Category Archives: Phenomenology of media

The Other


The Other

Felt presence, a sensation that ‘‘someone is there’’, is an integral part of our everyday experience. It can manifest itself in a variety of forms ranging from most subtle fleeting impressions to intense hallucinations of demonic assault or visions of the divine. Felt presence phenomenon outside of the context of neurological disorders is largely neglected and not well understood by con- temporary science. This project focuses on the experiential and expressive qualities of the phenomenon and attempts to bring forth the complexity and the richness of possibilities for inter- and intrasubjective awareness represented by these experiences. Are these simply misperceptions and hallucinations heightened and enforced by the mystical or superstitious mind? Or are these entities projections of our own ‘‘selves’’, elements of self-estrangement? How are such experiences shaping our understanding of ourselves and of others? And finally, what is the interplay between intersubjective, private experiences and private or public spaces of dwelling?

The Other experimental space symbolizes the dwelling place where virtual hosts are to be indirectly encountered (Fig. 1). In the corner of the laboratory, the two walls were made of semi-translucent fabric (see Fig. 2) which in the darkness gave it a particular glowing quality. When the participant passed through a small corridor in front of the laboratory space (see ‘Hallway’ on Fig. 1) and alone looked for the ‘‘orange armchair in the room’’ (according to the only instruction given) in the unlit and almost empty laboratory space, they would perceive the room as the lighthouse and the only possible shelter in the space. Inside, it had an appearance of the living room, carefully domesticated in contrast to the sterile and office-like space of the laboratory and the rest of the building (see Fig. 3). The armchair and softly dimmed light of the wood-covered statuesque table lamp formed the center of the space cho- sen for participants to sit down for the experiment. The interior of the room seemed ordinary at first glance: a TV set playing a ballet with muted sound, a cabinet, and shelves. Hidden was the allusion to the short spontaneous nap which commonly results in sleep paralysis incidents and sitting in the armchair in front of flashing TV with the sound muted is often what one remembers last before falling asleep.

The decorative abundance of the space was far from ordinary: statuettes, fantastic masks, and above all: several dozen framed portraits. Obsessively suggesting self and other in the Freudian and Lacanian sense (see Solomonova, this issue), the portraits by artists from different epochs and schools, stressed the grotesqueness of the space: its simultaneously horrifying and comic aspect. What first appears as exaggerated and comic may not look the same after a few minutes. The experience of being surrounded by gazes from everywhere, the flickering of the TV, hearing quiet sounds of wind chimes and beads drifting in the air, and not being able to apprehend the space in its wholeness, after a short while can become overwhelming to the extent of being almost paralyzing. In this effect, another hidden reference to sleep paralysis again shows through.

These are some descriptions of the space by participants: ‘‘I had a feeling that I was a child at home in front of a TV, alone, and I’m waiting for my parents to come home, and I’m afraid that someone is hiding in the room’’; ‘‘An old house, maybe a house with ghosts (like a grand-parents’ house). But very comfortable.’’; ‘‘Creepy old man’s room’’; ‘‘That was a very creepy experience. As soon as I sat down I wanted to leave. The desire to leave the room grew more and more intense throughout the experience. The ‘seg- ments’ felt extremely long. I had to do some breathing to remain calm. The painting on the top left of the television was really creepy and I found it hard not to look at it. That painting alone would give me nightmare’’; ‘‘I felt as if I was in a stranger’s living room, in a different era’’; ‘‘a weird dream’’.

As much as The Other is an experiment in both psychological research and new media technologies, it is equally unconventional for both. It seems that our experiment did not result in the expected collaboration with respect to both fields of research but rather established its own separate ground. In scientific experiments, one normally extracts a desired phenomenon, limits the scope and intensity of other possible influences and then observes it in an almost sterile, controlled manner. In contrast, media- rich installations develop a mix of various experiences simultaneously and perhaps even create new ones. In such environment, empiricism of the scientific experiment with volatile, vaguely defined phenomenon of felt presence is questionable. Even to the evolving field of new media, flourishing around fetishizing the new medium, our non- technocentric approach almost grotesque to the medium is somewhat peripheral. Such a method might not produce a definite scientific knowledge; however, it allows us to tackle the ethereal materiality of the phenomenon which, in the case of felt presence, might be the only way of approaching it.



AI & Soc (2011) 26:171–178 DOI 10.1007/s00146-010-0299-x
Felt presence: the uncanny encounters with the numinous Other
Elizaveta Solomonova • Elena Frantova • Tore Nielsen
AI & Soc (2011) 26:179–186 DOI 10.1007/s00146-010-0300-8
Extra-personal awareness through the media-rich environment
Elena Frantova • Elizaveta Solomonova • Timothy Sutton
Elena Frantova (&) Department of Computer Science, Topological Media Lab, Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada e-mail:
Elizabeta Solomonova Psychology Department, Dream and Nightmare Laboratory, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada e-mail:
Tim Sutton Topological Media Lab, Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada e-mail:




Fine Arts Gallery  – March 19 – April 4, 2008

Certainly in the course of making an event, we produce objects and media and, most importantly, some latent behavior, but all as elements conditioning an event. Its continuously evolving responsive environment changes weather and behavior according to the hour and the day, and according to what’s happening inside or outside its porous boundaries. We arrange our objects in a physical space to leverage the unbounded corporeal intuition that visitors bring with them, so the Remedios Terrarium is an architectural experiment as well as an event.


The Remedios Terrarium is also a set of conversations, articulated in things and events. It’s a philosophical investigation carried out in the form of material experiments made of experimental modes of matter. We create things, media instruments, and kinetic plants, “spoken” from diverse perspectives. We can be noisy, divergent, and even contentious, but making and exhibiting Remedios Terrarium —the 100 day long event — requires us to create a common boundary object together.

As you walk about the Gallery, you’ll encounter individual and collective echoes of questions and speculations reaching ten years back: How can we make compelling events without convention? What makes some events dead and others live? What is a gesture when we do not assume bodies a priori? How do conventions and bodies come into being or dissolve in the continuously flowing world?


Topological Media Lab’s media choreography system: camera-based tracking, state engines, realtime gestural sound, realtime calligraphic video. Sculpture using rapid-prototyped, laser cut plastic, water, plants. Set construction.


Remedios’ Terrarium features works by affiliates of the Topological Media Lab from Special Individualized Programs, Humanities PhD Program, MFA Studio Arts program, Design Computation Arts, Computer Science, Contemporary Dance, Electroacoustics, Theatre, and the University of Manitoba / Department of Architecture, and Pneuma.

Artistic Direction : Sha Xin Wei
Black Box Sound : Timothy Sutton
Camera Tracking : Jean-Sébastien Rousseau
Cells Concept & Design: Pneuma: Patrick Harrop & Peter Hasdell
Cells Design & Production – Winnipeg : Gregory Rubin, Candace Fempel,Evan Marnoch, Dirk Blouw
Cells Design & Production– Montreal : JC Nesci, Jean-Sébastien Rousseau
Documentation (Photo) : Morgan Sutherland,David Jhave Johnston,Emmanuel Thivierge
Documentation (Video) : Desh Fernando, Ludwig Manahan
Dynamic Lighting : Harry Smoak
Glass Cones : Lenka Novak
Graphics Programming : Michael Fortin
Networking : Harry Smoak, Jean-Sébastien Rousseau,Michael Fortin
Plant Systems : Flower Lunn
Promotion : Lynn Beavis, Josée-Anne Drolet, JC Nesci
Print Design : JC Nesci, Valérie Lamontagne,Josée-Anne Drolet
Project & Event Coordination : Josée-Anne Drolet
Real-Time Calligraphic Video : Jean-Sébastien Rousseau
Roundtable Event Production: Josée-Anne Drolet
Roundtable Documentation : Harry Smoak, Tim Sutton, David Jhave Johnston
Sebald Puppet TheatreConcept & Design : Mark Sussman, Ayesha Hameed
Sensate Tapestry : Marguerite Bromley, XS Labs
Sensate Tapestry Electronics : Elliot Sinyor
Sensate Tapestry Sound: Doug van Nort, Elliot Sinyor
Sound Field : Timothy Sutton
State Composition : Sha Xin Wei
State Engine : Emmanuel Thivierge,Morgan Sutherland (Yon Visell)
Suitcase : Elena Frantova
Technical Design & Consultation: Harry Smoak
Touch2 Calligraphic Video : Jae Ok Lee, Jean-Sébastien Rousseau
Touch2 Choreography : Soo-Yeon Cho
Touch2 Dancers : Soo-Yeon Cho, Kiani del Valle
Touch2 Set Construction : Josée-Anne Drolet, Jae Ok Lee,Marine Antony, Jerome Delapierre
Touch2 Set & Costume Design : Josée-Anne Drolet, Jae Ok Lee
Touch2 Sound : Timothy Sutton
Touch Video : Desh Fernando, Touch Creators
Vernissage Sub-Event Design : David Jhave Johnston
Vitrine Display & Design : Flower Lunn, Elena Frantova, Nadia Frantova, Jean-Sébastien Rousseau,JC Nesci
Vitrine Design Technical Assistance : Ludwig Manahan
Web Design & Promotion : Elena Frantova, David Jhave Johnston


Flickr Photo Set

Memory, Place, Identity

Memory, Place, Identity

The development of the Memory, Place and Identity experiments involved two axes of exploration: a substantive one, concerned with place, memory, identity, especially in relation to the body, movement and things; a methodological one, concerned with how to go about doing phenomenological experiments. Here two things can be noted about the proposed phenomenological experiments: first, they would be more focused on enabling precise descriptions of experiences, from a first person point of view and tracking the dynamics of the individual experience, rather than quantifying over populations according to variables already specified by the experimenter; second, they would be more focused on arriving at the conceptual framework proper to the experience generated in the experiment, vs. constructing an experiment to fit an already given conceptual framework or at least they would keep open this arrival.


To prepare for these explorations, Sha and Morris held seminars in the fall of 2009. Participants read designated texts taking notes, or wrote up small observations, and posted them to a blog. Most of the texts focused on the substantive axis of exploration.


The first experiments used Max/MSP/Jitter. For the actual experiments, TML researchers built prosthetic sensory organs that converted light into pressure. Zohar Kfir and Patricia Duquette constructed a glove with a photocell mounted inside a straw lined up with the index finger. Incident light above a tunable threshold mapped via an Arduino board into a vibrator motor.