Aesthetics of Immersive Experience: Phenomenological Approach


Session Title:

  • Immersive Environments

Presentation Title:

  • Aesthetics of Immersive Experience: Phenomenological Approach




  • As an Interactive Artist and researcher, I am interested in the phenomenon of immersion created from physical interactions within interactive immersive environments. This paper focuses on the question: what is the aesthetics of immersion in interactive immersive environments.

    I acknowledge immersion as a primary aesthetic phenomenon not just because it’s created within artistic environments but because the experience is fundamental to our senses, realized through bodily interaction in its wholeness, and actualized in collaboration with artists. (Fraleigh & Hanstein, 1999) In this paper, I use Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten’s definition of aesthetics as a “theory of sensuous knowledge, as a counterpart to logic as a theory of intellectual knowledge.” (Johnson, 2007) I conduct research on the aesthetics of immersive experience in interactive immersive environments because it involves the whole person and not just one sensory modality. From my pilot study and other researchers’ study (Davies, 1995, 1998; Laurel & Strickland, 1994), the adjectives: “meditative” and “playful” are most often associated with immersive experiences. In my dissertation, I expand beyond these traditional associations to suggest other qualities and meanings of immersion, and explore in detail meditative and playful experiences as steps toward a phenomenological interpretation of immersion.

    Since one of the major findings from my preliminary research is that immersion can be created in Interactive Immersive Environments without requiring complex or scientific hardware (HMDs, CAVEs, Virtual Reality Environments, etc.) and only minimal components (light, sound, etc.) are necessary for immersion, my interactive immersive environments are comprised of only minimal – though interactive – elements such as light, sound and tactile forms. To reveal how these preliminary findings arose, I will discuss one of my interactive immersive projects: Light Strings(2011).

    The goal of my research is not to create a technical framework for immersive environments or an ideal one; instead the research is focused on the multiple meanings of immersion, how meanings are constructed through human experience which itself arises on a spectrum between artist and participants views using phenomenological research methods. This research will begin to fill a gap between art practice/research and science research that previously separated the terms of aesthetics and immersion.