The Sentient Room

The Sentient Room Project was developed by Fernanda Duarte, Brent Simoneaux and Samara Mouvery in 2012. It illustrates modulations between multiple dualities: materiality of the physical space and immateriality of global flows, tangibility of the interface and intangibility of code, totality of control and human agency. In this paper, we describe the project in the context of the procedurality of code as a cultural and technological practice, the agency and (non)human actions, and the public/private dilemma in online and mobile spaces. We begin with a brief description of the installation, followed by a presentation of the main theoretical threads that provoked the project’s design, and culminate in a more technical analysis of the overall project. We conclude by speculating on future directions and adaptations of the project.

The Sentient Room Project consists of two main pieces of furniture, an arm chair and a chaise, situated amongst other mundane objects—rugs, end tables, lamps. Within this built environment, individuals may interact with these as they would any other pieces of furniture that they might encounter in their daily lives: they might sit in the chair, shift their weight while sitting, wiggle, get up from the chair to leave. This mundane interaction with the furniture, however, prompts the unusual. Each time movement is sensed, the furniture sends a tweet, drawn from four theorists in their original languages: Deleuze, Heidegger, Flusser, and Beiguelman.

Laissons nous divaguer entre un reste de philologie et l’expérimentation musicale au cœur de notre temps. #SentientRoom.

Wir fragen nach der Technik und möchten dadurch eine freie Beziehung zu ihr vorbereiten. #SentientRoom.

This is so because there are limits to the skin possibilities: it has not unlimited absorption and secretion potentialities. #SentientRoom.

Em síntese, egoscópio é um personagem mediado pela mídia. #SentientRoom

Within the room, an open window is projected onto the wall of the room. Looking through the window, texts such as the ones above are visualized as information flowing through an urban environment. At the same time (and at another scale) the users and the texts are distributed, potentially accessible from any location around the globe. By following the individual accounts of the furniture or by following the hashtag on Twitter, users can trace the intertwining of texts as they emerge from the space in real time.