Real-time interaction with an avatar
Watching the watchers
Arash Eshghi and Pat Healey
This interactive work explores the experience of being watched. It is inspired by ethnographic research on how audiences collect and behave around street performances. People in these audiences use each other's reactions to channel their own responses; mutual-monitoring and awareness of other people's reactions is an integral part of what binds an audience together. This leads to collective dynamics that are a powerful driver of the experience of being in --and being in front of--an audience. They feed the performer's sense of 'lift' and 'drop'. They feed the audience members' sense of involvement in a group experience. Watching the watchers uses an artificial audience of autonomous cloned avatars to model audience behaviours and to experiment with the experience of being watched. The movements of the avatars, created by dynamic blending of canned behaviours in PIAVCA, are triggered by the motion of people in front of the screen. There is no performance, just an audience and the watcher who stands in front of them. The avatars gradually assemble to watch the watcher, drawn by changes in each other's gaze and orientation. They jostle to get a view of the watcher. They track the watcher's movements. They check with one-another what the watcher is doing. By experimenting with these behaviours we can get a better understanding of how audience behaviours contribute to the experience of being watched. This platform has the potential to afford systematic experimentation with interactive situations whose study has so far been limited to ethnography.