Responsive environments
: Participants and protagonists

  • Russell Richards

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This PhD research project builds on thirteen years of enquiries as an academic practitioner, developing/critiquing interactive audio-visuals. This approach interweaves theory and practice so that both build on each other. It responds to the need for principles that inter-relate people, digital technologies and environments. The concept of "responsive environments" (RE) is offered as a starting point for the development of principles focusing on people within these environments. A responsive environment is "responsive" in the sense that some form of computer technologies are present and sensing/recording/reacting to people, and an "environment" in the sense that these activities are located in a place and that that place matters in terms of setting the scene, housing the technology and providing a context for the users/visitors. Common themes were extracted from the literature review to draw together previous and, for the most part, separate attempts at theory/practice relating to RE. These themes were complemented by research into contemporaneous activities in the areas of Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality and Locative Media to provided enhancements to the development of three practice projects. These enhancements together with the incorporation of Moore and Anderson's concepts of "patient", "actor", "reciprocator" and "referee" as roles available to those encountering REs led to specific research questions regarding roles, positions, opportunities for repurposing content, learning experiences, the use of sound, visuals and presence, and the assessment of values represented in and through a responsive environment. In each case these questions shift the emphasis of the research towards the experiencing of REs and what they enable rather than the technologies used only. The use of Schwartz and Halegoua's concept of the "spatial self" further focuses attention of the value in connecting digital expression with real spaces through an RE. This has led to a proposed conceptual framework and principles of practice that can be applied in the area of study of RE to nurture opportunities for participants and protagonists. The latter term is proposed as a means of acknowledging opportunities to make content/concepts in an RE as well as obtain and use them by participation. These opportunities are supported by both synchronous and asynchronous interactions through digital layers using online social media platforms. These platforms enable the archiving of content in a digital layer and/or possibilities for continued social interaction through a digital social layer in relation to the responsive environment. The incorporation of synchronous and asynchronous interactions through digital layers is a major contribution to the concept of REs. A further contribution is the use of the pioneering work of Gordon Pask in both the practice and theory of cybernetics as informing the concept of REs. Pask provided a formulation that expressed how content/concepts could be produced through relationships between people, computers and environments. This approach has been mirrored in other disciplines thus giving additional credence to its value. This discovery provides the impetus for further research, by academic practitioners and others, in this developing area of study.
    Date of AwardJan 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Nottingham Trent University

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