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A Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for Entertainment Domains

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The concept of audience interactivity has been rediscovered across many domains of storytelling and entertainment—e.g. digital games, in-person role-playing, film, theater performance, music, and theme parks—that enrich the form with new idioms, language, and practices. In this paper, we introduce a Spectrum of Audience Interactivity that establishes a common vocabulary for the design space across entertainment domains. Our spectrum expands on an early vocabulary conceptualized through co-design sessions for interactive musical performances. We conduct a cross-disciplinary literature review to evaluate and iterate upon this vocabulary, using our findings to develop our validated spectrum.
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A Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for
Entertainment Domains
Alina Striner1, Sasha Azad2, and Chris Martens2
1Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), Amsterdam, NL,
2North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
Abstract. The concept of audience interactivity has been rediscovered
across many domains of storytelling and entertainment—e.g. digital games,
in-person role-playing, film, theater performance, music, and theme parks—
that enrich the form with new idioms, language, and practices. In this
paper, we introduce a Spectrum of Audience Interactivity that estab-
lishes a common vocabulary for the design space across entertainment
domains. Our spectrum expands on an early vocabulary conceptualized
through co-design sessions for interactive musical performances. We con-
duct a cross-disciplinary literature review to evaluate and iterate upon
this vocabulary, using our findings to develop our validated spectrum.
Keywords: audience interaction ·audience participation ·entertain-
ment ·agency ·performance interaction ·immersion
1 Introduction
Interactivity has the power to immerse and empower audiences across divergent
domains. Although these mediums use different terminology, sometimes describ-
ing interactive approaches as participatory or immersive, their desired outcome
is to design fulfilling storytelling experiences. In Hamlet on the Holodeck, for
instance, Murray argues that future science fiction authors will be challenged to
define rules for narrative interaction that transform passive readers into audi-
ences engaged in immersive and reactive narrative experiences (81).
In pursuit of this dream of the Holodeck, HCI research often designs novel
technology to support immersive experiences (65; 105). However, generalizing
and characterizing rules for interaction is as tricky for writers and designers
as it is for practitioners (20). Designing interactive experiences often means
learning from previous work and building experiences using available tools. Since
interactive audience experiences exist in a range of contexts, designers are often
limited to learning from their area of expertise. We posit that in addition to
new technology, the HCI community needs conceptual tools that help designers
across performance mediums consider and compare how audiences can interact.
To develop new forms of artistic expression, HCI practitioners require a com-
mon language to compare and learn from diverse experiences. Prior work defined
models that broadly measure (120), and describe audience agency and partici-
pation (33; 90; 9; 127; 108), but literature suggests that more complicated rela-
tionships must be defined to address Murray’s fully interactive world (81).
2 Alina Striner, Sasha Azad, and Chris Martens
This paper expands on an early spectrum conceptualized through co-design
sessions for interactive musical performances (109), using it to develop our Com-
mon Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for Entertainment Domains. Our ap-
proach explicitly allows designers across domains to discuss interactive experi-
ences using a common taxonomy. First, we define audience interactivity, describe
its benefits, and overview previous efforts to characterize interactivity. Then, we
conduct an extensive review of interactive experiences across theater, theme
parks, and games, three domains that represent diverse audiences, modes of in-
teraction, and performance spaces. Our findings validate and expand on the early
spectrum, refining it with additional levels, labels, and definitions. For clarity,
the paper presents the literature review after introducing the new spectrum.
In summary, our work 1) overviews previous work on audience interactivity,
2) reviews literature across three entertainment domains, and 3) presents a new
Spectrum of Audience Interactivity.
2 Related Work
In this section, we first describe how storytelling has evolved to include audi-
ences, resulting in more immersive and engaging experiences. Then, we define
interactivity as audience agency and participation in performance, and describe
how it contributes to immersion and engagement. Finally, we overview previous
efforts to characterize audience interactivity.
2.1 Storytelling
Throughout history, narratives have defined human culture and entertainment,
transporting audiences (48) by creating “an experience of cognitive, emotional,
and imagery involvement.” In our research, we use Zimmerman’s definition of
narrative (127), building on Miller (78), who defines narrative as an initial state,
a change in that state, and insight brought about by that change. We also adopt
the term transmedia (27; 44) to refer to interactive audience experiences.
In transmedia experiences, narratives invite audiences to interact with expe-
riences. Theme parks fulfill audience needs to interact by creating a fantasy of
another place and time (79; 24). Purposely designed to be isolated, theme parks
invite guests to travel (29), to transport themselves to a new location. Leaving
the real world at the parking lot, guests gain temporary “citizenship” to a fan-
tasy world (17), escaping the rules and conventions of the outside world (119)
for one with no clocks (24) or defined social barriers (12).
We see this model replicated in live theater. In audience-driven experiences
like Coffee! A Misunderstanding (106), authors invite audiences to change the
direction of an improvised narrative. Other examples include The Night of Jan-
uary 16th (91), in which audience members play the role of a courtroom jury,
and Drood (89), a musical adaptation of a murder mystery. Games likewise offer
players roles in predefined narratives, or allow narratives to naturally emerge
from play (70; 94), such as in the interactive drama Fcade (69), where virtual
characters respond to a player-performer narrative.
A Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for Entertainment Domains 3
2.2 Defining Audience Interactivity
The role of the audience has changed. The capacity to alter and transform ex-
periences has empowered audiences (75), leading to a dissolution of traditional
audiencehood (16). Previous work has described degrees of audience immersion
in a narrative, however, the relationship between immersion, audience, and per-
formers have not yet been explored. This paper extends current definitions to
concretely classify the full breadth of audience experiences in entertainment.
For this reason, we define an audience member broadly; as a bystander, spec-
tator, customer, participant, or player. Likewise, we define audience interactivity
as a range of experiences that may allow audiences to participate or interact.
These experiences may vary in:
Physical and Virtual Mediums Experiences can be physical, such as live
theater, or virtual, such as VR or Twitch streams.
– Location Experiences settings may vary in size and scale, from a single
room (or virtual dungeon), to a university campus (or virtual world).
Formality and Setting Experiences can be private or public. For instance,
an arcade simulator may be a individual experience, a murder mystery might
include a group of friends, and a street performance may be public-facing.
Ratio of Participants to Performers Experiences may have varied ratios
of audiences to performers. For instance, a massively-multiplayer role-playing
game (MMORPG) may have thousands of players, while an interactive art
installation may have no designated performers.
– Audience Influence and Agency Experiences may afford audiences a
range of influence or agency. For instance, a formal theater might designate
when audiences should interact in performance, whereas a street performance
might give them the freedom to join in when they feel comfortable.
Tools & Technology Interactive experiences use a range of tools to create
interaction. Tools can range from physical props and costumes to smart-
phones, tablets, or wearables.
2.3 Supporting Engagement and Immersion
Entertainment literature supports the value of audience interaction to create
engagement and immersion (112). For instance, Green et al. found that narrative
transportation can affect persuasion and belief change, as well as enjoyment (48).
Engagement refers to the intensity and emotional quality of user involve-
ment (43); engaged users exhibit positive emotion, and show sustained cognitive
task involvement (41). Engagement is often created through immersion (15), a
feeling of “deep play” (32; 26) that furthers emotional investment (112). Several
constructs (47) have been proposed to describe immersion. Ermi and Mayra (32)
divide immersion into sensory immersion, challenge-based immersion, and imagi-
native immersion. Brockmyer (15) suggests that sensory immersion often creates
a sense of presence or “being there,” surrounded by another reality that takes
over attention and perception (32; 26; 74). Likewise, Csikszentmihalyi describes
the pinnacle of challenge-based immersion as flow (25; 31; 58; 99), a state of
total task absorption and optimal performance (32).
4 Alina Striner, Sasha Azad, and Chris Martens
2.4 Previous Efforts To Describe Interactivity
Previous research endeavored to characterize interactivity in media experiences.
Relatively simple models include Everett’s single-dimensional scale that rated
the interactivity of communication technologies (33), and Rafaeli (90), who clas-
sified media based on audience responsiveness. Based on empirical data from
questionnaires answered by 6700 players, Yee (125) added an “immersionist”
factor to Bartle’s classification of players into achievers, explorers, socializers
and killers (7). Zimmerman (127) identified four modes of audience interactivity
that complement our goal of broadly defining a taxonomy; Cognitive Interac-
tivity, a response to an internalization of a narrative, Functional Interactivity,
interaction with physical text such as turning pages, Explicit Interactivity, par-
ticipation in narrative flow by making choices and participating in narrative
events, and Meta-interactivity, interaction that allows for narrative construc-
tion, deconstruction, and reconstruction.
Fig. 1. Early Spectrum of Interactivity for Musical Performances (109).
Multiple models characterize interactivity by the choices and actions of au-
diences (45; 61; 63; 62; 103). Lindley compared audience types, motivations, and
play styles across current literature (122; 88), and defined his own taxonomy (64)
to describe three attitudes in narrative; the audience, the performer, and the im-
mersionist. Steuer (108) expanded on Everett’s characterization of interactivity
with a two-dimensional model based on vividness, the richness of a mediated
environment, and interactivity, a user’s ability to modify the vividness of their
experience. While Steuer’s method is highly cited as a measure of immersion and
engagement, it notably fails to provide explicit criteria to map new experiences
onto his scale (55). Laurel’s three-dimensional model further characterizes in-
teractivity by frequency, the range of choices available, and the extent to which
choices affect experience (62). Likewise, Goertz introduced a four dimension
scale of interactivity using degrees, numbers, and flexibility of choice (45; 55).
We extend these models, accounting for both audience engagement and agency.
A Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for Entertainment Domains 5
Interactivity has also been discussed in great detail by researchers in HCI (61;
101). Zeltzer describes autonomy and interaction as a single dimension that en-
compasses all aspects of an audience’s relationship to their environment (126).
Laurel further emphasizes the experiential nature of interaction with media tech-
nologies (61). Both (61) and (108) describe media use in terms of mimesis,
likening the relationship between users and technology to actions in a play, en-
couraging users to develop a first-person, not third-person, relationship with
their environment. Engagement, which Laurel (1991) describes as a primarily
emotional state with cognitive components (63), serves as a critical factor in
arousing a feeling of “first-personness” (108).
Previous work by Striner and McNally (109) stewarded a first step toward
understanding the many ways in which technology can allow audiences to inter-
act with musical performances. Their work developed a spectrum of interactivity
(Figure 1) for musical performances from children’s codesign sessions using Co-
operative Inquiry (CI) derived from Participatory Design (28; 50). Using their
spectrum as a starting point, we conducted an extensive, cross-disciplinary liter-
ature review to evaluate and iterate upon this vocabulary. This paper presents
findings from the literature survey and a revised spectrum of interactivity.
3 Method
The goal of this work is to develop a taxonomy of audience interactivity to facil-
itate communication and collaboration among experts and designers in a wide
variety of entertainment domains. This spectrum enables designers and practi-
tioners across domains to discuss and learn from a broad range of experiences,
and to consider challenges inherent to diverse audience interactivity designs.
Building on prior work (109), this research evaluates and generalizes findings
from music across various entertainment domains through a comprehensive re-
view of audience interactivity literature in theater, theme parks, and games and
introduces a common Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for entertainment. In
this section, we first overview the underlying factors for our choice of theater,
theme parks, and games as our three representative entertainment domains.
Then, we describe our literature review process.
3.1 Choice of Entertainment Domains
Audience interactivity exists across a broad range of entertainment domains (40;
86; 100; 42). To validate Striner’s spectrum (109), we considered how well it
reflected interactivity across three domains—theater, games, and theme parks—
that embodied the range of audience interaction described above. Together, our
review uncovers insights that inform our iteration on the spectrum.
The three domains vary greatly in form. Theater and music performances are
primarily physical experiences that occur in dedicated venues. Conventional the-
atrical segregates audiences from performers, curbing feedback to pre-and-post
show clapping and cheering (60), while contemporary theater allows audiences
6 Alina Striner, Sasha Azad, and Chris Martens
Topic Citation Index
Theory 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 21, 22, 25, 28, 31, 32, 33, 37, 41, 42, 45, 46, 49,
50, 52, 55, 60, 61, 64, 68, 74, 75, 78, 81, 90, 99, 101, 108, 109, 126
Storytelling 5, 9, 19, 20, 22, 43, 44, 48, 49, 54, 63, 67, 70, 76, 81, 84, 86, 91, 93, 114,
116, 120, 127
Theater,
Music
1, 8, 10, 11, 12, 16, 23, 30, 34, 38, 40, 54, 56, 57, 60, 62, 69, 71, 76, 80,
82, 83, 84, 88, 89, 92, 96, 105, 107, 109, 110,117, 121, 123
Theme
Parks
2, 17, 24, 29, 35, 51, 59, 65, 72, 79, 85, 95, 98, 103,119
Games 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 15, 18, 32, 36, 39, 41, 47, 53, 58, 66, 70, 74, 94, 97, 100,
104, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 118, 125, 127
Transmedia 9, 18, 20, 27, 30, 39, 44, 73, 77, 87, 92, 102, 105, 107, 117, 122
Table 1. Index of literature review organized by theory, storytelling, theater and music,
theme parks, games, and transmedia topics.
to contribute to performance, encouraging spontaneous (68) and structured par-
ticipation (105; 96). In contrast, games exist in a range of physical and virtual
forms, from tabletop games that build narrative through a shared imaginative
fantasy (36), to video games that immerse audiences through integrated graph-
ics, animation, and reward structures (112; 104). In juxtaposition to theater and
games, theme parks created shared experiences for divergent audiences. Based
on ancient and medieval religious festivals, trade fairs, and traditional amuse-
ment parks (79), themes parks assimilate storytelling (17; 95), simulation, and
interactivity (98; 79) through blended physical and virtual experiences.
3.2 Literature Review Process
The primary goal of this work was to understand how the three representa-
tive domains describe audience interactivity. Our goal was to understand what
interactions existed in those domains.
We extensively reviewed literature on interactive audience experiences across
academic publications and in practitioner mediums. We systematically reviewed
multiple databases (e.g. AAAI, ACM, PsycINFO, CiteSeerX, CogPrints Elec-
tronic Archive, ResearchGate, TRLN) for a range of topics (previous definitions
and models of audience interactivity, engagement, immersion, agency, mediums
of interaction, and roles), performing “related article” searches to identify model
applications and limitations. Next, we shortlisted articles that defined interactiv-
ity or described interactive experiences in the three domains. In parallel, we came
up with a list of synonymous phrases and keywords across the three domains,
and searched websites and blog posts for descriptions of practitioner experiences.
We analyzed domain publications to understand how the original spectrum levels
were reflected in academic literature, and to identify gaps where literature did
not fit the original spectrum. When domains were not evenly represented at a
level, we performed a secondary Google Scholar search to identify any literature
we may have missed. The literature we reviewed is indexed by topic in Table 1.
A Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for Entertainment Domains 7
4 Summary of Results
This section summarizes our literature findings and introduces our Spectrum of
Audience Interactivity for Entertainment Domains. First, we affirm the presence
of a spectrum, describe modified levels, and present our validated spectrum.
4.1 Confirming the Existence of a Spectrum
The literature review affirmed the presence of the interactivity continuum, find-
ing that interactivity ranged from passive to active experiences delineated by
the agency of individual audience members. “Passive” and “personalized experi-
ences” gave audiences agency over themselves, and “influencing,” “augmenting,”
and “becoming a performer” levels gave audiences agency over other audience
members, performers, and over the larger experience. Cross-domain literature
supported the presence of these different levels, however we found that inter-
activity was more prominent in some domains; for instance, theater and music
predominantly use interactivity to influence and augment performances (124;
105; 117), games employ audiences as performers (97; 70), and theme parks
create personalized and bidirectional experiences (119; 95).
4.2 Modified Levels
Our review found that the spectrum required some modification. Shown in figure
2, the new spectrum introduces a new level of audience interactivity and modifies
the name of an existing level.
Bidirectional Influence The early spectrum included the level “Performers
Augmenting the Audience’s Multisensory Experience.” This level was difficult to
describe, however, we found that “Bidirectional Influence” clearly characterized
the back-and-forth dynamic of interactive performance.
Take Over Performance The early spectrum described “Become Perform-
ers” as the highest level of interactivity. However, we found that interactivity
extended beyond this; audience members could not only become performers,
but fully control an experience. For instance, audience members invited into a
drum circle could lead the music. Thus, we added a new level, “Take over the
Performance,” that describes this experience.
4.3 Proposed Spectrum of Audience Interactivity
Presented in figure 2, the Spectrum of Interactivity for Entertainment Domains
expands on Striner’s Spectrum of Interactivity (109) using findings from the
literature. Least interactive on the spectrum are 1) observing passively, referring
to an audience member cognitively shaping their experience, and 2) personalizing
8 Alina Striner, Sasha Azad, and Chris Martens
Fig. 2. The new Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for Entertainment Domains. We
map audience interactivity from left to right; from least to most active.
their experience. More interactive is 3) reacting to performance, a level that
describes how audience members react to performance and to one another, such
as by clapping or responding to a comment on YouTube.
In 4) audience members influence the performance, exerting indirect control
over the overall experience. For example, virtual audiences watching a Twitch
stream could suggest a way for a streamer to solve a puzzle. Audience members
in 5) augment the overall performance experience without explicitly becoming
performers, for instance, dancing along at a rock concert. In 6) bidirectional
influence between audience and performers, performers explicitly respond to the
audience’s influence or reactions, such as Mickey Mouse waving back at children.
Higher levels give audience members an explicit role in the performance,
allowing them to 7) become performers and 8) take over the performance. In
the former, performers are in control, for instance, audiences singing along with
a choir, while in the latter, audiences take control. For example, an audience
member invited to perform karaoke onstage would take over a performance.
5 Review of Interactivity Levels
The following section presents our review of the interactivity literature, organized
from least to most interactive across the levels of our proposed Spectrum.
5.1 Interactivity in Passive Experiences
Traditional performances assume a clear distinction between the role of the au-
dience and performers (16): audiences do not interact with performers or have a
role in the direction of performance or narrative. Forlizzi and others (127; 57; 37)
contradict this assumption, suggesting that audiences can interact with experi-
ences cognitively, through a psychological reader-response that imbues seemingly
passive experiences with an abundance of emotional interaction.
A Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for Entertainment Domains 9
The literature suggests that audiences participate in collective emotional ex-
periences such as laughing or holding their breath that validate their personal
experiences; this helps explain why the presence of an audience is essential to the
sense of “liveness” (92). HCI research has studied passive engagement by watch-
ing audience expressions and analyzing gestures using computer vision (73; 14).
Research also argues that audience interaction is not always necessary or
appropriate (109). Green et al. (49) discuss how participants may simply wish
to be distracted or passively entertained (14) by fiction. This outcome is further
supported by literature on interactive film suggesting that passive experiences
allow audiences to absorb, appreciate, and reflect on performance (121; 14; 48).
5.2 Interactivity through Personalization
Personalization in interactivity describes the task of tailoring experiences to
audience preferences, tastes, or capabilities. Theme parks fully embrace person-
alization in order to fully immerse audiences in fantastical worlds (72); guests
can meet characters (53), and personal experience narratives (95; 24). Paral-
leling these physical experiences, recent advances in narrative intelligence and
augmented and mixed reality have likewise allowed for games to be personalized
to player locations (4; 66), abilities (114; 97), and preferences (111).
Stapleton (107) describes how audiences personalize performances, discussing
how a story originating in print (e.g. Harry Potter) can ignite a surge in new
markets in games, theme parks, and costumes. Using dress to personalize experi-
ences (109) is heavily paralleled in literature; Eicher’s theory describes dressing
up in fantasy costumes as a communication of the secret self, where the bulk of
fantasy interactions takes place (30; 39). Similarly, Miller proposes a construct of
fantastic socialization, where individuals play unrealized roles “constructed only
with the cooperative help. .. and the contrasting foil provided by others” (46; 78).
Fron et al. define such personalization as a co-performative act with other spec-
tators, gaining pleasure from the ingenuity and artistry that go into creating
one’s persona and costume (8; 39; 53). This style of personalization can be seen
at American cultural festivals such as DragonCon (39), and also reflects Zim-
merman’s “meta-interactivity” mode (127).
5.3 Reacting to the Performance
Reacting to performance is a staple of traditional audience experience (60). Lit-
erature suggests that audience members enhance the collective audience experi-
ence by influencing others’ reactions (87); Brignull and Rogers (13) explain that
such interactions begin with peripheral awareness, transition to focal awareness,
and culminate in direct interaction with the display. Their research observes
the “honey pot” effect, in which bystanders are more likely to cross interaction
thresholds when others do. For instance, audiences are likely to give a standing
ovation (or throw rotten fruit) when others do the same (56). An immersive
interactive play, Sleep No More (117), extended this concept, allowing live and
remote audiences to communicate through Internet-of-things (IoT) props.
10 Alina Striner, Sasha Azad, and Chris Martens
Theme park literature characterizes this phenomenon as a learning tool. For
instance, guests at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter watch others learn
the mechanics of “casting a spell” (18; 59). Reeves describes this experience as
an entertainment and teaching experience (92) that allows audiences to study
interaction while waiting their turn. Magic Kingdom line experiences actively
design for this affordance; guests in line for a Peter Pan ride view members
ahead of them play with interactive shadow puppet displays, ringing bells, or
even releasing Tinker Bell from inside a lantern (3; 35). This, in turn, prompts
them to interact, mimicking scenes they have seen before, playing on each other’s
interactions and inventing new ones. Michelis (77) describes this phenomenon of
the phases of interactions with gesture-based displays as an “audience funnel.”
5.4 Influencing Performers
Interaction often allows audience members to indirectly influence the perfor-
mance experience. Influencing performance includes visual voting systems (118),
and audience input in improv (76). While these types of interactions are popular,
theater literature suggests that they are often asynchronous or inequitable (60),
prioritizing audience members closer to the stage (23) or in positions of power (80).
Technical advancements have helped support democratic influence over vot-
ing. In an early example, audiences at the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal voted
on alternative endings to a film (2). Likewise, technology has allowed audiences
to influence narratives (19), dialogues (105), or musical compositions (38). Lit-
erature also found that designers wanted audiences to influence different sensory
modalities, such as controlling gusts of wind onstage (109).
5.5 Augmenting the Experience
The literature suggests that audiences also want to augment experiences (109).
One way to do this is through multisensory design. For instance, child co-
designers augmented music experiences with tangible “sound chips” (109). Re-
latedly, Stapleton and Hughes (107) found that immersing movie-goers in mul-
tisensory mixed reality trailers created fond memories and positive associations.
Literature suggests that audiences can likewise augment experiences by adopt-
ing a composition role. Winkler notes that interactive computer music can “cre-
ate new musical relationships” between audience and performers (124); for in-
stance, McAllister (71) allowed audience members to add to a digital score synced
to a real-time display for musicians to read. Likewise, audiences can “compose”
by dancing to music during performances (83; 110).
This compositional relationship between audience and performers can also
be asynchronous; for instance, van Troyer (116) introduced an interface for au-
diences to co-create asynchronously with composers by drawing “constellation”
maps that synthesized new music from previous pieces. Similar examples exist
in interactive fiction design. For instance, Machado (67) recounts a storytelling
environment, Once Upon A Time, that developed characters, story themes, and
narratives out of interactions with children.
A Spectrum of Audience Interactivity for Entertainment Domains 11
5.6 Bidirectional Influence
Both physical and digital interactive performances lean heavily on the affor-
dances of bidirectional interaction. For instance, gospel music uses call-and-
response to nudge democratic audience participation (82), and computational
narratives personalize player experiences by iteratively tracking and adapting
narrative scheduling to player pacing (6). Similar research has produced a vir-
tual dance partner that improvises dance moves based on audience actions (54),
and a narrative agent that responds to audience gestures with dialogue (84).
As well as responding to each other, some literature characterizes bidirec-
tional interactions as “pushing and pulling” between audiences and performers.
For instance, Rickman (93) described a text narrative mechanic that drives the
narrative forward by using word selection to reveal additional information about
an object or action (22). Curiously, the research suggests that bidirectionality
many not always be intentional. For instance, Van Maanen (119) describes how
at Walt Disney World, guests and cast members cyclically affect each other; cast
members are required to smile, but guests not smiling can ruin an operator’s day.
5.7 Becoming Performers
All three domains allow audience members to take on performative roles, but
differ in their approach. Games create immersion by giving players a sense of
control (21), allowing users to select strategies, and affect outcomes (97). Video
games have an inherent performative experience, allowing audiences to dually
function as players and audiences members (104), imbuing players with specta-
torship in-between moments of play (113). For instance, LARPS (Live-action-
role-playing games) are considered performance-play experiences (102). LARPS
have no separate audience members, allowing audiences to extemporaneously
create engaging narratives from limited preparatory materials (102).
Fantasy sports games further blend the roles of audiences and perform-
ers (100) by integrating the “activity of a virtual game and spectatorship of
a real sport” (100); Developments in large-scale streaming, tangible interfaces,
and virtual and augmented reality have further changed the game viewer land-
scape. Twitch allows audiences to watch, and interact with streamers during
games (115). Similarly, augmented reality has given players and viewers a way
to experience narratives in physical space (51; 107; 5).
Although less accessible than games (24), theme parks fully embrace au-
diences in performative roles, integrating storytelling (17; 95), simulation, and
interactivity (98; 79), and emphasizing physical experiences. Theme park ex-
periences often give audiences a chance to re-experience character roles and
narratives. These firsthand narratives lean heavily on multisensory, spatial, and
temporal experiences (79) to create a sense of presence (85; 17).
5.8 Taking over Performance
Performance experiences also allow audiences to “take over” performances, build-
ing self-esteem (83) by allowing audiences to reshape existing experiencs or co-
12 Alina Striner, Sasha Azad, and Chris Martens
create new ones. For instance, Boal (11) developed the Theater of the Oppressed
to promote social and political change; audience members became “spect-actors,”
who used the medium to explore, and analyze their personal experiences. Like-
wise, home experiences like Guitar Hero (10) and Hyperscore (34) have con-
tributed to music appreciation by bridging skill gaps.
Relatedly, music experiences help audiences make sense of and appreciate
complex arts (82) by allowing them to co-create new experiences. For instance,
Whitacre (123) developed a virtual choir that allowed singers all over the world
to contribute to a performance, and Machover’s City Symphonies (52) allowed
audiences to contribute ambient sounds that made up their city.
Notably, in theater, the role of audiences as a performative agent is contested.
In Hamlet on the Holodeck, Murray (81) suggests that audience participation
may be “awkward” and potentially “destructive;” she describes a Woody Allen
story, the Kugelmass Episode (1) where a literature professor jumps into the
pages of Madame Bovary, only to confuse the narrative of the novel; “Who
is this character on page 100? A bald Jew is Kissing Mme Bovary?” With this,
Murray points out that “when we enter the enchanted world as our actual selves,
we risk draining it of its delicious otherness” (81).
6 Conclusion
The goal of this work was to develop a taxonomy to explicitly characterize how
audiences can interact and influence experiences across a range of entertainment
domains. The spectrum aims to be a useful resource for researchers, designers,
and artists to consider opportunities for interactivity. While the spectrum aspires
to be comprehensive, new tools and media continually reshape the interactivity
landscape, and edge cases undoubtedly exist. We consider such cases to be good
fodder for discussion about new forms of interactivity. Further, this research does
not endeavor to describe interactivity from the perspective of the performer
or to describe audience characteristics (e.g., culture, size, and location). Such
perspectives may have unique characteristics that may affect interactivity.
Future work will validate the clarity, precision, and effectiveness of the spec-
trum by interviewing experts in a range of domains. To help practitioners learn
from other domains, we plan to use our taxonomy to survey a range of audiences,
performers, and creators who participate in interactive audience experiences, al-
lowing designers to compare diverse interaction experiences and identify patterns
that emerge across domains. This will enable designers to actively consider the
novelty and practicality of their interactivity designs, identifying patterns, and
anticipate challenges that may arise in experimental designs.
7 Acknowledgements
Thank you to Jessica Hammer and Theresa Tanenbaum for their generous feed-
back and support.
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