Interfacing the Multiplexer Room:
Speculative Spatio-Mediated Assemblages for the Digitally-Interfered Home
Master of Science in Computational Design Thesis
Advisors: Golan Levin, Lawrence Shea, Daragh Byrne
Carnegie Mellon University
As Paul B. Preciado points out in Learning from the Virus, in 2020 and much of 2021, the domestic space —becoming fused with the needs and functions of a remote office— has turned into an ultra-connected production and consumption space. Commuting is now occupied by a computational-mediated choreography of screen-based interactions across productivity tools and smart devices. In response, ubiquitous and seamless technology has only furthered our role as intermediate auditors of information processes from our workspace to our home. These technologies' diverse visual, sonic, and tactile operating interfaces saturate our cognitive system and disturb our beyond-the-brain bodily experience of reality in our most intimate habitat.
Whereas commercial tech products are widely concerned by concepts of usability and efficiency, this thesis proposes an architectural, material-informed, and site-specific study of domestic technology through the model of the Spatio-Mediated Assemblage: a type of environmental-reactive speculative artifact that interferes with our spatial cognition where physical and virtual substance add up to the definition of our surroundings. Next, this thesis outlines a momentary and personal site to critically research future context-aware computing and tangible interfaces based on theories of mediated reality and distributed cognition. The Multiplexer Room is a multi-dimensional interfaced space where analog continuous electrical signals, binary instructions, and digital meanings traverse frenetically through mediums and surfaces. Three speculative assemblages are developed as a way to expand our vocabulary of digital spatio-mediated interactions in this space. The first experiment describes the fabrication and use of the Cardinal Recorder, a geomagnetic-aware portable recorder that can index voice memos in different cardinal directions and explores the spatial affordances of indoor domestic settings as an audio-mnemonic instrument. The second experiment, Six-Part Galliard, iterates on the previous prototype utilizing a head-mounted wireless device's orientation-aware sensing capabilities to synthesize a room-specific six-voice polyphonic soundscape. The last experiment, LSD Cognition— or Location-Specific Domestic Cognition — describes the implementation of an ultra-wideband system for accurate indoor localization and spatialization of audiovisual memories in the room. The prototypes and their experiences are evaluated through critical self-sousveillance and virtual showcasing with a group of design practitioners and scholars.
The experiments' results reveal that audio spatialization strategies offer a screenless but seamful approach to distributing information and actions across various mediums. Simultaneously, the orientation-based and location-aware systems tested in this thesis provide a less invasive alternative to computer-vision-centric frameworks for tracking our position and motion in a domestic environment. Beyond the Multiplexer perspective, this thesis discusses how self-driven analysis of one's intimate space and behaviors allows for a more fine-grained digital experience's design and encourages other creative technologists to leverage autobiographical methods when crafting interactive spatial interfaces for domestic spaces.