Interactive Transformational Environments: Wheel of Life
Glorianna Davenport, Larry Friedlander

(Chapter 1, pp. 1-25). Contextual Media: Multimedia and Interpretation, Chapter 1, pg. 1 - 25.


What kinds of experiences can we create when we free interactive technology from the restricted space of the computer box and transfer it to the public realm? Last fall the authors, and a group of twenty students at the MIT Media Lab explored this possibility. The result was The Wheel of Life, an interactive installation which drew its techniques from the worlds of theater, architectural design, cinema, and interactive computing.

The Wheel consisted of four discrete areas, each one inspired by one of the elements: water, earth, air, and řre. Visitors encountered this environment in pairs: one ≥ the explorer ≥ moved through the space, while the other ≥ the guide ≥ sat at a computer outside of the installation. Together they had to discover how to navigate through a world that responded mysteriously to their actions; the explorerÍs task was to decipher the rules and narratives governing each area, while the guide sought to help the explorer by using the computer to manipulate the images, lights, and sounds in the area.

Using interactive technology to create complex narrative spaces not only poses formidable technical challenges, but also suggests some of the ways people in the future will share their environment with machines and raises fascinating issues in the psychology of both collaborative invention and collaborative experience. This paper describes both the řnal installation and the iterative process necessary to bring it into being.

Get the paper in HTML form.