HeadCrash: Lose Your Place

I have been looking at the Headmap Manifesto (.pdf) again. I First saw it in the fall of 2004. It inspired me to write the Blue Puddle Manifesto and to pursue many of the ideas I have incorporated into my Masters thesis. As I went to revisit the text in the last week I noticed that the Headmap site was blank. In order to get a copy I had to go to the ‘library’ section of TechnoOccult. Also, I googled Ben Russell, the one name I knew behind the Headmap project and was surprised at how few entries there were in the last couple of years. Why did the trail go quiet? It seemed like someone was trying to erase the memory of the Headmap manifesto just as the geolocative infrastructure they wrote about was being put into place.

This is a little paranoid: but I wonder if the collective voices that authored Headmap are having second thoughts about the whole thing. I certainly am.


I had a strange dream last night. I was in a city and I was able to see all kinds of additional information wherever I looked. I could call up information about a building or get the weather report, or see my extended social network out of the crowd. This was all augmented to my normal vision. (Through wearables or implants I am not sure. It was a dream after all).

But then the system failed and I couldn’t see anything. My mind had grown accustomed to augmented reality, and without it the world no longer made sense. I was naked, alone, and in total darkness.

The Airplane implies the plane crash. The automobile implies the car crash. Does the Headmap imply the Headcrash? Or put another way: Does Location-Aware-Augmented-Reality imply an information blindness?

When technology becomes magik, its failure is like a spiritual death. For all the fantasies about the Location-Aware-Augmented-Reality third eye, we should imagine what it will do to the human psyche when that system fails.

A system failure might not be totally dystopic. It could be like the moments of liberation that Rebecca Solnit describes in The Uses of Disaster which occur after natural disasters or electrical blackouts. The world is turned on its head, and humans adapt, and somehow even find ways to celebrate in the upside down liminal moment.

Or it could feel like you have lost your mind. If you lose your electronic third eye, it might feel like God has left the world, and the left the door open for you to leave too.

Electronic media are extensions of the human nervous system. With augmented reality, biotech, and other technologies that are put inside of humans the electronic media are becoming the human nervous system. What happens when the plug gets pulled on a human nervous system?


  1. admin
    April 20, 2007 at 5:28 am

    In Crepuscular Dawn by Paul Virilio and Sylvere Lotringer a headcrash is described:

    Steve Mann the self described techno-vigilante who has been wearing some form of augmented reality for 30 years was hassled by airport security upon flying back to Toronoto in the aftermath of September 11th.:

    “Suddenly the ‘wired Mann’ found himself disoriented and incapable of performing the simplest task. After a three-day ordeal, he bumped against a pile of fire extinguishers and passed out. Finally he had to board the plane in a wheelchair, a casualty of the revolution in transmission which he tried to oppose through similar means” (98).

  2. Klintron
    April 20, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Funny, Headmap’s been on my mind a lot recently as well… I put the pdf up on my site a few months ago because it had become hard to find. A week or 2 ago I decided to try to figure out what happened to them, and these two links were the best I could find:



  3. zcd
    April 21, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Klintron- thanks for tracking down the links.

    Its a shame that Headmap has become hard to find because now that the tech is hitting the street, it would be an ideal time to see what people were thinking a little while ago.

    If I were a designer of location-aware infrastructure I would definitely put Headmap at the top of my list.

    It’s much more euphoric and naively utopic than a book like Everyware, but it gives you a better bottom-up view of how the street is going to use this stuff.

    Thanks for keeping the Headmap resource alive so it doesn’t disappear in the churn of the blogosphere.

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