>6. In my work I try to look for collective interaction, pieces where
>several people may participate simultaneously. I have seen two
>strategies to achieve collective participation. The first one I call
>"taking turns". You have one or two sensors so people take turns to
>use them, and the rest are spectators. Examples include Jeffrey
>Shaw's "Eve", where one person controls the point of view of a
>virtual world projected on a large dome, Toni Dove and Michael
>Mackenzie's "Archaeology of a Mother Tongue", where a tracking glove
>is used to navigate a narrative, and our "Displaced Emperors" where a
>participant wears a tracking system to transform the Linzer Castle.
>The other popular strategy for collective interactivity I call
>"taking averages". This is what you have in interactive cinema
>experiences or in game shows: a voting interface where input gets
>statistically computed and the outcome is directed by the majority of
>votes. This can be very frustrating and problematic because it's so
>democratic, it makes you feel that your discrete participation goes
>nowhere. The challenge is how to open a piece for participation
>without taking averages or taking turns. In a way, my recent piece in
>Rotterdam "Body Movies" is an attempt to address this.
I feel a third form of interactivity can be identified here...although I am
not sure what you might want to call it. Perhaps "parallel" (in computing
the term "object oriented", with its concept of instantiation, is quite
This is where a work or environment is independently interactive with many
people simultaneously. An example here would be my recent piece Babel
(although nearly all my works employ this approach). In Babel each
user/viewer position is tracked and mapped within the work (in the net
version their mouse location data is used, in the installation it is their
bodily location, tracked with video based sensing - the two versions can
also be integrated). Each persons point of view is then used to generate
and modulate some aspect of the work. The more people involved then the
more aspects the work has (with Babel each person creates and interacts
with a 3D field of numbers, so when there are many people one sees many
fields and perspectives at the same time thus allowing everyone to see what
everybody else is seeing at the same time).
Such "parallel" works emphasize that although people are, in the first
instance, interacting with a machine they are primarily interacting with
one another and with other ways of seeing/being. This is possible as the
machine is not the producer or object of the work but rather the
facilitator, engaged in a complex of relations between people and how
people interact (similarly as people interact with language).
The problem with interaction in virtual environments has always been the
collective experience and how this functions in the stereotypical Cartesian
and causal systems employed in such works and why Rafael has to suggest the
above two modes of interaction. But if it is realised that more than one
view or effect can exist at the same time, that these can be parallel and
layered simultaneously, then the problem goes away and we start to approach
a form of interactivity that is a little more like how we interact with
life and one another.
If interactivity is to be of artistic value it needs to be able to reflect
interactivity as a human factor, not as something specific to machines.
T'would be nice if politics was like this...
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The Great Wall of China @ http://www.greatwall.org.uk/
Babel @ http://www.babel.uk.net/
Research Professor (Digital Media)
Art and Design Research Centre
School of Cultural Studies
Sheffield Hallam University