Emotional Conjuring was one of the Mindfultainment programs from the early days of The Eureka Room.
I had read that by just thinking about an emotion you can generate that emotion in your body. You don’t even need to think about a situation or reason. You can just think up the emotion and give the sensation to you body.
That’s a pretty powerful phenomena.
Just think about movies, right? You’re not actually doing anything besides sitting there in the dark watching a screen tell you stuff. In the movies, nothing is happening in the “real world”. It’s all just thoughts in your head. Excited? Joyful? Scared? The theater hasn’t changed at all. The only thing that has changed is what is going on in your head, right?
So, my thinking went, if the thoughts in your head can generate emotions, then we just change the thoughts and we change the emotions, right?
The idea was simple and brilliant (and wrong): if want people to feel good I just tell them to think they feel good and they’ll feel good. No need to interact with the real world to feel good! No need even for the imaginary world of a movie to feel good!
Just go the direct route for fastest results! Problem solved!
Well, it turns out the direct route is not a pleasant or popular route.
But before I get into the feedback I received from some testers, let me tell you how the program worked.
The Emotional Conjuring Program
The idea was to show emotions one at a time and give people a few seconds to generate (I chose the word “conjure” to make it more mysterious) that emotion in their body. I’d put 30-100 words on the screen for people to scroll through.
I was surprised to find out there’s a book called The Dictionary of Emotions. It is exactly what you think it is: a book of emotions and their definitions. Hundreds of them.
The plan was to put one word on a screen at a time. The word would typically be in a white text and the background would be a solid color. I would try to make the colors “match” the feeling of the word. Yellow = joyful, red = angry, etc.
We’d go through maybe 50-100 emotions and voila! People have experienced the equivalent of about a dozen movies in just ten minutes!
So I found some words that I thought would fit the program that weren’t too “deep” and tried to conjur the emotions myself, going from one to another every 10 seconds or so. It worked. I was on to something!
Since it was from them mindfultainment days, it started life as a 2D program. When it got transitioned to 3D for showing people, all I did was expand the background to cover the side walls of The Eureka Room. In retrospect, this is not a very thrilling use of 14,000 independently programmable LEDs.
The only audio in the program was one when word and color faded into the next word and color. It was a kind of mysterious wooshing sound. Otherwise it was dead quiet. So that people could have no distractions from focusing on all the amazing emotions they were feeling, of course.
Then I had about 10 people view the program, some together, some separately.
As I recall, the feedback ranged from “boring” to “loathsome”.
- Expectations are huuuuge. This is a room with 14,000 LEDs and if someone had seen the other programs (they all did), then they were not keen on the sort of slow mood lighting I created. I should have used the lights more or set their expectations clearer.
- People did not show up with the knowledge that I was going to ask them to be introspective on a worknight. People do not like that.
- The most fundamental failure though was that I failed to see the difference between movies and what I had created. When I tested the program on myself it worked. Why did it fail on other people? It worked because I WANTED it to work and I put the effort into making it work. It was a real work, real strain and people were not wanting to work. (fair enough). Movies, on the other hand generate emotion but instead of all the work being on your shoulders, the movies make it a co-creative exercise. They guide you along with the power of story so that you can easily find yourself experiencing various emotions. It takes longer but that makes it easier for you. Movies are a mix of passive and active and a mix of rewarding moments mixed with a little work. My program was all work, front to back and it didn’t help you do the work one damn bit. Not only that but there were way too many emotions too quickly. Even the people who tried hard got overwhelmed.
- Embarassing admission: I never wanted to sit through my own program more than once. Even I didn’t care that much for it which should have been a gigantic red flag.
If I was going to try this again (which I have no plans to), I might address it by making the program easier, more fun and making sure guests are given the right expectations on visuals, content, and “asks”. Also, I would watch the new program 10 times and see if I could stand it.