[ISEA2011] Paper: Jian Hughes – The Capture and Understanding of Participant Experience in a Breath Controlled Interactive Video


This paper will explore the video-cued-recall method as an ethnographic tool in the evaluation of an interactive installation utilising bio-sensed data. It builds on a body of research by Lucy Suchman and Randall Trigg, Bridget Costello, and George Khut and Lizzie Muller who have used this method to document interactive art as lived-experience. The artwork which forms the test-bed for this paper is Inspiraction, an interactive video installation that uses bio-sensed data to enable participants to explore how their breath affects their engagement with others.

It has been eighty years since John Dewy pointed to the importance of audience experience in completing an artwork. More recently Dourish highlighted the need to capture user experiences of interactions to fully understand their generative nature. Only then can a fuller understanding of the artwork be gleamed, as Dewey put it, “in experience”.  Dialogue with participants provides the only way to understand these lived experiences. While self-reflexivity in the interviewer is paramount, the biggest challenge in understanding these experiences, for both the interviewer and participant, is the limitation of words to describe an embodied experience. The interviewer must find creative ways to help the participant verbalise their body language and taking time to unearth meaning where ambiguity exists.

The video-cued-recall method uses video to record participants during their interaction. The recording is then played back to support participant recollection of the reflexive, conceptual and reflective aspects of their encounter with the work. Using video to record individual experiences honours the temporal, embodied and emotive nature of inward focused interactive artworks. The medium can record all the tonal and rhythmic subtleties of the participant’s voice as they articulate their experience. A video record preserves body language, gesticulations and breathing quality, simportant elements in a work focusing on embodiment. However the performative nature of this evaluative method affects the encounter and the sharing of lived experience when participants preempt the expectations of the interviewer. This paper presents a critical analysis of the video-cued-recall method’s advantages, disadvantages and characteristics, using the Inspiraction work as its test-bed.

  • Associate prof.  Jian Hughes holds degrees in Art and English Literature and in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, with a concentration in the History and Philosophy of Mathematics. She has taught at universities across Canada and currently holds a Research Chair at Concordia University in Montreal where she is also Associate Dean, Research and International Relations. Lynn was instrumental in the conception, structuring and funding of Hexagram, the Montreal Institute for Research/Creation in Media Arts and Technologies. She has been co-director of the inter-university new media research/creation group Interstices since 2000, and, more recently, she founded, with Bart Simon (Sociology, Concordia) the cross-Faculty, Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) research group which focuses on interdisciplinary research in games studies and games design. TAG also promotes collaborations beyond the university –in particular with independent games designers and studios. Lynn’s current production looks at where the aesthetics and concerns of interactive art might be crossbred with emerging game forms.  interstices.ca   tag.hexagram.ca

Full text (PDF)  p. 1238-1243  [title slightly different]