This design emerged from thinking about how social surveillance operates to regulate recycling practice in Japan. Unlike in the U.S. where recycling is practice by a single household, in Japan, recycling is deposited in a common neighborhood repository. All recycling must be separated and deposited in a specific manner. Paper-goods, for example, must be folded and tied into a 8.5 x 11 stack. When I was living in Japan, I found these standards to be quite demanding, but I was intrigued by how much I internalized the watchful eyes of my neighbors, so that even when no one was looking I was aware of that gaze. My imagination about the potentially disapproving eyes of my neighbors in some ways eclipsed the actual experience. Foucault talks about this kind of internalized surveillance in relation to his concept of biopolitics and the state. But I think this case of localized self surveillance is somewhat different from the way we think about the watchful eye of “Big Brother”, because the act is negotiated and enacted horizontally.
So, I wanted to come up with a design that leveraged this kind of imagination about the gaze of others — but instead of being surveilled by one’s cohabitants, one would be surveilled by tiny eyes that run along the floor. These eyes would be “cute” much the way that public service posters in Japan leverage the cuteness of mascots to encourage you to remember important instructions. Instead of focusing on recycling practice, though, I wanted these eyes to be regulating hot or cold air leakage (by guiding an inhabitant to close an open window for example).