Technoshaman: from worldbuilding to mindbuilding: Part 3

As the ancient adage goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” This leads us to the question: If used wisely, can the XR metaverse actually elevate human consciousness? Can worldbuilders craft virtual environments and experiences that make us happier and healthier as individuals and as a society? 

We’re not talking about influencing participants with ideologies, philosophies, morality, political propaganda, brands, or even social causes for that matter. Can the power of XR help transform us into better people? More responsible citizens? Can it motivate us to unify in building a better world?

The need for transformation

We don’t need to dwell on the need for individual and social transformation — the signs are all around us. The last century of technological innovation has given us vast personal, computational and industrial power that continues to grow exponentially. Individuals can now mislead the masses with a single tweet. Nations have the power to annihilate cities with the press of a button. And our hunger for energy and material wealth is choking the planet with our own waste. 

Gus Speth, author and top U.S. Advisor on Climate Change, put it this way:

I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.

Technology is but a natural extension of human consciousness and intent. We currently have the technological solutions needed to create an abundant world with clean, renewable power, materials, and resources. We have solutions for mitigating, and possibly reversing climate change. And we have the capacity for the altruism needed to overcome selfishness and act in our mutual best interests. 

It’s time to transform, either consciously and intentionally, or involuntarily as a victim of our own ignorance. If we are to create a better world — or even just maintain our present quality of life  — a “cultural and spiritual transformation” within this generation would appear to be essential. We all get to go on this journey of transformation.

The science of transformation

Neuroscientist Dr. Paula Tallal said of, “You create your brain from the input you get.” Shuler and Bear showed that we not only create our brain — we craft our perception from the beliefs and expectations we choose:

Visual neurons in the brain’s primary visual cortex — long thought to conduct purely sensory, value-free visual information — can also modulate their response as a function of expected reward. In a clever study that sharply revises the view of the fundamentals of how we see, Marshall Shuler and Mark Bear show that visual neurons once considered to be mere feature detectors are affected by complex cognitive influences such as reward expectancy. Even at the most fundamental level, it seems, our expectations influence how and even what we see.Susana Martinez-Conde

To the extent that our beliefs, expectations, or worldviews are substantially changed due to exposure to media (of any kind), we can legitimately say that our brains have been “rewired” by the experience. Facilitating positive transformation on a personal, social, and ultimately, global level is the highest expression of worldbuilding. 

Transformative experiences substantially alter a person’s “possibility space” or life’s path — ideally in a positive sense. L.A. Paul describes the transformative experience as:

…a kind of experience that is both radically new to the agent and changes her in a deep and fundamental way; there are experiences such as becoming a parent, discovering a new faith, emigrating to a new country, or fighting in a war. Such experiences can be both epistemically and personally transformative. An epistemically transformative experience is an experience that teaches you something you could not have learned without having that kind of experience. 

Having that experience gives you new abilities to imagine, recognize, and cognitively model possible future experiences of that kind. A personally transformative experience changes you in some deep and personally fundamental way, for example, by changing your core personal preferences or by changing the way you understand your desires and the kind of person you take yourself to be. A transformative experience, then, is an experience that is both epistemically and personally transformative.

Many of the best stories ever told involve personal transformations of the story’s characters — timeless story themes such as the criminal who redeems himself, the scrooge who is re-awakened, or the hero who falls from grace. In XR, we ourselves can become the character who is transformed.

Paul’s epistemic and personal categories of transformation readily map into the two educational modalities: cognitive (intellectual realization through thoughts, facts, semantic language, narrative, and visuals) and affective (emotions, inspiration, and motivation transmitted through storytelling, drama, music, and semiotic language). 

Worldbuilders are discovering that XR experiences can evoke a wider range of affective states, including flow states, mindfulness, unity consciousness, and mystical states. 

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Artechouse: Walkthrough immersive environment featuring a fractal environment from technoshaman Julius Horsthuis. Phenomenological cinematic experiences can communicate the ineffable. (Credit: Artechouse)

Technoshaman: Maestro of transformation
In his 1985 book The Death and Resurrection Show: From Shaman to Superstar, Rogan Taylor traces our modern entertainment industry back to the earliest of all religions — shamanism. Shamans use rituals, feats, songs, stories, power objects, and performances to “fine-tune the psyche of his tribe.” Shamanism — like religion — was a “tool for both surviving and accomplishing transformation.” Rogan sees the shaman as a “maestro of transformation.”

While modern entertainment likely emerged from shamanism as Taylor suggests, he is quick to point out that, unlike today’s audiences…

… the tribal audience certainly would not have arrived at the shaman’s healing séance in the expectation of being mildly amused or merrily entertained. They came to witness, and take part in, something powerful and sacred.

According to evolutionary anthropologist Michelle Scalise Sugiyama, shamanic storytelling in indigenous cultures is a form of pedagogy used to communicate social norms and traditions. Storytelling is often accompanied by visual, auditory, and/or gestural modes, including drumming, singing, chanting, eye-gazing, vocal mimicry, and variations in volume, rhythm, timbre, pitch, and stress in speech that “cast a sort of awe on the audience,” according to one anthropologist she cites, who studied the Dena storytellers.

Taylor also details how these storytelling elements of shamanism survived as modern showbusiness while leaving behind the deeper sacred, mystical, and ecstatic dimensions of shamanism.

Showbusiness looks like the orphaned child of a divorce between art and ecstasy. Forever hiding its shameful origins, while, at the same time, secretly attempting the reconciliation of its separated parents.

With XR’s ability to form a wideband neural interface between worldbuilder and participant, future masters of XR experience design — the technoshaman — can bring the power of awe, mystery, and ecstasy back into mainstream arts and entertainment. The technoshaman is a maestro conducting the nervous systems of their audience.

However, like the shamans of old, the technoshaman must go within to access visions, or actually embody elevated, transcendent, or other beneficial states of consciousness in order to transmit them. They must themselves transform if they are to inspire transformation in others. 

A 360 cinematographer with a deep love of nature will transmit this love through their work. A musician with years of mindfulness practice will bring their audience into deep contemplative states. A visionary artist who journeys into altered states will evoke psychedelic experiences in their participants. When the technoshaman’s consciousness is laid bare for all to experience through multisensory XR technologies, there is no room for inauthenticity. The artist becomes their work.

The same goes for larger worldbuilding teams that require a wide range of skills, including programmers, audio engineers, animators, lighting designers, composers, producers, directors, performers, and more. Participants will receive a transmission from the combined consciousness of the worldbuilding team. 

This has always been the case in the entertainment industry, of course. But with XR, the transmission of consciousness is more profound. Worldbuilding teams that want to optimize positive impact must work to achieve authentic coherence of heart, mind and vision as they create and perform. 

MSG Takes Over Sphere Construction in Las Vegas – Billboard
MSG Sphere – The world’s largest digital dome, opening in 2023 in Las Vegas with 17,500 seats, is an arena for next-generation technoshamans. (Credit: MSG Entertainment, LLC)

In their highest expression, all performers, storytellers, journalists, filmmakers, and influencers are contemporary shamans who wisely tend to the psyches of their tribes. Emerging XR technologies are supercharging their crafts, turning storytellers into worldbuilders. 

The technoshaman knows that worldbuilding is mindbuilding and has pledged to use their power wisely for the upliftment and evolution of human consciousness. And, as the power of the XR metaverse grows, turning us all into worldbuilders — let us use these tools wisely for the betterment of humankind.

Technoshaman Resources

Here are select examples of experiences, venues, and platforms of interest to aspiring technoshamans.

 DomeImmersive LBEMobile AppVR Metaverse 
Artist, Project or PlatformARTransformative Mode
AI World Building       
Jason Silva’s Cyberdelic Dreaming   X XAI Art, Inspirational Narratives
Promethian AI   X XAI World Building Application
Builder Bot   X XMeta’s AI World Building Demo
Dome Shows/Events       
Michael & Jahna’s The JourneyX  X XEnchantment, Mindfulness
James Hood’s MesmericaX     Happiness, Well-Being
Jhené Aiko’s Modern Mantra ImmersiveX     Sound Healing, Well-Being
Metaverse Worlds & Events       
BRCvr   X XCreative Community/Festival
Evolvr   X XMindfulness Community
DomelandiaX  X XArtist Empowered Worlds
Domensions (in BRCvr)   X XTransformative Art Community
Mobile & VR Experiences       
Tripp   X  Mindfulness, Well-Being
Insight Timer  X   Mindfulness, Well-Being
Laurie Anderson’s To The Moon   X  Contemplative Journey
Space VR X X  Overview Effect
VR Metaverse Platforms       
AltspaceVR   X XCreative/Social
Engage   X XCreative/Social/Business
NEOS VR   X XCreative/Social
VR Chat   X XCreative/Social
RedpillVR   X XLive Music
XR/Dome Venues       
ARTECHOUSE X    Immersive Art Gallery
Unreal Garden X  X Art, Wonder
Vortex DomesX  X XWonder, Awe, Well-Being
WisdomeX     Immersive Art Park
FrequencyX     Breathwork, Well-Being
HolodomeX     Holodeck-Like Environment

Eight principles of the technoshaman

  1. The technoshaman uses advanced digital technologies to craft experiences that are positive, life-affirming, healing, or awakening, and that support or accelerate the natural evolution of human consciousness. 
  1. The technoshaman awakens minds. Rather than propagating memes, philosophies, ideologies, propaganda, brand messaging, and other forms of influence, the technoshaman seeks to evoke mental states that empower, embrace ambiguity and diversity, awaken latent faculties, transcend dualistic thinking, slow the internal dialog, or leave room for deep contemplation.
  2. The technoshaman opens hearts. Rather than gratuitously evoking emotions such as fear, shock, horror, or loss, the technoshaman focuses on positive emotions, including love, empathy, a sense of connection, awe, or joy. Storytelling is used as a path towards empowerment, mood elevation, epiphany, communal unification, or liberation of the human spirit, not simply to manipulate emotions or behaviors.
  3. The technoshaman embodies the states of consciousness that they seek to evoke in others. The experiences they create are authentic and not contrived solely for influence or personal gain.
  4. The technoshaman’s creative medium is the nervous systems of its audience, most powerfully accessed through multisensory immersive media. As such, technoshamans are attuned to and respect the nervous systems of their participants.
  1. Technology is simply a medium for transmitting states of consciousness and is never an end in itself. 
  1. The technoshaman promotes evolutionary communities by evoking a sense of unity, coherence, harmony, and connection.
  2. The technoshaman seeks not just to entertain, but to transform.

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Technoshaman: from worldbuilding to mindbuilding: Part 2

In Part 1, I introduced the archetype of the technoshaman, one who uses XR (extended reality — VR, AR, and MR) technologies to craft multisensory digital worlds and experiences that elevate and harmonize human consciousness on a mass scale. In Part 2, we deep-dive into “digital pharmacology” and use XR to evoke alternate states of consciousness.

The social impacts of contemporary media are well known. Film and television can engage, inform and motivate on a mass scale and are no longer solely dominated by major studios who must make significant investments in productions. And the increasing democratization of media has placed great power in the hands of nearly every individual. 

More than 6.5 billion people — 80% of the world’s population — now own smartphones. Social media has enabled nearly anyone to influence the minds of hundreds, thousands, or millions of people with videos, news, opinions and niche programming.

Storytellers intentionally use the power of media and entertainment to achieve social or global change through social impact entertainment. As described by Ella Saltmarsh, stories can be tools for “building community through empathy and coherence,” connecting diverse people and generating “narratives that hold together groups, organizations, and movements.” 

Stories can re-author our personal and cultural narratives and mythic narratives or worldviews, including values, mindsets, rules and goals. “Stories deeply affect our psyche and collective direction of travel,” Saltmarsh says.

Unlike film, television, or streaming media, where passive audiences watch visuals framed on a wall or a handheld device, XR (extended reality) worldbuilders use presence, embodiment, and agency for spatial or environmental storytelling. These place us within the “storyworld” with XR’s ability to simulate real-world experiences, giving this new medium a deeper, more profound effect on consciousness. 

The power of XR

Everyone in the metaverse can become a worldbuilder, giving them the power to evoke memes, moods, and states of consciousness in other participants. The result is akin to a virtual brain corpus callosum between groups and individuals, allowing for direct transmission of consciousness from worldbuilder to participant. 

Of course, music, arts, entertainment, architecture, literature, and other real-world modes of expression have long been used to evoke profound brain states in participants. But XR supercharges this process, due to various factors:

  • XR interfaces create a wideband interface to the participant’s brain and nervous system. Immersive displays can place a pixel on nearly every nerve ending in the eye. 3D audio simulates spatial and spectral properties of sound. And XR controllers capture natural movement and gestures.
  • XR production tools and robust user interfaces, enhanced by AI, accelerate worldbuilding without the need to write code. Virtual worldbuilding is not burdened by the need for physical materials, construction, labor, and logistics, vastly accelerating the democratization of virtual worldbuilding compared to physical worldbuilding.
  • XR performers can easily inhabit and command virtual worlds, controlling complex interactions and effects through natural gestures and simple controllers. Imagine a live theater that suddenly morphs into a cave, a castle, or another world altogether.
  • Virtual worlds combine music, arts, entertainment, storytelling, social media, architecture, and multisensory modalities into a seamless experience for participants, compounding their psychological power. 
  • Unlike physical spaces, virtual environments are inexpensive, easily replicated, and massively scalable with global reach.

The metaverse

The XR technology market will expand by a factor of 10 in the next five years, according to a forecast by Statista. Over the long term, wearable XR interfaces are expected to replace handheld smartphones. And some expect the metaverse to replace the internet, despite Meta’s problems.

To articulate and guide the development of the metaverse “for the greatest good for the greatest number” of participants, virtual reality pioneer Tony Parisi recently proposed these Seven Rules of the Metaverse:

  1. There is only one Metaverse
  2. The Metaverse is for everyone
  3. Nobody controls the Metaverse
  4. The Metaverse is open
  5. The Metaverse is hardware-independent
  6. The Metaverse is a Network
  7. The Metaverse is the Internet
Domensions Camp at BRCvr: Immersive worlds in the Burning Man metaverse on 
Microsoft’s AltspaceVR platform (credit: Vortex Community Circle)

Widespread adoption of the metaverse using XR interfaces will place unprecedented power and influence into the hands of worldbuilders. But will worldbuilders use this power wisely? 

Digital pharmacology

XR technologies can extend beyond simple storytelling. Immersive multisensory media can evoke specific states of consciousness, or “digital pharmacology.” Applications could include enhanced entertainment, education, leisure and lifestyle, enhanced well-being, spiritual ceremonies, and a wide variety of clinical applications.

There’s a rich history of sensory experiences being used to alter consciousness. Music is a powerful mood-altering agent that can induce or modify cognitive states and perceptions. Sound healing and vibroacoustic healing have been proven effective. Simple nature sounds can improve health, increase positive affect, and lower stress

Visual stimuli such as natural environments — both real and virtual — can similarly affect physiological states (as measured by blood pressure and muscle tension). They can even alter our perception of music. Other powerful sensory modalities include haptics (touch) and aroma.

Transformational and mood-elevating experiences can take on many forms. Here’s a partial list:

  • Awaken the Mind
    • Inspire imagination, creativity, and open-mindedness
    • Educate, train, inform
    • Epiphanies and new understandings 
  • Open the Heart
    • Empathy, compassion, understanding
    • The emotional shift towards love, respect, joy, happiness
  • Activate the Spirit
  • Awe, wonder, ecstasy, bliss
  • Transcendent, numinous or “unity” experiences
  • Cosmic consciousness
  • Going Deep
    • Mindfulness and contemplative states
    • Trance, dream, and mystical states
    • Psychedelic states
  • Soothe the Beast
    • Relaxation, sense of calmness
    • Feeling of safety, restoration
  • Awaken the Senses
    • Arouse passion, romance, sensuality
  • Energize and Engage
    • Awaken the body and mind
    • Stimulate, motivate, alert, play
  • Entrain the Brain
    • New kinesthetic skills, break/make habits, reprogram

Mindfulness states have a broad range of health benefits. Studies have shown decreased anxiety and depression, improved immune function, mitigation of cognitive decline due to aging, increased mental clarity and focus, improved heart health and mental health, increased longevity and self-confidence, improved moods, improved sleep, pain mitigation and more. 

Likewise, studies have shown that psychedelic states can treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life psychological distress, alcohol and tobacco addiction, and major depressive disorder. More research is needed to validate the degree to which XR experiences can evoke such states. However, XR applications are emerging to guide patients receiving psychedelic therapies.

Awe is one of the most powerful emotions one can experience. In a partnership with Cirque du Soleil, Dr. Beau Lotto’s Lab of Misfits conducted an ambitious study on the emotion of awe. The findings suggest that awe motivates us to step forward into a world of uncertainty in the search for answers, raises our risk tolerance, increases social behavior, and can even reframe who we believe we were in the past. Multiple studies have also found evidence that experiencing awe makes us kinder and more generous. These are all good things for this day and age!

Read Part 3


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Technoshaman: from worldbuilding to mindbuilding: Part 1

Digital information is ubiquitous. It’s now on our desktops, in our pockets, wrapped around our wrists, distributed throughout our homes, and increasingly co-opting our nervous systems. 

Engaging on smartphones focuses us on digital information while reducing our awareness of physical reality. Virtual reality (VR) takes this further by attaching a smartphone to our face, immersing us in a digital reality, while augmented reality (AR) interleaves cyberspace into our physical domain. 

And now, the metaverse — a collection of online, shared virtual environments where users embody avatars to connect, play and explore — beckons us to live our lives in a cyber reality.

These extended-reality (XR) technologies are becoming increasingly immersive via advancements in digital imaging and displays, graphic processors, deep learning, and brain-computer interfaces. 

So, where is XR technology taking us? How will it be used? What are we evolving into? And how can this increasingly ubiquitous digital technology be harnessed to best serve — and not harm — humanity? 

These questions bring us to media, consciousness, and future tech. We’ll explore the power of XR for social impact, digital pharmacology and transformative experiences. And we will investigate the origins of entertainment, from the roots of shamanism to today’s celebrities and digital spectacles.

A new archetype emerges: the Technoshaman —— one who crafts multisensory digital worlds and experiences to elevate and harmonize human consciousness on a mass scale. 

XR tech evolution

Immersive media is a fast-growing ecosystem that fundamentally changes how we produce, distribute and consume media. XR modalities are disrupting the very notions of content production, distribution and consumption. Our media lexicon has expanded to include the experiences of embodying, interacting, crowdsourcing, socializing, crypto-minting, worldbuilding, and user-generated content.

A Vibrant VR Community
Oculus Quest 2: Meta’s wireless headset is popularizing VR (Credit: Meta)

The immersive media ecosystem includes:

Virtual reality, where a headset replaces our view of the physical world with an interactive virtual environment or Cinematic VR (also called 360° cinema or cinematic reality), where a spherical field-of-view is captured with a 360-degree camera and displayed in VR.

Augmented Reality, where a smartphone, tablet, or see-through headset with special optics accurately places digital “holograms” into the real world — including people, avatars, textures, or 3D animations. AR was popularized by the mobile phone game craze, Pokémon Go.

Spatial Augmented Reality (SAR), commonly known as projection mapping, applies pixels directly onto architectural spaces or 3D objects to create digitally augmented environments. Digital domes are a special case of SAR where immersive environments are created for large groups by projecting (or wrapping LED panels) onto seamless domes or spheres. Next-generation LED-based XR stage volumes — another special case of SAR — are increasingly used for virtual production in film and television.

Mixed Reality offers deep interaction with both physical and virtual elements. Location-based experiences such as Dreamscape and The Void use body tracking and VR headsets, allowing a small group of friends to embody avatars and interact as teams within a virtual world. The teams move through a real-world space with props (including doorways, control panels and railings) that are accurately registered to the virtual world. This allows participants to reach out and touch those digitally enhanced objects as if they are real.

Microsoft Hololens 2: Augmented reality goggles blend interactive computer graphics into the real world (Credit: Microsoft)

These five modalities — CR, VR, AR, SAR, and MR  — are collectively referred to as immersive media, cross reality, extended reality, or simply XR.

The effectiveness of XR interfaces and experiences is based on three senses:

  • A sense of presence — the feeling of actually “being there” in a virtual or augmented world.
  • A sense of embodiment or ownership — the level of identification with an avatar or digital representation of oneself. 
  • A sense of agency — the feeling of free will, intentional action, or motor control within the virtual world. 

XR interfaces are, in essence, portals into cyberspace or, as we are now calling it, the metaverse.

Vortex DomePlex: Immersive entertainment complex includes a walk-through immersive exhibition dome, a sit-down live performance dome with an elevator stage for “digital cirque” experiences, and a standup mixed-use immersive lounge. Currently in development for Phoenix, Arizona (credit: Vortex Immersion Media, Inc.) Vortex DomePlex: Immersive entertainment complex includes a walk-through immersive exhibition dome, a sit-down live performance dome with elevator stage for “digital cirque” experiences, and standup mixed-use immersive lounge. Currently in development for Phoenix, Arizona (Credit: Vortex Immersion Media, Inc.) 

The metaverse: future of the internet

The metaverse is envisioned as the next evolution of the internet — a collection of real-time, 3D interactive virtual worlds where people work, meet, play and create their own worlds, games and events. 
In the metaverse, we become avatars — digital representations of ourselves — to enter virtual or augmented worlds. Avatars can appear realistic or cartoonish or take on various forms such as animals or angels. They can obey mundane physics, or they can fly, throw lightning bolts or wield other magical powers. Avatars enhance our sense of presence, embodiment and agency while providing a social identity as we explore metaverse worlds and meet and socialize with others.

After Two Years Of Hiding, Meta Finally Makes Horizon Worlds Available To  The Public
Meta’s Horizon Worlds: Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse platform seeks to host a billion users (Credit: Meta)

The concept of the metaverse as a shared cyber reality has thoroughly captured the attention of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, who are now investing in the dream of the metaverse as the next-generation internet. 

Major players include Microsoft’s AltspaceVR, Meta’s Horizon Worlds, Epic Games and soon, Apple. Notable metaverse platforms include Neos VR, VR Chat and Engage, which allow basic interaction without fees. 

Blockchain-based metaverse worlds such as Decentraland, The Sandbox, Bloktopia and SuperWorld allow virtual land to be purchased and traded with cryptocurrency — in some cases for millions of dollars per plot.

Continued investments in future technologies (see Table One below) will supercharge XR interfaces and experiences to bring a heightened sense of presence, embodiment and agency, whether we are at work, home, or in public spaces. 

Unique integrations of these technologies can create metaverse-like sentient spaces in entertainment venues, community squares, retail stores, and hospitals that approach Star Trek’s Holodeck without AR glasses or VR headsets. 

A rendering of Niantic's AR metaverse
Lightship: The AR platform by Niantic, creator of Pokémon Go, will allow digital content to blend into the physical world (Credit: Niantic)

What will our lives be like when we are immersed in a digital reality wherever we go? What sort of worlds will we create? Will we be overwhelmed with ads and information? Or will we live in beautiful digitally enhanced worlds that we command? What kind of storyworlds will we create and inhabit? And most importantly, what influence will this new media have on society, culture, consciousness, and the course of human evolution?

Next-gen storytelling

Consider the potential impact of XR technologies on traditional storytelling. Narrative films use cinematic language, which has been developed and refined over the past 100 years. Cinematic storytelling does not easily translate into VR, however, creating evolutionary pressure for worldbuilders to innovate new storytelling methods for virtual worlds.

VR-experience designers are expanding the storyteller’s palette with new possibilities, including new participant points-of-view, interactive games, simulation of positive futures, expanded worldviews, avatar embodiment, social impact entertainment, group location-based entertainment experiences, contemplative practices and more.

Film is limited in its ability to portray or evoke a full range of human emotions and experiences. Cinematic storytelling suggests a character’s inner state-of-affairs through their narrative, behaviors and micro-expressions. Some films tell stories through a character’s internal dialog or attempt to enter the realm of consciousness through memory montages, flashbacks or impairment shots. While first-person narrative provides a window into the protagonist’s minds, the fullness of our ineffable inner experience is difficult to transmit through common cinematic devices.

Non-narrative “art” films have seen some success, including Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982), Baraka (Ron Fricke, 1992) and Samsara (Ron Fricke, 2011). These films are representational in nature, creating an arc using music and suggestive live-action cinematography. 

These non-narrative films can evoke ineffable states by withholding cognitive stimulation — which tends to distract participants by engaging their intellect and instead emphasizes affect. 

Visionary art, surrealistic, or non-representational abstract art relies on pure effect to evoke deeper, more sublime emotions and states of consciousness. One popular use of abstract art is visual music, which is often employed by VJs at electronic music dance parties, concerts and light shows. Like a Rorschach inkblot test, viewers of abstract art are free to project their own meaning onto the imagery. Music or sounds then drive affect, with the colors, shapes and movement of abstract art captivating or entrancing the mind, often freeing the participant from their own internal dialog for a time. 

Films based on abstract or visionary art are often labeled experimental or avant-garde and rarely achieve popular acclaim. However, immersive abstract art — especially 360° dome films — have proven to be highly effective and commercially viable, perhaps because they command more of our visual field, which amplifies the visual effect. 

Cases in point include planetarium laser light shows pioneered by Laserium and more recent 360-dome video shows such as James Hood’s Mesmerica, which seeks to take participants on a “journey inside your mind” — using stunning visuals and poetic narrative. Indeed, the abstract art of Mesmerica leaves room for participants to project their own minds outward, truly making it an inward journey.

A crowd of people at a concert

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Mesmerica: An awe-inspiring journey into the mind for digital domes led by technoshaman James Hood (Credit: Moods, wings, LLC)

While planetariums and XR domes are well known for cosmological cinema — a term coined by dome pioneer David McConville, what is emerging now is best described as phenomenological cinema — XR storytelling journeys into the realms of the mind. 

Neurological benefits

The deeper neurological effects of VR are evidenced by its clinical efficacy in treating anxiety, eating, and weight disorders, pain management and PTSD. VR pioneer Chris Milk called VR an empathy machine in his 2015 TED Talk

Worldbuilders can construct inhabitable virtual cities and communities, create spectacular immersive art and entertainment experiences, supercharge storytelling, develop multiplayer games and more — imbuing their emotions, values, and worldview, and ultimately, their consciousness, into the worlds and experiences that they create. 

Not surprisingly, XR technologies such as VR have successfully stimulated greater awareness and empathy for a variety of social causes, including environmental issues, crime victims, refugees and more, through immersive journalism. Storyworlds can include worlds of mind and imagination by simulating possible futures, worlds of fantasy and enchantment and deeper layers of the psyche.
Gene Youngblood anticipated the trajectory of media to include the externalization of consciousness in his 1970 book Expanded Cinema:

When we say expanded cinema, we actually mean expanded consciousness. Expanded cinema does not mean computer films, video phosphors, atomic light, or spherical projections. Expanded cinema isn’t a movie at all. Like life, it’s a process of becoming, man’s ongoing historical drive to manifest his consciousness outside of his mind, in front of his eyes. One no longer can specialize in a single discipline and hope truthfully to express a clear picture of its relationships in the environment. This is especially true in the case of the intermedia network of cinema and television, which now functions as nothing less than the nervous system of mankind.

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The Unreal Garden: Fantastical augmented-reality walk-through experience (Credit: The Unreal Garden)

In her book Reality is Broken, visionary game developer Jane McGonigal explored the potential of imaginary game worlds to elevate human consciousness:

The real world just doesn’t offer up as easily the carefully designed pleasures, the thrilling challenges and the powerful social bonding afforded by virtual environments. Reality doesn’t motivate us as effectively. Reality isn’t engineered to maximize our potential. Reality wasn’t designed from the bottom up to make us happy…
Today, I look forward and see a future in which games once again are explicitly designed to improve quality of life, to prevent suffering, and create real, widespread happiness.

As the XR metaverse is adopted on a mass scale, worldbuilders will find themselves wielding power to influence others far beyond today’s social media platforms. 

Phenomenological cinema

Our life experiences include highly subjective, personal or contemplative states of consciousness that are difficult to portray through the cinematic language, which focuses on physical expressions, behaviors and dialog. However, many phenomena of consciousness are ineffable, existing only in the realm of phenomenology — essentially, the direct inner experience of consciousness.

For instance, a Zen master’s meditative journey would be impossible to portray in cinema through outward expressions.  We would merely see a person sitting in meditation, expressionless, while internally, they experience a state of samadhic bliss. To portray such a state, we would need to simulate the Zen master’s inner experience, essentially entering and experiencing their mind.

XR technologies emerged from training simulators for vehicles such as aircraft. We are now finding that not only can physical world experiences be simulated, as with cinema, but inner states of consciousness can be simulated and even evoked or transmitted through immersive media. 

One of the most powerful such states is known as the mystical, unity, non-dual or transcendent experience. As described by visionary artist Alex Grey:

The mystical experience imparts a sense of unity within oneself and potentially the whole of existence. With unity comes a sense that ordinary time and space have been transcended, replaced by a feeling of infinity and eternity. The experience is ineffable, beyond concepts, beyond words. The mental chatterbox shuts up and allows the ultimate and true nature of reality to be revealed, which seems more real than the phenomenal world experienced in ordinary states of consciousness. When we awaken from a dream, we enter the “realness” of our waking state and notice the unreal nature of the dream. In the mystical state, we awaken to a higher reality and notice the dreamlike or superficial character of our normal waking state.

Grey goes on to describe how transcendent states, which are central to his art, are non-dualistic and are better expressed through art than words:

Conventional, rational discourse is… dualistic. Perhaps that is why art can more strongly convey the nature of the mystical state. Art is not limited by reason. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a sacred picture is beyond words.

Worldbuilders are learning to create non-dualistic worlds that evoke ineffable, transcendent states of consciousness.

The technoshaman

In his 1985 book The Death and Resurrection Show: From Shaman to Superstar, Rogan Taylor traces our modern entertainment industry back to the earliest of all religions: shamanism. Shamans went on inner journeys, often fueled by entheogens, on a vision quest for their tribe. 

Then they communicated those visions to the people, using impactful storytelling techniques, including song, dance, costumes and masks. In this manner, it is said, shamans managed the psyches of their tribe, bringing them into a shared vision and empathic coherence.

Technoshamanism emerged from 1960s counterculture, with its aspirations of spiritual technologies and altered states of consciousness, later evolving into transformational festivals and electronic dance music culture


Modern-day shamans, or technoshamans, add powerful XR technologies to their toolkit. They are able to simulate and transmit their inner experience to participants, using phenomenological cinema and digital pharmacology techniques, plus modalities such as cultural activations, future-world building and narrative modeling.

Technoshamans are moving into the mainstream and can be found in art galleries, popular music entertainment, dance events, digital domes, music and art festivals, expos, game worlds and, of course, the metaverse. They use XR technologies to open hearts and minds by evoking awe, happiness, pleasurable moods and mindfulness states. Technoshamans model new ways of being, visualize hopeful futures and create shared immersive spaces that build community, connection, a sense of togetherness and unity consciousness.

Unlike filmmakers, who craft television and feature films, and unlike game developers and metaverse worldbuilders, the goal of the technoshaman is mindbuilding. This is the use of digital immersive experiences to evoke unique brain states and inspire new worldviews and new ways of being in their participants. 

The technoshaman accomplishes this —   not through contrived stories or experiences, philosophies, ideologies, propaganda, or branding, but by actually embodying these evolved states and transmitting them through the power of multisensory XR experiences. 

The technoshaman seeks not just to entertain or inform, but to transform.

Stay Tuned. In Part 2, we will deep-dive into technoshamanism, including the power of XR to evoke alternate states of consciousness, digital pharmacology, the science of transformation, and eight principles of the technoshaman.

Part 2

Emerging XR Technologies

The technologies below have the potential for supercharging XR user interfaces to create more natural or realistic human-machine interaction in both at-home and out-of-home environments.

Technology Application
Wave Field SynthesisFreespace “holographic” sound reconstruction
AmbisonicsOpen source 3D audio recording/playback 
Binaural SynthesisSynthesizing 3D audio for playback in stereo
Wearable BiometricsRings, wrist bands and patches with various sensors
Facial RecognitionUser identification through facial recognition
Emotion RecognitionAI-based recognition of emotions
Brain-Computer InterfacesNon-invasive brainwave sensing for computer control
Direct Neural InterfacesBrain implants for computer interfaces
Markerless Motion CaptureHuman motion capture without wearable sensors
Gesture RecognitionReal-time hand gesture recognition
Real-Time Volumetric CaptureReal-time capture of 3D textured mesh models
Lightfield ImagingTrue volumetric/holographic image capture
3D Depth Sensing CamerasImage capture with depth/range information
HapticsTactile user interfaces
TelehapticsRemote touch interfaces
AromaScent displays
4D Theater EffectsVariety of integrated multisensory effects
Web3Next-gen decentralized internet 
Deep Learning AILayered neural networks
Game EnginesReal-time 3D worldbuilding tools
Visual Displays
Autostereoscopic DisplayPlanar 3D stereoscopic display without glasses
Lightfield DisplayTrue volumetric/holographic display
Retinal DisplayImages scanned directly onto retina
AR/VR DisplaysGoggles or glasses for AR and VR
LED DomesLED-based immersive displays

Read Part Two

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