Users can communicate with each other by switching on and off lights or by using water basins, doors and dryers. If they need a private space to rest, they can enter a toilet cabin and close its door, hence blocking the specific cabin for other users and making their cabin a truly private space in the no longer privacy-friendly World Wide Web.
A landing page including manifesto, trailers, images and access to the internet restroom can be found on internet-restroom.net.
By whom and for what purpose are spaces made public on the internet?
Can we implement a public, yet private, space on our own terms?
What happens if humans communicate albeit the absence of their bodily features and voices?
We exhibited the internet restroom at the Xpon Art Gallery in Hamburg and the GameZone at the ITFS animation festival in Stuttgart. The setup consisted of a computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse and an internet connection. In Stuttgart we used the setup twice, with the monitors being turned away from each other.
Users felt familiar inside the clean aesthetics of the restroom’s architecture. The input controls were found to be easily understandable.
Users that were foreign to 3D internet spaces and games were cautious, analyzing their surroundings and carefully clicking on interactive objects marked red. The ghostly opening and closing of doors, the toggling of light switches and water taps that was caused by another user on the internet, elsewhere, seemed random, artificial or designed to some of them. They did not expect strangers to be involved in the installation.
Users that were accustomed to spaces like the internet restroom were often seen trying to break the boundaries, glitching the doors, excessively interacting and communicating with each other. They enjoyed the absence of objectives, tasks and quests they were used to in virtual spaces.
Sometimes, the interactions became more of a performance or dance, when users reacted to each other without language, inscribed objects with new meaning or just enjoyed themselves making noise together.
We claim that the internet restroom does not track its user’s actions and that a sealed toilet cabin provides online privacy. Users in the exhibitions often asked about the scope of that privacy. They were aware that most internet spaces collect data without their consent, so they were reasonably afraid the internet restroom would do the same, especially considering it allows for multi-user communication. We assured them that the internet restroom itself does not remember anything, but stressed that its surrounding environments – the browser, the operating system and the internet provider – probably do.
Being de facto intended for use on the internet, not at an exhibition, we can not know what users generally want, think, experience or feel in the internet restroom, be they human (most likely), machine (less likely) or non-human animal (hardly likely). Since none of their actions are tracked, traced or saved it is not possible to reproduce nor to relive these data events. The only way to experience them is to be present in the space as they happen, by either taking part in the play or being an indiscernible spectator.
The design of public restrooms is usually restrictive: Binary gender norms apply, questions of accessibility arise. However, they have always been places of refuge, such as meeting places. We can imagine them as spaces of exchange, cooperation or affiliation, out of range of security cameras. This makes restrooms radical spaces suitable for artistic experimentation.
We understand the internet restroom as a collaboration between human and machine. All of its parts were designed and assembled using software. At runtime, servers are sending data packages containing 3D models, textures and scripts allowing for inter-entity communication.
Continuing, we want to figure out what inputs a human needs to consider a virtual avatar an extension of their own body, with limbs they can move, movements they can think.