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PhD Research

Title: A Study of Audience Relationships with Interactive Computer-Based Visual Artworks in Gallery Settings, through Observation, Art Practice, and Curation. The University of Sunderland July 1997

Thesis Abstract:

Contemporary interactive computer-based artworks are examined, with particular reference to the problems and opportunities presented by their relationship to their audience in conventional gallery settings. From an anecdotal starting point, the research uses a series of observational case studies of exhibited works, the production of an interactive artwork, and the curation of an exhibition of interactive artworks, to explore pragmatic questions of the artwork/audience relationship in real-world situations.

A range of existing taxonomies for kinds and levels of interactivity within art are examined, and a 'common-language' taxonomy based on the metaphor of 'conversation' is developed and applied. The case studies reveal patterns of use of interactive artworks including the relation of use-time to gender, aspects of intimidation, and social interaction. In particular, a high frequency of collective use of artworks, even when the artworks are designed to be used by one person, is discovered.

This aspect of collective versus individual use, and interaction between audience members is further explored by several strands of research: The development of an interactive artwork specifically intended to be enhanced by collective usage and interaction between users; the application of a metaphor of 'conversation/host' to the making of the artwork; further, more specific, case studies of such artworks; and the further development of the taxonomy into a graphic form to illustrate differences in artwork-audience, and audience-audience relationships.

The strands of research work together to uncover data which would be of use to artists and curators working with computer-based interactive artworks, and explores and develops tools which may be useful for the analysis of a wide range of artworks and art production.

Supervisors: Brian Thompson (sculpture, University of Sunderland). Huw Davies (film/multimedia, Napier). Deborah Thomas (film theory, University of Sunderland).

External examiners: Carole Gray (Robert Gordon University), Sean Cubitt (Liverpool John Moores).

Research Methods Used:
"hybrid media require hybrid analysis."

Lunenfeld, Peter (1993). 'Digital Dialectics: A Hybrid Theory of Computer Media', AfterImage, Nov. p.7.

Overall the approach could be described as 'hybrid' - combining case studies based on museum exhibit evaluation with the new forms of art-practice-based research, and more conventional cultural theory. The hybridity of the approach was suggested by the media used, and the development of a taxonomy for interactive art sprang from a metaphor of the making process (a metaphor of 'conversation'). Thus the method drew on the groundbreaking practice-based methods of Anne Douglas' 1992 Ph.D. at the University of Sunderland, whilst adapting and cross-fertilising with other influences.

Format of Dissertation:

The dissertation is produced in print and as an Acrobat document on CD-ROM, which has the addition of video clips but is without the appendix of the Serious games catalogue. The print dissertation, with CD-ROM, is lodged at the (Ashburn House) library of the University of Sunderland.

A pdf version of the dissertation (not including the video clips) is also available on-line from this web site. Click here for information on this on-line version.


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<Employment | last updated Jan 2003