The Making of Postdigital Experiential Space Punchdrunk Company 2011-2014
Authors: Westling, C.
Editors: Berry, D. and Krell, M.A.
Conference: University of Sussex, School of Media and Cultural Studies
This thesis presents my original contribution to knowledge, a combination of critical media and performance theories to analyse the production and augmentation of postdigital experiential spaces in Punchdrunk Theatre Company. Distributed agency is key to Punchdrunk’s work, with makers within the company and audiences both being active participants in meaning-making, across complex and detailed interfaces. In order to investigate the making cultures on ‘both sides’ of the interface, I undertook a two-year participant study as a researching designer within the company during the build of the productions The House Where Winter Lives and The Drowned Man in 2011-2014, gathering field data in the form of extensive interviews with members of the company and audience participants, supported by diary notations and photographs. I studied the processes and methods that extend, distribute and regulate agency to both audiences and makers within the company, and identified devices and features of the interaction design of the company that produce the immanent subject-event relationships that support immersion in their work. A core aspect of this research concerns the relationship between immersion and the sublime, and how subject-event relationships (immanent vs. transcendent) contribute to engendering sublime interactive experiences. I have analysed the consequences of this for the modelling of participation in interaction design, and how it influences conditions of possibility within interactive systems across physical, digital and blended media. The conclusion of this research includes the definition of a postdigital sublime, and proposes a delinquent system aesthetic that integrates proxies for gravity through articulation of the ‘shadow side’ of interaction design.