Machines for Living
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This thesis describes A Machine for Living In, a digital media artwork using newly available computational and sensing tools to study the home as a site of intimate life. The title invokes Le Corbusier's modernist framing of the house as a machine to interpret the promise of contemporary smart home technologies. The project has two distinct phases: the construction and inhabitation of a functional smart home system, followed by an exhibition of processed data as a multi-part digital art installation. In a process of joint human-machine authorship, this system produces a complex portrait of the home: as a space of language, intimacy, bodily practice, and quotidian narrative. Compositionally, it contrasts utopian illusions of beautiful, frictionless utility with artistic strategies generating insight into the messy, material realities of the everyday. The thesis begins with three key frames of reference for the work in Bachelard's topoanalysis, critical engineering design, and site-specific and systems-oriented arts production. It describes early projects pursing the psychological study of intimate life, leading to the current work. It recounts the conceptual and technical development of A Machine for Living In, and discusses the composition of the resulting exhibition. The thesis concludes with a speculative framing of this research as a kind of introspective design: a hybrid practice of targeted inquiry to provide insight about both human and machine.