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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Felt Presence in a Computer-Mediated Environment – work in progress show

Felt Presence in a Computer-Mediated Environment – work in progress show
  • On July 2, 2018

During this term, I have continued to utilise the CNC plotter to explore illusionistic phenomena, as I attempted to simulate uncanny encounters through a computer-mediated environment.

Diverging from the sand drawings from the previous term, I have examined techniques related to seance as well as religious ceremonies. One of the most fascinating instances of the feeling of presence has turned out to be a more commonplace experience that could appear in our everyday lives. According to the research conducted by Solomonova et al. “Felt presence can manifest itself in a variety of ways ranging from the most intense and realistic hallucinations, e.g. during sleep paralysis attacks or sensory deprivation, to the most subtle and fleeting sensations that ‘someone is there’.” The presences often occur when there is a mismatch between people’s internal and external representations of their body, as when people wake up from a sleep paralysis attack in which their brain is awake but their body isn’t. The felt presences are also usually experienced as being connected to one’s physical location. This has inspired my current design where I track visitor’s movement from a Kinect sensor and then use the same coordinates to control uncanny physical effects.

The first prototype I have modelled this term features an array of wooden stick pendulums that parts ways as the visitor’s movement has been detected. The effect is triggered by the CNC carriage moving a strong magnet underneath the platform. When the pendulums’ movements start to correspond to the visitor’s position in space, it gives a strong sense of an invisible agent dwelling among the pendulums.



To precisely reflect the visitor’s movement, the next prototype I have created employs the effect of wind blowing on sheer organza voile fabric. This prototype has proven to be effective because of the mystical visual language as well as a relatively immediate reaction when a visitor moves through space. Using the fan mechanism also results in a natural delay in the formation of the air bump, which corresponds to the theory that mismatching people’s internal and external representations of their body inspires a feeling of presence.



In the next three months, I hope to further explore illusionistic effects in relation to a visitor’s body that could be achieved with a CNC plotter. I will also focus on how body representations are being treated and select the most compelling method for my final degree show.

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