EMF Camp


Links & contact

My talk & workshops

  • Sense Without Sight talk: Friday 3 June, 5:40 pm, Stage C

    Per EMF request, there's no Q&A during talk. Just follow me outside afterwards if you have questions or comments, or join one of the workshops.

    See further details below.

  • Sense Without Sight / blind navigation workshops: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, & Sunday at 9pm (sunset), maybe others or by arrangement

    Duration: 1–1.5 hours. Starts at my tent, near Hardware Hacking Area, marked with a conlang flag.

    Free, but donations to cover my costs welcome (canes are expensive).

    Sign-up and negative COVID test required

    See further details below.

  • Meditation workshop: time & location TBD, check schedule link

    Duration: 2 hours; age 16+; no sign-up; no cost.

    Please wear or bring something comfortable for sitting on the ground, bring a drink & snack, pee and stretch beforehand, silence all electronics while at the workshop, do (only) what works for you, & talk to me privately if anything comes up that you don't want to share publicly.

    Will be outside if weather permits, inside if not.

  • Goalball

    Cancelled due to weather.

Volunteers needed

If you can help, please sign up.

  • Talk

    • On stage (must consent to be recorded)
      • aikido randori uke (1-2 people)

        Have the martial arts skills to safely attack me with grabs & hand strikes, and take wrist/joint locks, takedown, etc. You don't need to have aikido experience specifically (I do); judo, hapkido, jiujitsu (standing techniques), or similar background should work also.

        We will need to practice with each other beforehand so we're both comfortable.

        No kicks, highfalls/breakfalls, or rolls, due to limited space on stage. Help me make sure we stay within safe margin of stage edges, equipment, etc.

      • actually helpful person

        Model good behaviour in specific, scripted ways — e.g. guide me to things — and generally help if I need someone to get my canes or the like.

        Help me demonstrate things — e.g. touching your neck/cheek for heat-gradient demo, drawing a map on your back, and briefly blindfolding you so I can lead you around stage.

      • harmful "just trying to help" person

        Model bad (but not intentionally malicious) behaviour in specific, scripted ways — e.g. grab me without warning, interrupt me, ask insulting questions, etc.

      • orchestrator

        Change my slides as needed. Ring a little bell to tell me when my timing says I should be moving to the next segment. Remind me if I skipped something in the outline. Help give off-stage assistants cues for when they should do their things.

    • Off-stage — consent to being recorded optional
      • audience sensory assistant

        Make a sharp clap in specific places when cued.

        Move through the audience aisles to make sound, make air currents, or carry a hidden scented item (e.g. holding coffee, scratching an orange, etc; whatever's available).

        Helpful if you can bring a scooter, skateboard, bike, hoverboard, or the like, but not required.

  • Workshops

    • assistants (paired 1-on-1 with each student participant)

      Negative COVID test and signup required. Preferable (but not required) if you've been a student participant before yourself or are student participant's friend/partner/parent/sibling.

    • videographer (1-2 people, 1 time)

      Follow along one of my workshops and take video of me, students, etc. for posting to YouTube etc. I'll bring a couple cheap GoPro-style cameras; if you can bring better cameras, or wireless mics (esp. binaural, directional mics), that'd be appreciated. Will need to agree to give me copyright to resulting audio/video or licence under CC by-nc-sa or similar; will of course give credit and link as you prefer.

Sense Without Sight talk: Friday 3 June, 5:40 pm, Stage C

Learn to sense the world without your eyes — hear walls and corridors, sense doorways and ceilings with your hair, feel nearby walls and people on your skin. (Yes, literally.) As a blind person, I do this every day; this is your opportunity to learn how to use sensory input that you already have, but you simply don’t realize or pay attention to.

This is specifically focused on blind navigation and sensory experience. I'll also (briefly) cover how and how not to interact with a blind person on the street, cognitive shifts from perceiving the world as a blind person, real vs myth difficulties, etc., but not blindness 101, braille, computers, general life skills, medical/legal issues, or the like.

Come in person. This isn't just a talk; in the live audience, you'll directly experience how to use senses you don't know you have, with participatory demonstrations tailored to the physical environment of EMF Camp, based on the skills and stimuli relied on every day by blind people like me. Practice during camp, and you'll sense more — permanently.

You'll have a better experience if you wear short sleeves, have your hair uncovered, and come together with someone with whom you're comfortable exchanging brief touch on the cheek, neck, or arm.

I will be completely blindfolded for the entire talk. I won't see you nod, shake your head, wave, or the like. Although I might be able to detect that if we're talking one-on-one, I can't do so when you're in a crowd or at stage distance. I still rely on live audience feedback, so please respond audibly, e.g. with words or clapping.

Per EMF request, there's no Q&A during talk. Just follow me outside afterwards if you have questions or comments, or join one of the workshops.

Sense Without Sight / blind navigation workshops

Take a walk with me through camp — blindfolded, with one of my guide canes — and sense the world like I do: using air currents, heat, sound, echolocation, ground texture, wind shadow, and more. It's a unique, permanent sensory upgrade you can still use when sighted.

Workshops are every day at 9pm (sunset), possibly other times (depending on light levels and my stamina & voice), and by special arrangement, and last ~1–1.5 hours. They start at my tent, near the Hardware Hacking Area, marked with a conlang flag.

I can handle 4 student participants, 4 assistants, & 5 observers per workshop.

Requirements for all students & assistants

  • Sign up beforehand and provide feedback afterwards.
  • Watch my talk first, preferably in person (but there's video also). You'll learn much more if we can focus on what I can't show in the talk.
  • Have a negative COVID test in last 48h. LFTs will be available at the medical tent at your convenience for a minimal fee.
  • Be totally sober.
  • Pee & wash your hands first.
  • Reserve at least 1 full hour, preferably 1.5. Doing a "shortened" version does not work well (I've tried); it is very fast-paced as is.
  • Age 15+. If you're a minor, bring a responsible adult to act as your assistant (who's also signed up).
  • Telle me about any disability or other situation affecting your senses, mobility, stability, concentration, or sensory overload. I can accommodate most disabilities (and FWIW one of my best students ever used a manual wheelchair). Some may require special arrangements (e.g. slightly different paths for wheelchair users; hearing interpreter for deaf people; 1-on-1 for both), but most are just things I need to be aware of, and can fit in the regular workshop.

Strongly encouraged

  • Fill out the "for Science" section of signup & feedback forms.
  • Find & bring someone to act as your assistant, preferably someone who's done my workshop before (and have them sign up); ask around camp or Twitter @EMFCamp #BlindNavigation. I'll try to arrange for assistants if you don't bring one.
  • If weather permits, have head uncovered, wear short sleeves, and thin shoes. Mind that rain is predicted and camp may be muddy.
  • Bring a full-coverage blindfold / sleep mask. I'll have a bunch of extras, but I can't re-sterilise them during camp.
  • Act as an assistant after having done the workshop as participant. You'll learn a lot more than just the first time, and help others like someone else helped you.

What to expect as a student participant

My goal with this workshop is for you to have an experience that is as close as possible to an accurate taste of what being blind is really like — including the sensory input, orientation, identification, path-finding, etc. that I use every day. In fact, it's based directly on how I was taught myself, by a blind friend, over course of a few days — just greatly condensed and without most of the practical skills that you'd need to actually navigate on your own. One hour is not enough to teach you to get around without my help — but it is enough to teach you how to use senses you've probably never noticed before.

The workshop is fast-paced but very carefully incremental, along paths I've personally checked first. We start with literally just walking back and forth in a totally clear area; by the end, you'll have been able to do a lot more than you probably expect — including sensing and navigating the tents, guylines, roots, branches, ditches, crates of Mate, rough dirt, grass, gravel, people, robots, etc. that are throughout camp.

I want you to come out of the workshop with a feeling of empowerment and newly broadened senses, not fear or pity. It is normal to feel anxious due to disorientation in the first few minutes. Just pay attention to the things I point out; I promise that this changes once you understand different ways of orienting yourself. This is why I do not do "short" workshops — it takes time for you to acclimatise to a totally different way of perceiving the world, and one hour is about the minimum in which I can reliably bring people over that initial hump.

Everyone varies on what's easier for them to sense (e.g. echolocation, air pressure, heat, etc). Most people can perceive at least a bit of everything I show (though not 100%). For some things (like doorways & wall corners), almost everyone I've taught has minimal confidence that they even feel it at all — yet when I have them test it, they get it right anyway. A lot of these sensations are subtle. That's fine. Practice noticing the same things in the days and years after and you'll discover it becomes a lot more obvious and intuitive over time.

Although most people expect it to be an experience of sensory deprivation, blindness is actually an experience of sensory over-stimulation. If you start to feel overwhelmed, just tell me and I'll provide ways to lower the intensity.

It's normal to perceive a subtle stimulus as a sensory experience, but be confused about how to identify or interpret it. It'll probably require conscious processing to puzzle out. For most people (including me!), it requires years of experience before having the subjective shift from "I can tell there's a some sort of difference in the sound quality on my left vs my right" to "I hear a plastic wall at my 4 o'clock" (though some of my students have gotten this within an hour). That's fine; the idea is for you to get a realistic taste of the sensory experience, not to be able to navigate on your own. I'll help guide you to notice more than you did at first and think it through, and help you interpret things that simply require more experience.

I will let you walk into lots of different things (with your cane) without telling you first, if I'm confident that you can handle them and they're not actually dangerous. Allowing you to explore for yourself — and guiding you to notice and interpret stimuli you missed the first time — is a critical part of what makes this work. Walking into things is one of the primary orientation strategies, not a problem, and it's one of the primary purposes of a guide cane; if you watch me walking around camp, you'll notice that I do so all the time.

Caning out of sync or with a bad sweep range, or walking with abnormal gait, are pretty much the only parts that are a safety issue. You can't ingrain cane skills well enough in just an hour to be fully consistent, which is why correcting this is nearly the only way I will have assistants interrupt you, and why I spend the first several minutes just having you walk normally on a simple, straight path. It's also why I require that you be totally sober. So far, of ~130–150 students I've taught to date, only one has had any injury — a mild bruise due to caning out of sync that wasn't caught by their assistant (and I've revised things to help correct for that). However, nobody's perfect, and EMF is in a somewhat chaotic field. It's possible you might trip, walk into something in a way that's not intentional, or the like — which is why the signup form includes a liability waiver saying you won't sue me or EMF if you get hurt.

Bottom line: I can guarantee that you'll leave having learnt to perceive the world in ways that you never noticed before, and you won't get this kind of training from anyone else (unless you become blind yourself). And if you practice, you'll have permanently expanded senses, not just an abstract understanding. Ask anyone who's done my workshop before, or check out the (approved-to-be-public) feedback I've gotten so far — and please post your own comments on it publicly if you feel comfortable doing so.

Workshop assistants

Assistants follow one student around for the entire workshop. I'll explain it at the outset and be supervising & teaching throughout; I just can't fully monitor 4 students on my own. Generally the job is to not interfere at all — but to monitor and correct a couple safety issues, help lead students to stimuli they may've missed, and keep everyone close enough together so I don't wear out my voice.

I strongly encourage assistants to have first been a student, and students to act as an assistant for someone else in a subsequent session; both people will learn a lot more.

Workshop observers

Observers are welcome to tag along for all or part of any workshop. You can ask questions when I'm not attending to a student.

Feel free to sit or stand in the way, and otherwise behave as usual; humans are part of obstacles found in the normal environment and part of what I teach. Just don't do anything to my students that I'd want you to not do to me.

If there're more than 5 observers currently present, just come back another time (or sign up to participate yourself).