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  • Interactive Experience in Public Context:Tango Tangle
  • Bilda Zafer

In this paper I describe a pilot field study which involved evaluation of audience experience of an interactive artwork situated in a large open public space. This pilot is part of a larger project where the aim is to install a series of interactive works in Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia over a one year period. A key element of the project is to evaluate audience engagement with the works. Level of engagement with an interactive artwork depends on various factors such as aesthetic satisfaction, and how the audience constructs meaning, pleasure and enjoyment. Evaluating such experiences remains an open research problem.

The first work in Federation Square, Tango Tangle (Fig. 1), was made by the artist Ernest Edmonds and installed for a single session, providing an opportunity for a pilot audience experience study and feasibility test prior to detailed planning for the next stages of the project. It is anticipated that later installations will include multiple distributed screens, using urban screens in Australian and overseas cities.

Tango Tangle is concerned with color and sound, in time and through interaction with its environment. The work takes account of the sounds around it, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. It explores ambient influences on its own and on people's behavior. The screen shows various numbers of colored stripes and both the width of the stripes and the color set used change in response to sounds (Fig. 2). The work was driven from a microphone placed in the square and passers-by will be invited to talk or sing to the screen by one of the evaluators. If they agreed, they were video taped and briefly interviewed afterwards.


Field observation involves watching people in the environment in which they would normally experience a product/ system/artwork. In this approach the investigator directly observes and video records the interactions of the users/ audiences rather than relying on participants' reports. The real context in which the artwork is experienced can give a greater degree of ecological validity and understanding of situated experience than investigations in the somewhat sterile environment of the laboratory. For the same concerns my research group has emphasized the concept of "Living Laboratory" [1-3].

Tango Tangle was installed on a Mini Mac connected to and displayed on the big screen in Federation Square, Melbourne. The colors and the width of the bands change with different volume, pitch and rhythm of the sounds. The input device was a wireless microphone which was mobile and carried in the hands of people in the Square.

Two evaluators were located in a central spot in Federation Square, in front of the screen to ask people passing by to participate in a research study and try out what was going on on the big screen. They were not told that this was an interactive media, or an artwork. Participation was voluntary, and evaluators noted down people's responses and their reasons for not participating.

Participants willing to participate were given the wireless microphone to hold on to and were prompted to speak or sing to the microphone while they look at the screen. They were allowed to freely use the microphone. When a participant asked a question the evaluators answered their question. Some of the questions were "What is this for?" "What should I do?" "Is there a reaction to my voice?" In cases where participants were willing

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Fig. 1.

Ernest Edmonds, Tango Tangle, computer-controlled public installation with microphones and LED display, display screen 25 x 25 meters, 2006. (© Ernest Edmonds. Photo © Zafer Bilda.) (a) A couple interacting with the artwork. (b) Interviewing a participant.

to explore more ways of interacting with the screen, they were encouraged to change the tone and volume of their voice. A participant's engagement with the work finished when s/he mentioned s/he had had enough.

I asked each participant whether s/he would be willing to be briefly interviewed. I designed this interview as a semi-structured one, to cover a central set of issues identified through consulting the artist. I explained to each participant that the video/audio recordings will...


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pp. 364-365
Launched on MUSE
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