Research

Bech’s research provides new ways to think about the role of play within interactive art and design, placing the human experience at the centre of our interactions with space, place and technology. In today’s digitally automated world, she contributes to debates about the design and implementation of increasingly interactive and smart automated environments—including cities and public spaces. Her PhD (completed in 2014) investigated interactive art (sculpture and creative technology), play theory and audience participation in order to understand how artworks can encourage social engagement through play and physical participation.

“I believe that play is important to society as a whole; it is part of our social fabric and lies at the core of many social bonds. I don’t define play as being only for children. I view play culturally and as part of adaptation. Our own evolution and survival as a species shows the centrality of play. In addition, play and risk are closely related, we learn how to deal with risk through play – through exploration, through testing, and thereby learning and adapting.”

Tine’s doctoral research resulted in the development of a model for making playful interactive artworks and the creation of a ‘vocabulary of play’ to demonstrate the different kinds of play can be initiated. It contributed to debates about the design and implementation of increasingly interactive and ‘smart’ environments. The model consisted of a series of tangible making gambits (tactics) for eliciting playful interactions from the audience. Using practice-based research methods, four artworks were created and presented in several exhibitions. Underpinning the process of creating conditions and possibilities for playful interaction were methods of observation of participants’ interactions, in order to enable changes and improvement of the artworks throughout the research process.

Its conclusions and findings represented original research in the fields of interactive art practice and playful experience design. The key contributions to knowledge were 1] A conceptual framework for designing and reflecting on playful audience behaviour in the context of interactive art; 2] A comprehensive scholarly engagement with diverse theories of play and games resulting in new insights and syntheses of knowledge; 3] New robust and sensitive approaches to audience evaluation and observation for interactive art and other forms of playful experience design.

This is easily one of the most thoughtful analyses I have seen of how people engage with interactive work. It is grounded in extremely detailed observations of how audiences responded to four of Bech’s own artworks, and it lets us in on the making process for those works. It also surveys some of the different theoretical frameworks that other interactive artists have used for their work, some of the pitfalls of the area and the ‘gambits’ that Bech has developed to address these difficulties. It, therefore, gives a rich and informative view into Bech’s own process and the audience response to her different invitations to play. Alongside this, it provides a wider context that points at a lot of fascinating installations and texts by other artists (although, of course, it is not intended to be a survey of the whole field of interactive art). Plus, for a PhD thesis, it is shockingly readable!

The thesis sets out a succinct but comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the history and discourses of playful interaction within modern fine art practice, along with a critical understanding of the relationship of Bech’s practice and scholarly concerns within these discourses and history

-Dr Seth Giddings