A Six-Legged Robot Spider That Tweets Isolated, Lonely Thoughts

A Six-Legged Robot Spider That Tweets Isolated, Lonely Thoughts

In a world where the value of the written word is deteriorating at the hands of simplified, rapid-fire type, meet a spider who remembers the old days and exists to keep them alive, or at least give us something to reflect on while we’re typing away on tiny virtual keyboards. Hyun Ju Kim‘s TweetBot is a robotic spider that senses your presence and speaks to you, quoting sad, lonely passages from Kim’s own journal. The text is projected within the installation, and also Tweeted to TweetBot’s Twitter account.

This sad little android’s existence says something profound about isolation in the age of “optimized” communication. In light of all the convenience and speed of our modern methods of communication, is something lost along the way? We spoke to Kim to find out how his TweetBot can revitalize the meaningfulness of words.

The Creators Project: So what does the TweetBot do? Can you describe its physical role?
Hyun Ju Kim:
TweetBot is a six-legged arthopod that waits for viewers to enter the installation. When it senses the viewers, the robot spreads or curls its legs in. Once the viewer comes to a certain point, the robot will stand straight up. A chime will sound and writing from my journal will be shown on display in the video projected above while simultaneously being sent to the TweetBot’s Twitter account.

What sort of hardware and software did you use?
The Tweetbot is comprised of 18 servomotors and infrared sensors. To join the Twitter account, I used an open platform micro-controller board Arduino. And to get the video to change with the incoming information, I used a computer and telecommunication.

I understand that your purpose is to unify both the analog and technological worlds through a creative process.
Rather than actually unifying the two worlds, this is a work that uncovers a willingness to suffer amongst individuals living in this technological environment. Even writing a journal holds an analog enjoyment. Instead of writing a letter and sending it by post like how we used to communicate, our bodies and lives are too quickly becoming used to short digital memos. Because of this, I try to privatize the forgotten way of communication and relating with others with these writings from my journals which I have kept for over 10 years.

Sending snippets of loneliness into a virtual space is quite a heavy gesture. How have your viewers responded?
A lot of people will visit the exhibition and continue following the TweetBot account. There havd been instances where people might try to control the robot and make commands for it to move. Also, people will retweet my writings. In various manners people have sent their opinions about my work as they tend to equate it this way: TweetBot=@tweetbotv1=artist.”

Do you have a usual phrase or saying to encourage those that are feeling lonely?
Below is a saying from @mps2004 discovered while preparing my exhibition at Savina Art Museum last spring.

There is no reason to do something especially in order to forget solitude. Because when that thing you are doing is finished, or just taking a break, the solitude will surprise you by seeping back in. Only after you win over solitude at leisure will it get resolved. A man of virtue should be able to enjoy leisure.

What else may we expect from you next?
I’m actually constructing a performance piece using a group of robots.