Research Proposal



I intend to construct my research paper on the platform of the American television series, Limitless (2015), and the British drama series, Sherlock (2016), as primary sources. Although both texts are prominent in different genres and for different cultures, they both depict interesting representations of consciousness and the intelligence. Limitless is a television adaptation of the Neil Burger film with the same title. The story follows Bryan Finch, who is a normal member of society, until he takes a neuro-enhancing drug called NZT and begins working with the FBI to solve cases. The BBC series, Sherlock is a contemporary adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories. The show follows the self-proclaimed, “high functioning sociopath”, Sherlock Holmes and his associate, Dr. John Watson, as they solve mysterious crimes using the art of deduction. I would like to explore selected episodes of Limitless and the way that it portrays the projections of the main character’s consciousness as a physical manifestation, while on the neuro-drug NZT. Similarly, episode of season 3 has a strong theme of drug usage by the main character, accompanied by physical manifestations of his consciousness in order to solve a crime. I am especially interested in the connection between both main character’s usage of drugs and how that functions as an enabler in the enhancement of their consciousness. Do these shows assume that there is a tangible significance to drug usage and our perception of consciousness? Is there a significance (outside of sheer entertainment) to representing thought as physical? How does this relate to the mind (intangible) vs brain (tangible) argument? What can be learnt about how our consciousness is influenced by others, through the way that the shows portray the physical manifestations, as not only the main character, but other characters as well?

One source that I intend to use to further my research is Stanislas Dehaene’s, Consciousness and the Brain (2010). This source will help me to begin answering the question of external influence on the consciousness as well as understanding the simulation of consciousness separate from the brain. Another source that I am interested using is the journal article “Physical Consciousness Outside the Brain: Parasite Fermion Model for Substance of Consciousness”, by Takashi Taneichi. This source may be helpful in exploring the significance of portraying consciousness as a physical manifestation through its attempt to clarify the origin of conciseness being outside the brain using something called the parasite fermion model. Other sources that I hope to find would be journal articles on existing neuro-enhancers and their current or possible effects on the mind and physical brain. I would also like to find more information about other television programs and films that also follow this model of portraying consciousness.

I have attempted to search for existing scholarly works that discuss my primary sources on the subject of consciousness, however, I was unable to find any. Thus, I may be the first. My motive for writing on this particular subject is in part because I find the idea of physically representing consciousness to be interesting. I am also motivated to find out more on the subject of how we are able to shape and reshape our identity through our impressions of others and the way each show represents this by the main character’s impression of other characters as physical manifestations. We have been in the age of film and television for a while now, and I think that the we (often subconsciously) learn more about ourselves and the state of society through these mediums. I hope to contribute a new perspective to the argument about the separation of consciousness from the body by exploring the very literal way that my primary sources depict this idea.

2 thoughts on “Research Proposal”

  1. I haven’t seen Limitless, so I could be wrong in my assumption, but wouldn’t you say that another thread that connects the two shows is genre, specifically that of hard boiled/detective? It may be interesting to consider the ways in which genre lends itself to a certain representation of consciousness. Also, I think it’s quite interesting that physical consciousness is a concept able to be executed in part because of its medium; film is able to cinematically construct an aesthetic representation of the mind because of its visual possibilities–something that literature is obviously incapable of. So another potential consideration may be in the connection between representation and medium as it relates to consciousness. What is cinematography able to accomplish that writing cannot? Or, to be less presumptive, is cintemagrophy indeed able to accomplish things that writing cannot?

  2. I haven’t seen “Limitless” and only fleeting glimpses of Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. But I have read some of Conan Doyle’s stories about this so-called “sociopath” and have heard a number of clinical hypotheses as to Holme’s brilliance/affliction. Aspergers, savant, Sheldon Cooper-ish kinda guy, hashish addisct, who could only deduce while high, etc, etc.
    I like your angle, Asheka — kind of going from the characters — into their brains — and out again. I have an image of this swooshing ride in my head already. Good luck with Dehaene! I found him a bear to read!

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