The Pervasive and the Digital: Immersive Worlds in Four Interactive Artworks

The Pervasive and the Digital: Immersive Worlds in Four Interactive Artworks

Daniel Paul O'Brien
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4796-0.ch005
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


This chapter discusses the trajectory of immersive story worlds by considering four distinct interactive artworks. Blast Theory's, A Machine to See With (2010), is a pervasive fictional experience that enables users, through the technology of their mobile phone, to become immersed within a fictional crime scenario across a real geographical setting. Their latter artwork app, Karen (2015), enables a different type of pervasive immersion through interstitial storytelling that incorporates the medium of the user's smartphone into the virtual narrative space. Dennis Del Favero's art project, Scenario (2011), and Extant's Flatland, by contrast, are interactive and immersive stories that take place in digital spaces that interface with the body in unique ways. This chapter will explore each of these artworks through original interviews the author has conducted with each of the artists.
Chapter Preview


The immersiveness of virtual worlds is ubiquitous in a digital age. Virtual presence through online activity, such as gaming, shopping, socializing, or any form of communication, merges and coexists a real-life user with a virtual other, dividing selfhood into a relationship of being both here in an actual world and there in a virtual world simultaneously. Theorists such as Don Ihde, Brian Massumi, Anna Munster, N. Katherine Hayles, Brian Rotman and Mark B.N. Hansen have discussed this corporeal split in their respective works and fields of research. This chapter utilises these theorists, particularly Hansen’s by considering the role of the body in the immersive worlds of interactive art.

As Hansen asserts in New Philosophy for New Media, immersive worlds such as virtual reality environments, comprise of a negotiation or mergence between that of a user’s body as it becomes enfolded into a virtual dataspace (Hansen, 2004, p. 162). This type of immersiveness, as Hansen notes, produces a “dynamic coupling of body and image, where the body transforms the medium as the medium transforms the body” (Hansen, 2004, p. 186).

Within this chapter the author adopts Hansen’s corporeal understanding of interactive art to consider four artworks that similarly hybridize the user’s active body within an immersive world to create narrative experiences. These worlds are Blast Theory’s A Machine to See With (2010), Karen (2015), Dennis Del Favero’s Scenario (2011) and Extant’s Flatland. In each artwork a coproduction between a body and a technology forms an interactive world, a world that falls in line with Oliver Grau’s writings on immersion.

In Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion, Grau states that “immersion is mentally absorbing and a process, a change, a passage from one mental state to another. It is characterized by diminishing critical distance to what is shown and increasing emotional involvement in what is happening” (Grau, 2003, p. 13). This chapter’s particular interest in interactive digital art, rather than cinema or television as a site for immersion also follows Grau’s reasoning. Immersive media such as paintings, the cinema or television, as Grau asserts, “are delimited by a frame that is apparent to the observer” (Grau, 2003, p. 14), which to some extent leaves the observer outside of it. Interactive art by contrast puts a person inside a world by transcending them from an observer to a user, an active body with agency inside a world. As Ryszard Kluszczyński has noted, in interactive art an artist does not make a finished piece of work that is watched but rather, “produces an area of activity for the receivers, whose interactive actions bring to life an artwork-event” (Kluszczynski, 2010). Consequentially, an experience is co- shaped by a user and an artist. This is the very reason as to why the methodological approach of this chapter is similarly co-shaped through interviews between the author and interactive artwork designers.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: