What does it mean to design machine presence when form factor and utility are secondary to mediated experience? If the perceived immediacy of digital technology is seen as a hinderance to meaningful interaction, how might we design tangible interactions that encourage long term, perpetual, engagement? A viscereality is a type of interaction designed to mediate interaction between human and the natural world through objects and dynamic system narratives. The goal of a viscereality is to pose relationships between humans and their environment through tangible interactions.

They provide a layer of biomorphic interface designed to engage the imagination through a felt connection with interactive systems. Input is tangible and output is physical, leveraging the instinctual awareness of the user in order to foster mindful interaction with the resources they control.

Letters and numerals are abandoned as primary signifiers for informatics and replaced with biomorphic actuation. Data is expressed through the emotive properties of objects, offering a perceptual experience outside the realm of numbers and letters. Ordinary gestures are appropriated and used as strategies for input. Pushing, pouring, and cutting become modes of communication, allowing their inherent qualities to support specific system narratives. These two vectors of input and output form the basis of my research into viscerealities.

I am interested in exploring the the possibility of deriving ideal forms of emotion through the direct manipulation of materials and their properties. Biomorphic actuation is a highly effective means of display, but what and how it communicates presents a significant challenge to the designer. Designed animism is a powerful idea, though, limited in its application. My research takes the notion of designed animism and applies it to everyday infrastructure in an effort to bring to life the very systems that technology has traditionally kept conveniently, and efficiently, out of sight. By experiencing the blatantly obvious through the lens of designed viscerealities, that which was previously meaningless is now be effortlessly imagined to be something other than what it really is.

Pump Actuation

Realizing the need to more accurately control the flow of water I built a peristaltic pump. Widely used in the field of medicine, this type of pump allows any type of fluid to be moved through a pliable tube. I am interested in using water as a display, this will allow me to have a kind of platform from which to work.


As part of my ongoing research I have been exploring different types of tangible inputs. Working specifically with materials that are elastic in nature, I am interested in how squeezing, pushing, and stretching can be used as methods for input. Softness and pliability are not things we generally associate with computer interactions. What would it mean to employ them? And, how might this inform the nature of the interaction?

A biomorphic system status signifier. It beats like a heart. The user grabs hold of it to feel subtle changes in system health.

3 physical states that might signify system status.

A device prototype.

A surface that is smooth to the touch and allows the user to freely run their hands across it. A pliable screen.

Arcs of Interaction


In an effort to analyze the work I have done over the past year and a half, I decided to break down my projects into the smallest components possible. The idea was to create an audit of all the interactions I have built, and the bits and pieces of componentry that make them up. This is by no means an open ended exercise meant to categorize all potential interactive elements, but a way to organize the work I have done in order to drive more projects and experimentation in the future.

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Project Elements

Simplified Categories

Rather than EFFECTS, each element is now the product of what I call an emotifier and a Cognity. An emotifier is the emotional quality the element is attempting to project. A Cognity is how the user understands and conceptualizes this element.

Irrigation Controller

A simple concept for a garden irrigation system that monitors soil moisture and reports data to a central server. The sensors are solar powered, and only report data when in full sunlight. The sensors are “asleep” until activated by the sun. Activation makes for a lively sensor that reports often. I would like to exploit this narrative element to create a tangible interface through which a user controls his/her irrigation. Typically, this control is given to a timer that automates the process, removing any potential for a participatory experience. The system is unseen, and ultimately forgotten about so long as it invisibly performs its task. What happens if this task becomes an enjoyable experience requiring the user’s attention? The design challenge is to create a tangible interface which promotes this type of long term, mindful, interaction. What would this interface look like? What behaviors might it exhibit? How does narrative play a role in designing both the system and the interface?

Creating such interfaces is the basis for this thesis.

Work In Progress Show


This is an interactive fiction. You do not read it, you enact it, perform it, and pretend it. It is somewhere between a game and an interface, but is neither. It draws from the delight of gaming and implements the affordances of every day devices. The central device in this story is one that circulates water, allowing an operator to draw water from the system and return in it. This is intended to be a restorative process, performing the cyclic nature of water consumption through a device that mimics hydrologic infrastructure.

Visualizing Wave Data

I needed to make sense of the data gathered by the ocean sensor. Values are converted into orientation data and viewed on screen. Set waves can be seen rolling through as the sensor is pitched. Small wave noise has been minimized to allow only large movements to be displayed. I can now move forward and build a tangible, electro-mechanical, animation.

Ocean Sensing

Do we have a cultural connection to water? How might we begin to rethink how we consume water in our everyday lives, considering more carefully it’s connection with the natural environment?

In this experiment, I am attempting to capture the motion of waves at the beach. A motion sensor is placed inside an inner tube and left to record orientation data in the undulating water just outside the surf break. The idea is to use this data to drive the flow mechanism inside a personal water device found in the home, bringing some context to the personal consumption of water.

Data collection ended when a lifeguard threw me out of the ocean. It is illegal to use an inflatable craft in the water. Laws…