The Concept of “Expressive Entities” (Lee, 2013, P.33)

For over a decade, I have been working with a computational artistic practice that explores what can be called “Expressive Entities”. These are interactive kinetic artifacts for finding meaningful engagements in daily environments. I defined “Expressive Entities” as ‘Interactive Design through an Artistic Approach’. The overarching motivation for this work is to explore new ideas of creating Human-Computer Interactions by incorporating artistic aesthetics, moving beyond goal-directed utility to more nuanced and even challenging or uncomfortable interactions.

“Expressive Entities” employ a variety of themes focusing on nature, ecosystems, and the connection between life forms. As human beings, an inescapable part of life is our interaction with other creatures. The fundamental theme in my work concerns how ecosystems, societies, and life itself form an interconnected web where disturbance of any part affects everything. The interaction components seek to depict ecosystems and environments in a surreal manner as life-like interactive entities that create intriguing experiences for humans. 

Bringing life and vitality into artificial environments and life forms requires finding a way to create movement or some form of change. One way to vitalize them is to use computer-based technology, which allows a conceptual exploration to incorporate various functional components into interactive artifacts, creating responses to motion, touch, or ambient sound. This symbiotic aspect of “Expressive Entities” essentially makes viewers part of this environment where the interactive artifacts are shown as symbolic living creatures. The artifacts depict parts of both human and animal bodies whose interactive nature mimics emotional traits such as anger, happiness, shyness, and more nuanced expressions. The anthropomorphic elements are exposed in a surprising manner to invite people to explore their engagements with life-like digital entities.  

The common method to make the artifacts expressive was creating dynamic motions of each character; thus, most “Expressive Entities'' are kinetic-based interactive designs. In relation to human influences, the digital entities engage them through an interplay of ‘attraction and repulsion’, and ‘playfulness and defensiveness’. These dualities of characters through contrasting relationships can be found as “Expressive Entities” open a playful environment within the living spaces. A further intent of these duality characteristics of the artifact’s gestures is to build paradoxical connections in human-technology relations between how the digital entities evoke strong emotions (including negative ones) and how that could develop self-reflection and connect with other people. These engagements continued to develop in opening aesthetic experiences through recreating everyday artifacts’ functions and meanings from a speculative design perspective. 


Lee, Y.S. (2023). Expressive Entities: An Exploration and Critical Reflection on Poetic Engagements with Technology [Doctoral dissertation, Univerity of Twente}