Exploring the role of lived time and co-presence in culturally consumptive mixed reality environments

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis considers the role of mixed reality in the culturally consumptive context of a contemporary outdoor sculpture park. It grounds the discussion of an augmented mode of experience by utilising a philosophical framework, derived from Henri Bergson and Francisco Varela, which distinguishes between two different senses of virtuality. The first of these is focussed on technology, whilst the second addresses issues of temporality and the specious present. These senses of virtuality are then applied to the development of a mediated mode of ocular and auditory experience, in an attempt to construct a syncretic experiential archive of subjective artistic encounters, that take place in the context of the park. Consideration of a syncretic mixed reality setting facilitates a need for a mode of design which can accommodate issues of embodiment alongside our sense of lived time. In this sense the thesis pushes against the abstracted and reduced forms of time and space that typically result from their technological representation or mediation. Precedents for understanding this mode of embodied temporal experience are seen in the works of Keiichi Matsuda, Janet Cardiff and George
Bures Miller, Paul Trillo, and Tacita Dean. Underlying this technologically virtual structure is a more encompassing sense of temporality that likewise conditions our more subjective and ever-evolving durational experience. The thesis claims that our subjective sense of time is itself subject to variance via a myriad of factors affecting perception and cognition. This complex scenario is investigated via a practice-research mode of enquiry and incorporated into the simulated and speculative design outcomes that together constitute the thesis’s more practical dimension. The thesis’s speculative design artefacts are intended to provide a less authoritarian form of cultural commentary and contextualisation and are developed by a mode of selection and actualisation that is facilitated by Dunne and Raby’s adoption of Hancock and Bezold’s ‘cone of futures’. As a part of its enquiry, the thesis develops a novel methodology that combines a cybernetic
enquiry system with more speculative cycles of making. This methodology is intended to be positioned as one of the study’s outcomes, and to be applicable in a wider context.

The methodological cycles in question look to overcome the various obstacles that present themselves within the study’s technically challenging scenario. This is achieved through the development and adoption of a novel search strategy which is informed by a mode of abductive reasoning. By utilising the process of abduction, a series of artefacts are produced which gradually inculcate the notion that modes of technological virtuality can affect our sense of temporal virtuality in so far as the mediation of embodied experience, via modes of augmentation, can influence, interrupt, and affect our subjective experience of lived time.

Ultimately, it is intended that the study’s methodology and its focus on speculatively designed outcomes, might be applied more broadly in the context of artistic research, as well as providing a layered system of enquiry that could be usefully adopted in the context of design for both the cultural and heritage industries.

The practice outcomes in themselves could serve both as artwork and as prototypical navigation tool. In the first instance these artefacts can be seen as filmic visualisations of a mixed reality experience that serves to challenge modes of perception, habitation, and immediate presence. In this sense they depict an aesthetic experience which could be realised through the commissioning of a full-scale interactive artwork. However, given the context of the culture industries, and environments of cultural consumption (e.g. sculpture parks, museums, heritage environments) such outcomes might have functional as well as artistic agendas, and with this in mind the works could also be viewed as prototypes for a potentially new mode of navigation, resonant with a set of artistic and cultural concerns, that is enabled by the properties of mixed reality in altering and adjusting an inhabitants visit to a sculpture park
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSpencer Roberts (Co-Supervisor)

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