this I went to use the restroom and then as we came out again night was creeping up faster.

We wandered to the tents and I got two Mai Tai’s for the both of us and we hung out to the left of the stage where more people were sitting down, some getting massages, light shows or just hanging out with friends. Then a girl came over and casually asked us if we knew anyone selling coke. We said no we didn’t. We hung out there for a bit and then wandered over to the back again and I started to play with my poi lights. Two girls came up behind me and very excited and asked to get a light show. I told them I had gloves if they would rather that. I took them out and started gloving to the music and they sat down to watch. It was very interesting watching them because they were clearly rolling – their eyes would roll back and into the center as I moved my hands and they would say things like “Oh wow… omg… wow… you are so good.” After maybe 3 or 4 songs I finished off and they thanked me for the show. I then casually asked where they were from and if they were rolling, which they were. They had taken Molly and were already rolling and having a great time. We chatted some more about raves and the one girl went to get water – props to hydration! I then played with my poi some more and danced with Jamie and then the Do You Like Drugs song came on and Cashmere Cat played it for a while, getting everyone to jump and rally! Everyone felt like they were singing to it and it felt very communal at that moment with the high energy. It made me think of how so many people were pretty much on drugs there and it was pretty openly accepted for an event compared to something like an Insomniac or Hard concert. We then got hungry and went to get some food at the food truck and sat down on the left side again. Cashmere Cat was about to end and it was a very chill night under the stars. It felt very freeing and lighthearted with everyone having a good time, clearly many rollers and smokers but people were smiling and happy even though it ended at 10pm.