The Butterfly in the Room

Interactive Installation

Research, Ideation, Concept, Development

Maximilian Brandl
Philipp Kaltofen

The Butterfly in the Room takes visitors on a journey through the hidden networks of actors that surround us all.

The project deals with the question of how the invisible networks of actors are influenced by human design and how these consequences and the networks themselves can be made visible. Based on the previous research project, Entangled Interfaces (Brandl & Kaltofen, 2020), a network of actors surrounding an unnamed Internet Of Things (IoT) device was explored and analyzed.

The Butterfly in the Room was developed as our bachelor thesis in Interactive Media Design at the University of Applied Science Darmstadt.


To communicate these results, Butterfly in the Room uses an interactive multimedia installation that playfully and immersively takes visitors on a journey through the interwoven stories of the actors. Familiarly designed playing cards with possible design options are placed on a table next to an unspecified IoT object. Visitors are encouraged to select one of the cards in turn to engage with the different design options. The effects of the respective selection are graphically displayed on the surrounding walls. It is possible to switch between actors. Each actor is placed in a larger context with other actors, connected by their relationship. The resulting network reflects a section of reality that is often ignored by the current design practice.

The two main goals of the project are to provide a personal knowledge gain for the creators, as well as to give form to the rather abstract techno-social and social-ecological systems that form the basis of any design. Furthermore a discourse is stimulated — visitors of the installation find a first point of contact with More-than-Human Design.

To improve accessibility from a global audience, a detailed digital version was created in addition to the physical installation. This broadens the accessibility of the project from location-based viewings, such as through museums, conferences or exhibitions, to a wider audience that can access the installation from their homes.

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