When people talk about consciousness versus unconsciousness, there's usually the assumption that there's a "conscious" part of the brain that is thinking and experiencing the world, and other "subconscious" parts of the brain that are in the dark and just doing stuff without actually experiencing the world on their own.
But the disconnect/reconnect thought experiment made me consider an alternative explanation.
Perhaps a brain can be thought of as comprised of a set of regions, where each region is independently conscious? When two regions merge (i.e. integrate their information flows), they form a single unified consciousness, and when a region splits it forms into two separate consciousnesses.
For example, imagine that you're concentrating very hard on a tough intellectual problem. A significant portion of your brain would orient around solving the problem and isolate itself from other areas such as the audio region and somatic region in order to work undisturbed. According to my theory, these regions are still conscious, even thought they're much "dumber" than the unified consciousness they were part of. The audio center would still experience sounds, although it would not be able to identify them in any high-level way. Similarly, the somatic regions would still experience a movement of your leg but would not be able to articulate this in any way.
From the "dominant" brain region's perspective, the audio and somatic regions are now effectively invisible since information is no longer flowing between them. But each region is in fact still conscious in its own right. If something in the audio region was jolting enough, the signals from the audio region would probably trigger reintegration with the "dominant" brain region, which would consider the audio region as being previously in its "subconscious". But the audio region was actually conscious the entire time!
In everyday life, I imagine that the regions of a brain are continuously splitting and merging, sometimes within milliseconds. I visualize a brain as a shimmering, continuously reorganizing set of regions, and consciousness as something that merges and splits according to the topology of the regions.
And somewhere in this theory potentially lurks some more clues to the Hard Problem...