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01 – The Analogy of Interactive Media Installations

What’s this?

On a quick personal note, since this is the first post on the blog, I should preface the meat and potatoes.

I’m excited to write about all the things I enjoy working with (and the things I don’t enjoy working with) in hopes of helping people create more and cooler works. This particular series will focus on interactive media installations and basically everything I know about them/it. It stems from a book I started writing after finishing “An Introduction to TouchDesigner”, but over time it started to seem much more manageable to split up all the sections into blog posts (so if it seems slightly formal, that’s because it was originally supposed to be a book). So this post is the introduction to that, and further posts from the book will be in the “Immersive Design Primer” category on my blog.

There will be quite a number of topics on this blog aside from interactive media, ranging from technology, futures studies, synthetic biology, and literally all the things that make science fiction cool that now exist and are waiting for us to use our imaginations. If that sounds cool and feels like something you want to see in your inbox while you’re on transit or eating a meal, subscribe to my email list in the left side menus.

Rationale

Today, people expect their senses to be engaged and their environments to be interactive and immersive. Firms of all disciplines face challenges because knowledge of interactive technology and immersive design spans a number of interdisciplinary studies that are not traditionally taught holistically. Interior designers, architects, media creators, experiential marketers, and creative professionals can benefit greatly from having a base level of understanding around immersive design and interactive technology, allowing them to broaden their notion of environments as a form of communication and storytelling. This series of blog posts presents a holistic introduction and overview to interactive technology, immersive design, and technical implementation/design.

Outcomes

This series has several goals. By providing a base level of knowledge over a variety of hardwares, softwares, design ideas, and implementations, this series will allow you to:

  1. Identify forms of interactive technologies and technical implementations being used in existing installations.
  2. Describe different types of immersive design and interactive technologies
  3. Map and diagram interactive technologies and immersive designs combinations that can operate within specific technical implementations and designs.
  4. Analyze how different elements of immersive design and interactive technology can be implemented to engage people in spaces to create memorable experiences
  5. Propose appropriate immersive designs and interactive technologies to retail, corporate, commercial and hospitality contexts.
  6. Evaluate feasibility and estimate level of complexity of interactive technologies, immersive designs, and technical implementations

Introduction, Definitions, and Examples

Overarching Analogy of Interactive Media Installations

As I explore many of the elements of immersive design, interactive technology, and technical implementation, I will often refer back to a single overarching analogy. This analogy will help keep all the disparate elements held together within a single framework and will provide a backbone to contextualize all the information. The analogy is as follows:

Consider a completed interactive media installation a traditional essay.

Interactive technologies act as the letters of the alphabet and singular words. Often, they are singular elements with very little relation to each other, aside from the fact that they are grouped under a single banner. These technologies have a range of deliverables. They might bear nothing more than a raw stream of data, and like letters of the alphabet, if incorrectly sequenced, result in gibberish. They may also bear built-in functionality to create simple triggers and events, similar to singular words, that can just as easily result in gibberish if improperly sequenced. This is where immersive design comes in.

Immersive design is the arrangement of these words and letters into phrases and paragraphs. They are the underlying ideas, feelings, and stories that I try to tell, that I simply cannot do with singular words and letters alone. Similarly to writing a paragraph, the idea and story will drive the word choice and ordering. Creating and sequencing words into phrases and eventually a paragraph to express a clear and compelling idea can be challenging, especially in the new language of immersive design. Once a paragraph and idea are constructed, it still needs to be delivered via technical implementation and design.

Imagine an ethereal and elegant poem written on a prescription sheet in a doctor’s illegible handwriting. Imagine an Instagram picture of a picturesque mountain peak above the clouds scaled onto a billboard to the point of distortion and pixelation. In both situations, while the story, content, and idea were quite compelling and with merit, their implementation and delivery were not as great. Technical implementation and design are the delivery methods of the essay. Consider everything from the paper’s weight, the binding, the font face, font colour, and more, as needing to be just as thoroughly researched as the ideas themselves. Far too many times, I’ve witnessed incredible stories be ignored due to poor implementation.

This analogy of artistic installations as an essay will be reoccurring throughout this series. As I move into the next few posts, I will identify what each of the upcoming sections will entail, while providing with some accompanying visual representations to create easy to remember mental imagery.

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What’s next?

Next post, I will introduce interactive technology used in interactive media installations. I define it (once and for all), talk about some its different facets, and introduce some of the topics I’ll examine in more detailed posts later. This series will be scheduled on a pretty regular basis, stay tuned!

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