Designing tangible interfaces for collective decision making in interactive theatre

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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The focus of this project-based thesis work is how to design for audience participation in the context of an interactive live theatre play. The interactive play, Anatomy of a Decision, requires the audience to decide which direction the story of the play should take throughout nine scenes. These are the research questions answered in this thesis: How can I design for audience participation in an interactive theatre play? What behaviours emerge among the audience members due to the interaction design? The first question is answered through an iterative design process, outlined in the thesis. The second question is answered through an analysis of key findings derived from audience observations, questionnaires, and a qualitative interview with one of the audience members. The research confronts two design problems. The first design problem is how to mediate audience participation via interactive technology in a live theatre context without letting the technology set the boundaries for participation. The second is how agency (i.e. the individual’s feeling of control in an interactive narrative), can be provided and ideally increased for multiple co-located participants simultaneously rather than limiting a participant’s power in the decision because of multiple people making a single choice. The project was started in the beginning of 2014 with the creating of the interfaces, and ended with the premiere of the show Anatomy of a Decision in March of 2015. The outcome of the project is twelve interconnected tangible interfaces, integrated into preexisting tables within the theatre hall, and nine different applications for collective decision-making processes to be used with these interfaces. The decision mechanisms encourage the audience to either compete, collaborate, or discuss in order to take part in the decision. We discovered that the competitive and collaborative decision-making mechanisms were perceived as the most interesting and engaging by the audience, and that only these succeed in providing agency for the individual. These particular mechanisms give the individual the power to either compete to win, and in the case of the collaborative mechanisms, the ability to disrupt or collaborate in the collectives aim of success. This thesis consists of a written documentation along with online documentation of the performance in the form of video clips.
Salgado, Maraina
Thesis advisor
Salgado, Mariana
tangible user interfaces, interactive narratives, interactive theatre, audience engagement
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