EMF Camp


Links & contact

Cached message for EMF 2024 - last updated 2pm, Thurs. 30 May 2024

The meetup point is at my tent, next to the conlang flag and white cane hanging from a tree branch, in the cluster of 4 trees south of the lounge. Here are two photos, one facing north towards the lounge, the other facing east towards my tent (showing my cane collection):

Cached message for EMF 2024 - last updated 2pm, Wed. 29 May 2024

This is redundant with other stuff on this page, sorry, no spoons to make it clean.

Quick reference
  1. Contact

    Thursday to Monday, please assume that I will only read email, texts, Discord, etc etc., when I wake up and when I go to sleep.

    If it's anything that needs a faster response time than 1 day, please call me at x4724.

  2. Scheduling & signups

    I'm getting a slow trickle of signups. That's pretty typical - people always do it at the last minute. If you think someone should sign up, poke 'em.

    In particular, I will need more assistants than are currently signed up. Please poke anyone you think would be willing to act as an assistant and ask them to sign up. I need at least 1 assistant per student (unless it's a special 1-on-1 session), and it's a lot easier on me if I have another 1 meta-assistant for groups of more than 3 students. If fewer than the minimum 1-to-1 ratio turn up (and Alex isn't available or isn't enough to bump us up to even pairs), some would-be students will have to switch to being assistants on the spot.

    You are of course always welcome to come back for another session as an assistant, and always welcome as a student if you haven't done that before. In my experience it's beneficial for someone to do both roles, so I recommend you do both even for your own sake (not just because it's excellent to others).

    I'll probably announce the Thursday group and time once I've finished setting up and mapping camp myself, so ballpark 2pm ish on Thursday. I expect to announce the Friday through Sunday sessions either just before I go to sleep the night before, or in the morning day of.

    Feel free to say hello in person! We'll hopefully be setting up right next to the cluster of 4 trees south of the lounge, decorated with a full size purple/gold/black conlang flag. And I should be very easy to spot - beige broad-brim hat, welding glasses, long white & red cane, and white & red hiking stick. I probably don't know you're there, so just come up and introduce yourself. See https://s.ai/essays/interaction

    Yes, people can sign up during the event. I prefer if it’s at least a day in advance so that I can process things before I go to sleep. However, short notice is okay if there’s space. Filling out the signup form is required no matter what, in part because it has a legal liability waiver.

  3. Instructions

    I wrote up my instructions for students & assistants - see https://s.ai/emf/i

    You are not required to read or memorise them. I will go over essentially everything anyway, in a progressive manner or where it's relevant, though I try not to be that verbose.

    However, if you've read it ahead of time, that'll help things go much more quickly, so we can breeze through the boring parts, so we can focus on the parts that are bespoke or can only be done in person. It also helps to conserve my voice, attention, and other spoons.

  4. Discord

    I usually hang out socially on Discord, and I'm thinking of adding one for participants. If you have thoughts on that, please let me know.

    FYI, there's an unofficial EMF Discord at https://discord.com/invite/JK9jdkA79V

    You're welcome to friend/DM me - just remember I won't be online during the day Thurs-Mon.

  5. Disability and O&M

    If you indicated any disability issues or things suggesting you might benefit from real-world use (O&M), and there's been a night since then, I should have already contacted you directly.

    If I haven't, call.

Sense Without Sight / blind navigation workshops 2022 2024

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.

1.5–2 hours. Starts at my tent (marked with a conlang flag), next to the cluster of 4 trees south of the lounge.

The times listed in the conference schedule are not real — they're only a placeholder. I expect to do 1 a day, Thursday through Sunday. I'll email you as soon as I'm able (which might be day-of), to tell you when to come after I decide actual times — based on responses to the sign-up form, group coordination, my own schedule & spoons, brightness, & weather. I am not likely to be able to do more than 1/day other than for special circumstances, nor before twilight (~9pm), but that's TBD.

I can handle about 4–5 student participants, same + 1 assistants, & 5 observers per workshop.

Requirements for all students & assistants

  • Sign up beforehand and provide feedback afterwards.
  • Watch my CCC Sense Without Sight talk first. You'll learn much more if we can focus on what I can't show in the talk.
  • Be totally sober.
  • Pee & wash your hands first.
  • Reserve at least 1.5 hours, preferably 2. 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).
  • Tell 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. Rain or mud cancels the workshop except for blind/VI participants & their assistants/observers.
  • 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.

More detailed instructions

I've written up detailed instructions for students & participants, at https://s.ai/emf/i.

If you've signed up, I would appreciate it if you read them in advance, and have them open on your phone (for assistants to refer to).

They may also help if you're feeling unsure or nervous, since they give a more detailed explanation of my teaching philosophy & structure, what I do and don't expect from both students and assistants, what kinds of things you will & won't be exposed to, etc.

You are not required to do read nor memorise them. I will go over essentially everything anyway, in a progressive manner or where it's relevant, though I try not to be that verbose.

However, if you've read it ahead of time, that'll help things go much more quickly, so we can breeze through the boring parts, so we can focus on the parts that are bespoke or can only be done in person. It also helps to conserve my voice, attention, and other spoons.

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.


Availability depends heavily on the number of volunteer assistants I have. If you want to be a student participant, please try to get an assistant to also sign up with the same group code. If you've been a student, please sign up to be an assistant for someone else in turn (e.g. in a later time slot).

If you have disabilities or some other situation that'd need 1-on-1 training, we'll figure out a time that works for both of us.


If it's raining, or the ground is still muddy from recent rain, the workshop will be cancelled. Coping with that is beyond the skill level I can easily teach newbies.

There's one exception: if you have visual impairment, it's still on. (You need to know how to get around no matter what the weather is.)


This is a bit duplicative of the above, as the above is mainly from previous years, and I've updated a bit but haven't yet merged this page fully.

Purpose of this workshop

I am not trying to teach you actual orientation and mobility (O&M) skills, because you do not need them. (Unless you are in fact blind/VI, in which case we'll discuss this — and I will probably give you much more challenging situations, since you actually need the practical skills.)

Rather, I'm teaching you a tasting course of a very wide array of sensory skills, and as close as I can get you to an accurate empathy for the experience of a skilled blind person just walking around. Doing that requires that you use a blindfold and cane during the workshop.

Many of the sensory skills will probably feel just barely perceptible, some more so than others. A couple you might not feel at all. That's normal. Only about 5–10% of my students have been able to quickly use these sensory skills at anything near my level — I myself took years of experience to gain it. However, all of my students have been able to get at least a toehold level of most of them, and nearly all are able to do more than they themselves believe until I give them proof of what they just did.

It's much more important to me that you get an accurate impression of the sensory experience of a blind person than that you be able to know how to interpret those senses or orient yourself with respect to the environment. I will be helping you with both of those, so you get to cheat to a much higher effective skill level than I can teach you in a couple hours. Absolute orientation is hard, as is mental mapping, knowing what to use as reference points, etc. It takes years to go from "I can hear some difference in the environment" to "I heard the glass-walled multi-storey building across the street", or from "I can sense still air on my left" to "there's an electric car idling two steps in front of me".

The point of this workshop is to give you just a taste, and a bootstrap into noticing more of your world in future. You will not be able to get around blindfolded on your own after this, because I've deliberately stripped out everything you don't need — and acquiring even an absolute basic level of independent O&M skills requires days, not an hour or two (again, unless you actually need those skills and tell me, so we can train you).

I do not expect you to actually ingrain cane skills, nor to orient yourself easily or quickly — and don't actually care if you do, because that's not what I'm teaching. A bare minimum is required so that you can feel comfortable, experience the stimuli blind people rely on every day, and protect yourself from basic hazards, and I will teach you that.


I take a great deal of care to ensure that you are only exposed to situations I believe you can handle safely, but it's never going to be 100% safe. This workshop inherently requires you to explore your surroundings using senses you are not used to.

Walk naturally!

The two most important things for your safety are that you

  1. walk using your normal gait, and preferably at normal speed (ambling is OK, shuffling is not), and
  2. keep the cane between you and unknown obstacles — sweep exactly once per step, cane tip opposite your forward foot, with arc covering both sides (this is the first thing I'll teach you).

These two points are the only things I will insist that you follow and that your assistant always correct you about if you're off for more than a few steps (or if you're near hazards) — and I'll have your assistant ensure you don't wander too far away from me.

Cane sync & sweep arc are the primary safety measures for blind people. They're usually only a problem when people take halting "groping in the dark" type steps due to anxiety.

I know it's a bit circular, but having confidence, and trusting me (& your assistant) to keep you safe, will itself make you safer. Relaxing is more important than the cane technique.


I will not treat you with kid gloves; that's an unfortunate and insulting habit from sighted people. I will let you walk into things with your cane — in fact, I'll require you to do so, since this is one of the most basic facts about blind navigation. I will allow (and require) you to discover and think through your environment on your own, helping only bootstrap you where you don't have the necessary skills, experience, or knowledge to figure it out yourself.

I will specifically prohibit your assistant from telling you about most obstacles (other than things that you're not ready for or may harm others, like little kids or fragile objects), and I will have them instruct other people to not get out of your way. Your assistant or I may ask you questions so as to get you to figure things out for yourself (e.g. "what do you hear?", "which direction is downhill?", or "what material is the thing you just hit with your cane made of?"), tell you when you've overshot substantially and need to turn around, answer questions like "what is this?" once you've figured out the parts you're able to on your own, or help direct you back to me when I need the group to assemble.

If I feel you are able, and if I believe it will teach you something helpful, I will lead you through taking stairs/escalators/lifts, crossing a street, walking through crowds, and basically anything else you and I do all the time. I'll give you all instructions and support you need; I promise this is not nearly as daunting as it may seem. All my students have been able to do these things just fine, even with unexpected obstacles thrown in.

Some of your discovery process will be startling. You will hit things with your cane, and there'll be things in your path which you did not know about. That's normal.


So far, of ~150–200 students I've taught to date, only one (to my knowledge) has had any injury — namely, a mild bruise from walking into a door edge, caused by caning out of sync that wasn't caught by their assistant while I was helping another student. I've revised things to help correct for that, and for everything that's even come close. However, nobody's perfect. It's possible you might trip, walk into something in a way that's not intentional, or the like.

There are also some small hazards that I will intentionally expose you to, once I feel you're ready — things that I personally would not always be able to avoid in the same situation — because they are hazards even for an experienced blind person. These include, for example, a thin tree limb or guy line to the face; startling environmental stimuli; unexpected obstacles; dead ends; difficult terrain; etc. These are just part of the deal for all blind people, and I want you to have an accurate empathy of those too.

Sensory overload or exhaustion

A few students, particularly autists or people with fatigue/pain/mobility related disabilities, have had experiences of sensory overload. This is usually due to fatigue, disorientation, and/or sudden external stimuli (like engine noises, phone noises, or strangers interrupting or possibly touching without warning). Some of that is outside my control. Some is inherent — I get sensory overload all the time, and have learned how to manage it — and is in some ways more intense for someone who's new. However, I can help to limit if I know your issues in advance, and we can take rest breaks during the workshop if you want. I always try to check in with you regularly, though I may forget, so please actively tell me how you're doing.

Please tell me immediately if you are experiencing anything like this or getting close — or for that matter if you find anything distressing, painful, or the like — rather than just aborting (e.g. taking your blindfold off). It is of course your absolute right to take care of yourself, so please do whatever you need to do. However, in my experience, it is better to instead take a break, reorient, take steps to limit the overstimulation, or have me guide you to a gentler come-down — and it's important for us to discuss afterwards. I will usually be able to help if you tell me about it.


It's possible to hurt yourself when walking around, and more so if you're blind and have no O&M skills. I will minimise it as best I can, and won't expose you to anything I wouldn't do personally, nor anything that I don't think you can handle. But some degree of risk is inevitable.

The sign-up form requires you to agree to this and waive all liability, i.e. you promise not to sue anyone if you get hurt.

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).

My 2022 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.