Siddharth Hirwani

The Sentient Complexion



The aim of this project was for designing a product or system where playfulness, criticality and ubiquitous computing are involved. This project emphasizes on experience prototyping, systemic thinking and storytelling as methods for exploring user experience on a conceptual level.


The theme for this project focused around the vision of a home in 2036. We tried to understand the home today and looked back at the past 10 - 15 years and how technology has progressed and changed not just our lives but the society around us to be able to forecast the future. 


The Sentient is an artifact that lives in the future where borrowing is the norm and we do not own character defining objects anymore. In a time such as this, the Sentient is the only object that creates a true image and representations of ourselves through the impacts in our life, represented in skin as a metaphor.


Role in Team

My role in the team was split quite equally through most of the duration of the project. Together we conducted research, laid the foundation and ground work to create a design fiction. We had intense ideation sessions creating short vignettes for the larger future world we had created. Creating quick prototypes to illustrate our ideas. This being a speculative design the approach for the film was a documentary style. I took charge in writing the script, and assisted in model making. I would extrapolate ideas from everyday things to be able use in the fiction.


The Sentient Complexion is a speculative design project that focuses on how slow technology influences the normative markers of society.

Our future labels ownership as temporary while borrowing becomes the norm. In a life where machine intelligence is more superior and income scarce, subscriptions create the opportunity to still live comfortably. However, the resulting instability of ownership triggers society to redefine itself. We speculate that while today we create our characters for people to see online through profiles on social media, pictures we share, or the things we say, none of them are entirely accurate. The internet of things on the other hand, has the capability to accurately keep track of us, and as a result, our characters can be shaped by our real lives rather than our minds.

The Sentience is an artefact that acts as a timeline of a person’s life, depicting positive and negative impacts on the body in its skin and flesh. Indents, bruises or cuts etc. represent hard, painful or negative bodily experiences, while healthy growths and bright skin portray the good. It grows taller with every printed layer to mirror the lifetime of a person, forming a truly personal character defining artefact.


Umeå Institute of Design
MFA Interaction Design

Duration/ Year
10 Weeks / Fall 2016

Team Member
Christoph Zobl

* A logo I designed for the team, it reads Chrisid - Chris and Sid. The logo is sketched with a wavy line and a few vertical strokes.


Design Fiction - Society 2036

The date is Monday, 11th of February 2036. Until the turn of the century, those dematerialised lives where things are incredibly hard to afford and finding well paid labour was difficult, encouraged people to discover pleasures in non- materialistic activities. It was around the same time that everyone slowly became less capable of affording their own perfect lives. Jobs got eradicated by ever cleverer robots everyday. The days of real ownership had long been gone and society was thriving on the current model of living; subscriptions to everything. People never needed to be the owners of most of their belongings, simply because it was not worth it.

The decline of real belongings resulted in a sense of diminishing responsibilities, families breaking, school systems failing, even dropping birthrates which was credited to technological overwatch and all the smart contracts each subscription brings with itself. This was obviously going to happen, how else would all these things keep track of when they’ve been subscribed to.


Culture and Fashions - Social Dimension



The naturalist has very traditional Buddhist ancestors, which can be recognised in his character. The carefully chosen housing decor represent a certain refined touch, yet the cluttered arrangement of things reveals his free approach to life. He believes in nature and humanity more than most people and carries a great fascination for documenting his real life. As the naturalist, he believes in having the most pure experiences and follows a very natural way of life, something his Sentience also represents. When he was very young his mother passed away, leaving deep marks in his Sentience. He has managed to grow from the situation and become stronger today, but still keeps his mother’s sentient skeleton close as a token to preserve in his life. 


Contourists are a peculiar kind of people. They are comparable to social media extremists back when those networks warranted some kind of social ranking. Today, with Sentiences, the Contourist has to actively take part in the life she is portraying, and with that, live through very specific situations. She is incredibly ambitious about shaping her Sentience, and consequently her life. This means that she conducts many experiments which could help her bring some new and unique markings to the artefact. Even if this means she has to stay awake for two days, cause pain with cuts, or even induce slight psychosomatic traumas, limiting any relationships she has with people to three years. Because of the large amount of effort that goes into beautifying, getting recognition is just as important.


The pessimist is the most mysterious type of character. He works in communication privacy management and majored in boundary turbulence; which encompasses understanding disruptions in control and regulation of privacy information. He is not the biggest fan of all the technology that goes into feeding the Sentience. Many people tend to dislike him, but he seems to be quite realistic. He never found much in the confusion as Plato did back in the day, but strangely identified with Aristotle’s drive to organise and catalogue the world to see systems and patterns behind the confusion of phenomena. Perhaps this is why he approaches his life in such a negative way. He may have a certain illness, but his cunning intelligence brings an intrigue to the shape of his Sentience.


Society and Ripples - The Sociosystemic Dimension


Society has gone through many drastic changes over the last century. First, people had to recover from the violence of the war, then computers crept into the home, suddenly everybody was holding one in their hand and finally, they were literally everywhere, some silly idea about ubiquitous computing became reality. Sentiences brought back a sense of belonging, a certain ownership. It allowed people to express themselves in the way they lived, through their bodily experiences, and let them look back at who they are through something far more real. What nobody expected was the drastic societal shift they induced too.

People eventually separated into something only comparable to fashions. The characters which were outlined earlier are a prime example, distinctly different approaches to the same piece of technology. The unexpected or unintentional opportunities which are provided to society through certain technology still prevail. Nobody would have ever thought that people will resort to doing something like burning themselves periodically to create a mark which may or may not be seen as beautiful by the rest of society. In the political infrastructure, while not many things changed, a dramatic increase in interest was the most obvious impact. Campaigns and promises built on lies take their toll on the body, the Sentience, which the public can see. This truthful approach doesn’t end there. Within the smallest scale, relationships between people or themselves, society could tell if they were hurtful. There is of course a certain intimacy involved when two people are very close. They learn about each other, they become a part of each other’s lives, and hence their Sentiences. Everybody is unique in their own way, but with time people may learn how to interpret each other’s lives better, and hence read more into their partner’s lives, present and past, or potentially; future.