“May I stay here the all day”? Visitors engagement in immersive experiences.

Patrizia Schettino, Switzerland

The paper will present some of the results from the a qualitative research on the immersive environment PLACE-Hampi, designed by Sarah Kenderdine and Jeffrey Shaw. The technical aspects, the theoretical approach, the design choices, etc. of this project has been described by the designers in several papers (Kenderdine 2007a, 2007b, 2007c). The study presented in this paper is based in qualitative methods, observations and interviews, as suggested by Hooper-Greenhill (2006, p.373)  “a more in depth approach is necessary to probe interpretative strategies and repertoires. This demands a turn to interpretative philosophies and qualitative research methods”. The research started with a pilot study in Berlin and field work of three months in Australia, at the Immigration Museum. This paper will be focus on the analysis of visitors “engagement” (Hooper Green Hill, 2007, pag.10), from the coding on the researcher notes and the qualitative analysis of the visitors’ narratives about the immersive experience. The paper will also describe the different roles played by visitors in the immersive environment, with different level of engagement during the experience: drivers, observers, performers, jumpers, navigators, stoppers, helpers. All the roles will be described with details in this paper. The author will also compares what is emerging from the field, with all behaviors made by visitors inside the space, with the designers and museum staff interpretation and expectation before and after the study, from their interviews. What is emerging as result is the qualitative study allows to better understand more in depth what happened when an immersive environment is inside a museum space and the possible roles and behaviors are in part anticipated by designers and museum staff, in part are unexpected and difficult to predict, but they can become a source of inspiration for future design and better management of immersive technology inside the museum space. The description of the different roles gives also a more complex definition of what is an immersive collaborative space and the engagement in this kind of space, where visitors can play a performance inside the performance, choosing different roles.