Building Emotion (B.E.) translates ineffable responses to offbeat audiovisual content from the Internet into unexpected, materially-rich environments for bodily interaction. Digital media consumption has significantly increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced us to minimize close contact with others and has confined us to the boundaries of our homes. Online venues – from anonymous Amazon Mechanical Turk surveys to personal social media feeds – have revealed shared frustrations with our new, digitally-saturated existence, as well as intense desires to interface with the physical world and other human beings.
In spite of this newfound resistance to technology (and perhaps in acknowledgement of this collective longing for the “real world”), this thesis does support the idea that digital media offers unique experiences that are positively expanding the bandwidth of human emotion. To advance this claim, B.E. extracts therapeutic qualities from four pervasive trends in digital escapism: ASMR, Mukbang, Slime and Breadfaceblog. In each, the project analyzes the peculiar staging of bodies, objects, surfaces, and sounds and develops corresponding material environments that translate their inherently digital sensations to the physical realm. Situated in Nunavut, Canada, an unassuming shed is filled with piles of inhabitable flesh-toned blobs that are human-like in appearance, each texture-mapped with digitally-manipulated images of skin. Upon slipping into a similarly-mapped sensory singlet and entering each blob, visitors will experience unusual forms of delight connected to each trend. While the structure of each volume is fixed, the interior surfaces are interchangeable so the facility can keep pace with online content production. By transforming these vicarious pleasures into immersive scenographies, treatment protocols, and even product catalogs, architects can design for and expand emergent subjectivities. B.E. helps you be more off-screen, IRL.