Qianqian Hu

Do people interact with the technology or the concept more within an interactive installation?


With the development of social media and technologies, designers start to create interventions using digital interactive way to express their opinions, acknowledgement and ideas. A new breed of interactive public intervention or installation is taking root that subvert the traditional methods to express designer’s concept or to create the experience. (Bullivant, 2007) And lots of people think the technological magic and sensory experience has taken the biggest part of interactive art. (Paola, 2008) Whilst Dunne and Raby said in 2006: We are interested in using design as a medium, to ask questions and provoke and stimulate people, designers and industry.”

This essay will explore if people physically engage with art more or the concept behind the project more with an interactive installation through existing cases and the ‘Brain Drain’ interactive experiments.


Case Studies

Case Study One

“Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.”

– The Fun Theory (2009)

The Fun Theory is aiming to changing people’s behavior to be better, expressing their concept through a fun way. One of their works ‘The World’s Deepest Bin’ was a normal refuse receptacle that was modified to produce the cliché cartoon-like sound an object descending into a very deep chasm. Whenever someone disposed of an object into it, it made the sound to draw people’s attention to their action. For this to work, a sensor with a speaker was incorporated with the top inside of the bin, such that it would sense the object thrown into the bin and make the noise. The sound would always attract people to explore morel sentiments of the ‘Why?’ and the ‘How?’ can be seen on people’s faces (The Fun Theory). In their video, a guy put his head into the bin to satisfy his curiosity and most of the people in the video played it for its unpredictable technology designers used behind the game.

Case Study Two

While we were trying to come up with ideas for the interactive part of ‘Brain Drain’, the thing we firstly made sure about the project was technology things such as Arduino, Processing and different sensors. It’s not merely because the EEG headset is a high-technological equipment, it’s also because people firstly interact with the technology than the idea. And this is the most important part of an interactive installation.

Also when people passed by, what they normally got attracted by are the cables, arduino board and LEDs. After they played with it for a while and asked us for what are these high-techy looking things, some of them still didn’t ask anything about the concept.


Case Study Three

The first interaction experience design that will be discussed is “Body Movies”, created in 2001 by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. This project has been displayed in six different cities: Rotterdam, Liverpool, Lisbon, Linz, Duisburgh and Hong Kong across the years (Femandez, 2007).

‘Body Movies’ was a work, which transformed public spaces or liminal spaces with interactive projections on surfaces between 400 and 1,800 square metres. Thousand of portraits were taken in anticipation on the streets of the main city, and were shown using automatically controlled projectors. Powerful Xenon lights on the ground ensured that the portraits were unable to be seen while cast in the shadow of the participants standing before it. People could move towards or away from the building, allowing a matching the scale of a portrait and the height of the shadow between 2 and 22 meters. A tracking camera system monitored the real-time location of the shadows, and after all the portraits given on the scene were matched by the shadows, the system will automatically triggered the scene to the new portraits, inviting the people on the square to be the new narratives of the representation (Brouwer, Mulder, 2002).

The whole interaction system reflected an implied invitation from the technology, which in turn attracted more people to participate. Lozano-Hemmer preferred to call it’ the act of seeing the act of inventing’ (Bullivant, 2006). And technology played the most important role in this project.

One of my friends Christy Chan stated, in 2006 ‘Body Movies’ came to Hong Kong. And she had played with it at that time. She stated most of the Chinese participants played a game during their childhood translated as “hand shadow” – creating images and shapes on the screen using the superimposed shade of their fingers – so this project was treated as a huge stage for them to play with the shadow in their own way. However, there were very few people who got to the point of thinking about the concept behind the project. They were attracted because of interaction design is definitely a synonym of high-technology back to 2006.


Case Study Four

As the pressure sensor we built ourselves for the ‘Brain Drain’ project, it was two pieces of blade with nonconductor in between around its edges. When people stand on it, people’s weight made the two pieces of blade connected so that the electricity could go through. And it will trigger the toy motor start to spin. It is concluded that some people are more interested in this one than the other technological equipment. They said this is more like a magical technic than the other ones, but this one is simpler and that is why they particularly like this one.

However, before they know the way it works, they play for the interactivity and the ‘magical technology’.


The higher technology cannot ensure that more people are going to be attracted to the event itself as can be discerned by the simplistic methods employed by Body Movies where the essence of simple shadow was the piquing factor. However in regards to this, technology is an important means of achieving the interactive project itself and as it is interactive system will always evoke more of people’s curiosity than the concept of the project at the first moment to explore more.



Reference List

Bullivant, L. (2006). Responsive Environments: Architecture, Art and Design London: V&A


Bullivant, L. (2007a). Playing with Art. 4dsocial: Interactive Design Environments, 77(4), pp. 36.

Fernandez, M. (2007). Illuminating Embodiment: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Relational Architectures. 4dsocial: Interactive Design Environments, 77(4), pp. 78-87.

The Fun Theory (2011). The Fun Theory. Available at: www.thefuntheory.com/ [accessed at: 8th December 2012]

Brouwer, J., Mulder A. (2002) TransUrbanism. Rotterdam: V2Publishing/NAi Publishing.