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Abstract A Preliminary Investigation of Alien Presence

By Mario Romero and Michael Mateas


Work in ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence tends to focus on information access and task support systems informed by the office environment, which tend to view the whole world as an office, or on surveillance systems that feature asymmetric information access, providing interpretations of activity to a central authority. The qualities of human activity (e.g. mood, social energy) and reports these interpretations, not to a central authority, but back to the user’s themselves in the form of ambient, possibly physical displays. The goal of an alien presence is not task accomplishment and efficient access to information, but rather to open unusual viewpoints onto everyday human activity, create pleasure, and provide opportunities for contemplation and wonder. The design of an alien presence is an interdisciplinary endeavor drawing on artificial intelligence techniques, art practices of creation and critique, and HCI methods of design and evaluation. In this paper we present preliminary work on the Tableaux Machine, an alien presence designed for the home environment, as well as discuss a number of general design issues of alien presence including co-interpretation, authorship, richness of expression vs. system complexity, tensions between viewing computation as a medium vs. as a model, issues of privacy, and evaluation.

Year: 2009
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