Immersion and confusion

Authors: Westling, C.

Journal: ACM International Conference Proceeding Series

ISBN: 9781450325813

DOI: 10.1145/2557595.2557598


The traditional position in human-computer interaction usability studies is that confusion is anathema - An entirely undesirable experience. But in art, gaming, and experience design, confusion can be a contributing factor to immersion and engagement. For this to occur, the prerequisites are some of the properties of play: Agency, delineation in time (and space), and the potential for resolution. In the continuum of experience from total confusion to manifest resolution, there is a range of responses from lack of interest to anger and/or fear, via enjoyment and excitement. Artworks that create confusion (disorientation and/or uncertainty) tend to elicit polarised audience responses that broadly fall into two categories: frustrated denouncement and enthusiastic approval. There are many factors that have a fundamental role in determining how welcome confusion is to an individual within an experience: e.g. the context, the structure of the experience, and the audience subculture. Pervading the context are the audience's expectations (and the ability of the audience to manage their own expectations), which can be crucial for immersive confusion. Theatre and events companies apply considerable resources to designing not just the experience itself, but also the build up to the experience. In spite of such efforts, immersive artworks polarise audiences. A possible explanation for this may be personality factors such as ambiguity tolerance, openness to new experiences, and a low need for cognitive closure, which may be important for transforming confusion into immersion.

Source: Scopus