Interaction and Activation

Chloë Arkenbout 00:04 This third chapter is about ‘Interaction and Activation’. I’m one of your two hosts, still, Chloë. I moved to this beanbag, which is much more comfortable. And I’m also joined again by our other host, Esther, who will introduce the lovely guests.

Esther Hammelburg 00:20 Yes, joining back in! I was here for the chapter-conversation, and now we’re at the third chapter, ‘Interaction and Activation’, with three new guests. From the Living Archives Group, we have Margarita Osipian. She’s an independent curator, researcher, and cultural organizer based in Amsterdam. Margarita is part of The Hmm, a platform for internet culture, and she’s on the curatorial team of Sonic Acts and part of the artistic core of the W139. From IMPAKT, one of the partners in the research project, we have Arjon Dunnewind. He’s the director of IMPAKT - Center for Media Culture in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Also joining us is Roos Groothuizen. Roos is a media artist fighting for digital human rights, researching human and non-human aspects of invisible algorithms, information filters, and unfair distribution. With IMPAKT and Derk Over, she developed ‘Project Stargaze’. To know more about ‘Project Stargaze’, read the blog post report:

Chloë Arkenbout, Arjon Dunnewind, Margarita Osipian, Esther Hammelburg, and Roos Groothuizen discuss interaction and activation in hybrid cultural programs.

Chloë 01:31 Welcome, everyone! Thank you for being here. In this chapter, we’ll be discussing the pitfalls of hybridity. What sort of interactions and hybridity do we want to foster in our audiences? What sort of artistic interventions and experimentation are currently happening at the forefront of innovating across spaces and media? I’m going to start with a very broad question, and I’m curious to see how you will interpret it. How can online and offline media interact with each other in a meaningful way? Does anyone want to kick off?

Levels of Engagement

Arjon Dunnewind 02:16 It’s really important to give people in both realms the idea that they are on an equal level. It’s very hard to facilitate that. Both online and on-site audiences are in an awkward situation where it’s difficult to interact because you don’t really know how your input is being received on the other side. Klara Debeljak I flow in and out of focus, following on real life and also online, switching between these two modes. Unfortunately, the tab of the hmmm is one of many on my computer, and I find myself in the same situation as always when following hybrid events…slightly scattered attention. Our answer to that at IMPAKT has been to try and bring people closer together. But every new format asks for a new approach to make sure that, even if one or both of us are behind a screen, it’s as easy to connect as if we were on-site together. For me, that’s a very important problem to solve. mushy /camera: 40

Margarita Osipian 03:06 At The Hmm, we’ve also tried to create balance. I think that starts with thinking about the hybrid form from the very beginning rather than as an add-on. It connects closely to the access conversation. See ‘Chapter 2: Thresholds of Access’. Something that Ren and Iz really taught me, is that you need to start thinking about access from the beginning. The same is true for hybridity. It really needs to be thought through, taken into account, and budgeted for when you’re conceptualizing an event, rather than putting this hybrid or digital layer on top of it. Ren Loren Britton and Iz Paehr work in an arts/design duo MELT. They interweave themes of: climate change, coalation-building, critical technical practice and access.

Roos Groothuizen 03:55 To add to what Arjon already said, within the research and the collaboration we did with IMPAKT, Derk and I were mostly focusing on a hybrid experience that has both online and offline participants. mushy /camera: 20 There you really see where the equality is missing. Sometimes the online audience has more power or more engagement within an experience, and sometimes it’s the other way around. So within the project we did, we were trying to figure out in what ways an offline participant becomes engaged and empowered and in what way an online participant becomes that. Because for both parties, it’s completely different. You can’t treat them in the same way. That doesn’t work. seppi Really important point: start thinking hybridity from the beginning, rather than adding a layer on top

Chloë 04:48 Do you think it can ever be 50/50 when it comes to equality and when you look at the online and offline? Is that something we should strive for, to begin with?

Roos 05:01 So far I’ve noticed it’s super difficult, but it was our goal to kind of figure that out. Can we have this 50/50 engagement by giving the offline and online participants different kinds of tasks and power within our experience? mushy but layering never gets old! But it turns out that you can’t take everything into account when you’re doing this kind of experiment. Along the way, we noticed that the different audiences ran into different barriers.

Esther 05:35 With IMPAKT, you hosted some events where there was a collaboration between on-site and online audiences. Could you tell us a bit more about that? What were the responses of the audience to this program?

Arjon 06:06 When we started to think about hybridity, we thought about activation or involvement. How can you get an equal level of involvement online/offline? But also: How can we activate and make it a collective experience? seppi I’m wondering: is 50/50 participation measurable? Can we not accept differences in modes of participation, while fostering different types of cultural meaning? That’s why we invited Roos, Derk, and Benjamin Pompe, another artist who also made a project and worked with a kind of game situation. So already there’s a set of rules, performanceyou have a role to play, and that makes people become active. Other formats have been ones where we would be eating and drinking together. It’s a very social experience that would make it easy for people to jump into a conversation cause it’s a low-pressure situation. It’s really a situation where you can say something silly like: ‘I like this wine, I don’t like this wine.’ The format of eating and drinking together has been explored by IMPAKT in their event ‘Wine Flows and Other Things’. To find out more about it, check about the blog post: Anonymous Dragon That’s a very easy thing to say. And with Roos and Derk’s project, you enter a game situation and that makes it easy for people to engage with the environment that they’re being put in.

Roos 07:13 It’s the reason why we chose the game experience. We were treating this collaboration with IMPAKT as an experiment, but also as a way to research how far can you go with this online/offline interaction. And I think the research question Derk and I made for ourselves came out of the ‘COVID time’ when there was a new influx of all these livestreams and online events, like the one we’re doing now. seppi ^ Ray took part in one of these events and wrote a little report on it. What a conversation-starter! There you saw that both audiences are not treated in the same way, so we asked how we can experiment with that. Derk studied Game Design, I’m more of an autodidact, but both of us are insane game fanatics. So it was clear to us what the urgency of this is when it comes to hosting online events or hybrid events. And why it is needed. We thought it was good to focus on how can you make an interaction work. When it comes to games and puzzle design or interaction design, there’s this element of needing it to work. Otherwise, if it doesn’t work, you get frustration, fatigue… The things that were mentioned in ‘COVID time’. So we thought, okay, can we maybe figure out where the frustration is when it comes to this very static event: a hybrid stream? We thought it was videothe static position of the camera for a live audience. And what if we place it in the most unsuspecting location? objectFor us that was placing the camera on the butt of another participant.

Project Staregaze.jpg

Project Stargaze camera placement.

Roos 09:11 There is a picture of it. With this, we created a very difficult task for ourselves, by giving all the participants some sort of obstacle. It was a game where the offline participants, spacewho were present at IMPAKT, and the online participants had to work together. They have to do all of these kinds of challenges. But there is this big obstacle, which is that they can’t see each other, but they can talk with each other through headphones. So they have different kinds of powers. The game is about becoming a true hybrid human being: both of you are working together to become the future human that is both online and offline at the same time. student at the back My attention from back there is selective, free: rather than being constrained to listening exclusively and constantly to the vertical speech of speakers, I choose where to navigate my attentional ship, in the horizontal seas of the world wide web. With these great powers comes great responsibilities… I need to avoid drifting my ship too much and to anchor a bit from time to time We thought that, by making objectthe offline participant have to carry this online vessel around, we would create a dynamic that is more equal. But we discovered so many problems with that. If you’re offline, you run around a lot. So videothe camera was shaking all the time and the online participants became very nauseous. mushy the live participants are interacting with the digital layering of themeselves and their content on the screens, love that student at the back hopefully there isn’t an exam at the end I won’t be exhaustive We had to come up with challenges with a little less movement. It was really an experiment where we were trying to figure out how we make both of these participants move closer to each other so that there’s a nice collaboration going on between the two.

Esther 11:02 This interests me because hybridity is, of course, mixing different times, spaces, and stuff like that, but it’s also mixing different media types. mushy you shoud come and sit in the first row then c: Moving into new times with digitization, it’s about mixing new media and remediation, in some sense. What you described with the early hybrid events is often staged as television. There’s an event and videowe can watch it from a distance, while you explore the medium of gaming… I would be interested in hearing which aspects of gaming are then tied into this issue of activation or interaction with the audience. What can we learn from games that help us develop great hybrid events?

Arjon 11:50 What also led me to invite you, Roos, was spacethe escape room you made. That’s an earlier work. It also made me think a bit about what Benjamin Pompe made, which was very different. Roos and Derk’s piece was a game for a selected (few) amount of people where everyone had performancesimilar kind of roles. Benjamin’s piece was set in a game engine and played with what games usually are about: you’re on an island, you need to find something, you’re confronted with an object, you don’t understand the object, it has a secret meaning… All these kinds of forms that we already know and that allow people to step into a certain context easily and engage with it. I think Roos did something similar. What I liked a lot about Roos’s work is that spacethe room we had was a nice gallery, like a white cube, but it was made into a gymnastic room with all the lines on the floor. seppi I think that the background is an escape room. Escape living room The game reminded people a bit of Pictionary or Twister… student at the back this is a lifelong tradition I cannot break it like that by coming to the front row, I would loose my identity :(( So they were on familiar ground, but still engaged by a new set of rules, a new kind of gaming. I think that’s what we can take from game concepts in general… To activate people and to have them engage with each other in an easy way. Anonymous Dragon ADHD friendly event Roos’s escape room project is called ‘I want to delete it all, but not now’. Klara Debeljak but tbh I do like this format … there is definitely some interesting and organic layering with having a small live audience who is also partially commenting on the streamed conversation, simultaneously having whispering giggling conversation

I want to delete it all.jpeg

Roos Groothuizen’s ‘I want to delete it all, but not now’ unsolvable escape room.

Roos 13:06 For me, in my artistic practice, I always choose games as my medium of choice. What I think is so interesting about game elements in and of themselves is that your audience, or the audience of the art piece, becomes an active participant. They are forced to take on a role within the theme you’re addressing. Klara Debeljak about the commentary and what is going on onstage As a player, you can of course choose what to do with that, but you are forced to take a position. I think that creates really interesting interactions with the piece, but it also creates interesting conversations with the audience afterward. Klara Debeljak so sweet This makes me very happy. kendal “ADHD friendly event” impossible? That’s why I think that with hybridity, experimenting with these types of game elements, like in Project Stargaze, also creates interesting conversations. How far can we take this with, for example, placing a camera somewhere? It is a playful way of figuring out what to do with the things you have.

Archives, Narratives, and Physicality

Esther 14:25 Yeah, I think playfulness is something that is very common in gaming. It’s something you mentioned, when you step into a game you know what is expected of you, or you know your way around because of the concepts or storylines or whatever. mushy so sad we cannot report also that :/ Turning towards archives… Archives are institutions in which a lot of people don’t know their way around or can’t figure out how to access or add to them. Could you tell us a bit about how you worked on archives to make them more interactive? Because audioyou used testimonies and other forms to let people add to archives and make them more interactive, or activate their audiences. Klara Debeljak also what?

Margarita 15:12 Yes. This was a project that we did together with MU, Varia, Willem de Kooning, and Hackers & Designers… I’m trying to remember all of the partners. The project was linked with the MU archive and it was thinking about how you remember, and spacehow you create a living and a dying archive of an exhibition space. We built this platform where audiopeople could leave their memories or even ‘false’ memories of MU. seppi that :/ We created different paths that people could follow on the platform. During the Living Archives group’s expert session for the In-Between Media Conference, the emphasis on oral testimonies, audio and video recordings as a mediums to challange hierarcies within archives was brought to the table. To read the event report of this day, check out: If they’ve never been there before, they could just leave a memory of what they imagined the space to be like. You didn’t need the experience of being there physically. It disrupts this idea of the institution controlling the narrative of what the archive looks like and tries to play with that. Anonymous Dragon anything is possible, kendal And there’s also the fact that we always misremember and that our memories are fluid, changing things. kendal i hope so We really tried to take that into account in a playful way by having this space where people can think back or even speculate about what kinds of things might happen within this exhibition space. Anonymous Dragon 🙏 hope is the only way 🙏 To leave a real of fictioned memory of Mu Hybrid Art House, visit the Living Archive’s MUmories website:

Chloë 16:43 Allow me to get philosophical a little bit: If you look at the fluidity of memories and of speculating about them that also changes the way we look at the truth perhaps. Is that something you have considered in your practice? mushy the live whispering and giggling, but maybe it’s fine also that some things will just get lost in translation seppi hopecore

Margarita 17:00 Yes. Angelique, who is the director of MU, was also open to this idea of having things that were not true… Anonymous Dragon hell yeah So speculations, or ideas, or just things that were not necessarily tethered to a specific lived reality. We played with this idea of the space for imagination in that kind of environment of the archive.

Chloë 17:31 I love that! Is this a moment to check in if there are questions in the chat online? Madame Bertha I like board games and cards but this sounds interesting Ill download a game app Klara Debaljak Ok lowkey getting back to the convo on stage; I think this is the first time I feel part of an organic archive building

Esther [00:18:04] Yes. I’m going to repeat your question through the mic. So we started out with thinking about a 50/50 balance between the agency of different audiences offline and online. Should we challenge that thought? Or challenge thinking of it in this way, and look more towards the specifics of a medium, or platform, or ways to engage? seppi Happy to hear that you know what an app is, Madame Bertha

Agency for All Audiences

Arjon 18:32 The question made me think of what Benjamin Pompe did in his game. He gave the online audience extra agency. The in-house audience was supposed to answer certain questions but they weren’t able to see the consequences, because only the online audience could attach consequences to certain decisions. performanceSo the online audience was disrupting the in-house audience. A similar experiment was conducted by XPUB 1 students in a radio broadcast titled ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to an Active Archive’. It was a choose-your-own-adventure story which depended on the interaction of the audience to function. For further mention of this, see ‘Chapter 4: Forms of Hybridity’. Of course, we come from a past where being present online is considered like a second level. student at the back memoryzing is always speculating, with a touch of fantazy much often I mean, that’s only what you do when you can’t travel there or whatever. Being in the physical space is thought of as the best thing you can do. To balance that, he played around with giving the online audience more agency and power over the in-house audience. And I think when the default situation is online, like in gaming, then maybe off-site people have more agency. It depends on where you’re coming from and how you’re spacemaking this environment into a hybrid environment. If it’s an websiteonline gaming environment, then the hybrid situation will perhaps put the in-house audience at a disadvantage. Because it’s not the natural habitat for a game. So to answer the question, it depends very much on what the original format is and how you want to bend it into a hybrid format. To find out more about Benjamin Pompe’s work ‘The Great Idle’ check out:

The Great Idle.jpg

‘The Great Idle’. Hybrid performer awaits the audience’s votes. Photo credit: Impakt.

Esther 19:58 This also makes me think of narratives… If we see this as storytelling or developing stories through events or archives, we have to ask: who is telling the story or has the power to tell the story? Who has influence or power over the narrative? It also makes me think of interdependencies between different audiences… Is there something from the archives group that ties into that?

Roos 20:32 My thought is that when it comes to a 50/50 balance, it doesn’t mean that both parties have the same level of agency. There are different things at play when it comes to treating both parties equally. Derk and I defined a good hybrid experience as both parties being engaged on the same level. So not being engaged in the same way, but having the same amount of engagement. I think that thought can be contested for sure, but for us, it was a good way of figuring out what we’re trying to reach. Based on that definition, we made that experience. During an early brainstorming meeting at IMPAKT, one of us mentioned the hostage factor, which is when an offline audience always feels more engaged because they are ‘being taken hostage’. mushy takes up a lot of space though, we need to be mindful about what we want to keep in storage spaceYou're all sitting here and feeling that ‘I’m not going to call my friend right now, or stand up and get a sandwich somewhere else’ because you have this feeling of respect towards what you’re seeing. When you’re online, sitting at home, you don’t have this limitation at all. We kept that in mind and made a game where the online party is absolutely needed. Otherwise, if they’re not participating, the game can’t work and they won’t win the challenge. So we implemented the ‘hostage factor’ for our online participants to figure out this engagement question.

Margarita 22:26 I’ll just respond to the 50/50 question. I don’t know how it links to archives but a lot of the work I do with The Hmm is also about hybrid events. seppi /camera: 45 I was just going to say that I think spacewe have to be careful about prioritizing the physical space. student at the back FREE THE HOSTAGES!!! Being physically present in an event is not always the default case for everybody or the best experience for them. seppi /camera: 45 seppi breaking the fourth wall right now, the reporters are on the spotlight mushy /camera:180 And for me, that was maybe the most disappointing thing I’ve seen: cultural institutions completely dropping forms of hybridity (after COVID). websiteBuilding live streams, then dropping them and not continuing with hybridity. Because it actually created a lot of access for people, which was mentioned in the last talk. student at the back in this chat we are not really hostages actually :) AQ /camera: 180 See ‘Chapter 2: Thresholds of Access’. That’s also tied into this idea that we really prioritize physically gathering together. Anonymous Dragon I am a hostage :( But I think we have to shift away from that idea, and consciously come back to what these hybrid events brought us because they brought a lot. mushy /camera:20 That’s why I really like the question about whether we can move away from the 50/50. A lot of assumptions are held about who the audience is and what they prioritize. Maybe that’s an element we value, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone. The more we continue with these practices, the more people will know that there are accessible spaces that they can enter, and that we don’t always just prioritize physically gathering together. mushy /camera:45

Chloë 24:10 I think it’s really interesting what you said about hybridity bringing us a lot more than we maybe even expected to begin with. I have a question for Roos and Margarita, maybe a speculative one. Roos, you told us that the conversations you’ve had after the game were just as important maybe as the game itself. And I was wondering what were the unexpected things that you talked about afterwards. Additionally, how could you archive the things you learned in a hybrid way that makes sense? (To make a bridge between the two of you with this question…) mushy camera:30

Roos 24:47 This is a very difficult question. A lot of people ask me about the question of archiving. What do you do with this information? textDo you write it down? Do you document it? I’m like: ‘No, that’s not what it’s about’. I do use it as a tool for the next projects and it’s also a learning experience. Arjon mentioned the Escape Room project, which I did in 2021 in the middle of the pandemic. spaceI created an escape room that you couldn't really escape out of. It was a commentary on us trying to escape from the big data platforms like Google, Facebook, and Instagram, but constantly returning back to them. And that this feels like an endless quest. In the escape room, you could play it in the traditional way: go with your friends and figure it out. But because it was during the pandemic, I also had an online experience in which the host of the escape room would videowalk around with a body cam. The host would connect with a group of friends that would websitecall in via Microsoft Teams. So the group would see through the eyes of the host and tell them: ‘Oh, open this door, please.’, ‘Please look at that.’, ‘Enter this code’. It was interesting since it was a truly hybrid experience and it worked in different ways. In the online experience, people played the puzzles in a different way. The underlying factor of the game was about being dependent on parties you don’t trust. The host played a very important role in the escape room. At some point, you would discover you can’t trust the host or what they’ve said, but you’re literally tethered to the host with a cam. In the offline and the online experience, the level of dependency was completely different, but it still worked out. The conversations that I had with the players afterward were really about these uncanny valley moments of dependency. And I thought it was interesting because it wasn’t really the first reason why I made the project. runs You find out these surprising things and how people experience something you’ve made afterward, but via different eyes. And the players have all been given the same level of agency. seppi Would it be useful to think about archiving (or the future lives) of this kind of experimental cultural programs in a bigger way than within one organisations? Would it help to have a shared infrastructure between cultural institutions and workers? But what players do or how they engage with your project is not always aligned with your intentions. And I find how people engage from different perspectives really interesting.

Chloë 27:43 Is that experience then temporal or is this something that you would want to archive? Or is it as you’ve said: ‘No, I’m not gonna do that. That’s not what this is.’ Which is also an interesting answer.

Roos 27:55 I’ve never really been interested in documenting things. So I guess this is a personal preference.

Esther 28:03 We should ask the archive perspective… The issue of dependency and agency seems to return into this conversation often. And this is something important, we are all dependent on the people who make our archives to tell our histories. Is this different in hybrid times? Can we change this in hybrid times?

Margarita 28:31 That’s a good question. I don’t know if I could answer the larger question of whether we can change this in hybrid times. I’m not an archive scholar, but I think what you’re saying is that some things just don’t get archived. We were working on another research project with The Hmm in which we were mapping hybrid events and also looking at different case studies. seppi Red threads: dependency and agency. Spot on We were looking at it as ‘Is it something that lives forever (forever being a really relative term)?’ mushy /camera:20 and ‘Is it something that you have to be there to experience and then it’s just gone?’. And I think all those things fit on this spectrum of hybridity. Tommaso /camera:40 Probably not everything has to be preserved. Also because we work inside of these funding structures, textwe always have to document and prove we did things in order for them to be valid. Tommaso /camera:60 This point was also brought up in the Hybrid Publication’s group: ‘It seems that most cultural institutions are so busy organizing events, that their archives become an institutional obligation to justify received funding.’ This quote was taken from the ‘Introducting the EtherPort’ blog post, to read it fully, visit: . With the Hmm, we would document through our livestream and websitethe livestream would automatically go online. Tommaso /camera:80 And recently we did a data center tour in which we took a bus and spacemoved around the periphery of the data center. H /camera:90 We thought it would be really boring for people to have to watch this back. So instead we created an audio tour. People were audiorecording each other's experiences and the sounds of the data center. I think archiving doesn’t have to be this 1:1 digital twin version of what happened because that’s probably impossible. It’s interesting to rethink the archival format in ways that are different from what the experience was for people who were participating in it. Listen back to the Data Center Tour here:

Chloë 30:15 So, it doesn’t have to be 1:1 or 50/50. I think that’s a nice way to conclude this topic as we’re out of time. Thank you so much to our speakers for being here with us today!


Announcement image for the Living Archives group’s radio broadcast ‘TalkShop’.

About this text

Chloë Arkenbout works as a researcher at the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam. She has a background in both media studies and philosophy and is interested in the tactics marginalized people use to challenge oppressive discourses in the digital public sphere - from social media comment wars to memes.

Esther Hammelburg is a senior lecturer at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and holds a PhD from the University of Amsterdam. She researched ‘liveness’: a historically evolving practice of establishing instances of ‘now here together’ through media practices which align physical and mediated environments.

Margarita Osipian is an independent curator, researcher, and cultural organizer based in Amsterdam. She works for The Hmm, Sonic Acts and W139. She was a member of the Living Archives group of Going Hybrid.

Arjon Dunnewind is the director of IMPAKT - Center for Media Culture in Utrecht, one of the institutional project partners of Going Hybrid.

Roos Groothuizen is a media artist fighting for digital human rights, researching human and non-human aspects of invisible algorithms, information filters, and unfair distribution. With IMPAKT and Derk Over, she developed ‘Project Stargaze’.

This chapter-conversation was originally recorded during the a live event Screentime Airtime Facetime, which you can watch back here: