Born out of the 1996 Internet World Expo, (1) Sensorium
is an Internet site that presents Web projects created by a group of Japanese writers, musicians, designers, cultural anthropologists and programmers. These projects all deal with the sensual world and how our environment (ecosystems, biological systems and such) can be translated and experienced on the Internet. Members Shin-ichi Takemura, Yoshiaki Nishimura, and Hiroyuki Ohno state that:
is an experimental alternative Digital Museum designed to create a "public sensory platform on the Net." It is a new "forum" for sharing live experiences, such as the visualization of global seismic events, and the circulation of our body cells, rather than the mere digitalization of existing knowledge and data found in textbooks and museums." (2)
The people behind Sensorium
have strong ideals concerning the Internet's role and possibilities and have expressed their concerns through the many Internet projects they created from 1996 to 1999. Their concern for sensory awareness is reflected in the different themes they have explored. Projects include World Ear
(1996), Net Sound
(1996), Star Place
(1996) and Web Hopper
(1996), the last of which consists of "an interWeb site that enables you to visualize your Web hopping and that of other Net users. The interface shows your trail crossing the world as a red line and those of other users as blue lines." This simple concept denotes Sensorium
's main concern: to link lived experiences and physical geography to the sometimes timeless and space-less Internet, a space where users often perceive themselves as acting outside reality.
"The Internet has the potential to give rise to a new human common sense: an enhanced and pluralistic sensorium and nervous system that can be shared by all. The Internet is here to connect us to the hidden channels of the wind and water and fire of the earth. Like electronic acupuncturists we will diagnose the body of the planet through our senses. Perhaps we shall also see an "Inter-Species-Network" that will enable us to make contact with trees and dolphins. The Internet/Innernet, then, is not limited to a human context, not to mention some virtual cyberspace." (3)
Another project featured on Sensorium
's home page is You Are Not Who You Were
(1997 to present). Through the use of "cookies," the project tracks people's visits to the site and then illustrates how many body cells have been replaced since their last visit. This cellular transformation is conveyed through a sort of human caricature presented on the Web site.
In addition to Web projects, the Sensorium
team exhibits installations, including BeWare 01/02: Satellite
(1997-1999), which was commissioned by the Ars Electronica Centre in Linz, Austria. This project was also presented at the 1998 Biennale de Montréal
. thanks to the Daniel Langlois Foundation's support. The installation is a technological sculpture that consists of photographic images of the Earth's surface received from the polar orbital satellite of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These images are projected onto a 4 inch by 6 foot plate that changes with the speed of the satellite.
"NOAA's infrared images are analyzed as temperature data, which is used to control Peltier devices (4)
attached to the underside of the plate. By touching the plate, one can feel the actual temperature of the parts of the globe presently shown." (5)
The BeWare 01/02 project
team is made up of Shin'ichi Takemura, Ichiro Higashiizumi, Takuya Shimada, Shu-ichi Ono and Yoshiaki Nishimura. This work was first shown at Ars Electronica
in 1997 and then travelled to SIGGRAPH 98
(Orlando, Florida), the 1998 Biennale de Montréal
(Canada) and the NTT/InterCommunication Center (Tokyo, Japan) in 1999.
One of Sensorium
's later projects is Night and Day
(1998), "a ring of WebCam imagery from the different longitudinal zones creating a single revolution around the world." (6)
The group continues to promote most of its Web projects on-line at sensorium.org.