Designed Experience and the Logics of Environments

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May 2023

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From landscape paintings to digital art and games, the methods of meaning-making and visual representation reveal how designed experience modifies “Nature” (with a capital N) as a concept. Drawing on an ocular-centered worldview, the concept of “Nature” considers the differences in relationships to be mechanisms that divide, classify, and control instead of than ones that connect, collaborate, and activate. I argue that designed experience that thinks of environments (plural), and not of singular concepts such as “the environment” or “Nature,” builds connections with “response-ability” (Barad 2012) based on differentiation instead of division. I embrace Timothy Morton’s “ecological thought” and emphasis on plural environments by expanding on them and incorporating them into the field of visual culture studies, game studies, and design thinking (2010). Environments can be understood as this idea of moving together to build, create, and form various modes of cohabiting and collaborating. Environments are not stable sites but constantly changing structures that evolve out of the behaviors and encounters between living beings. The notion of environments happens on a horizontal plane, meaning they are not hierarchically separated. The cases that I analyzed in my chapters, teamLab’s two installations Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders (2015) and The Void (2016), and Walden, a game (2014), aim to connect “Nature” and humans by accepting a clear-cut separation. The designed experience that they foster re-establishes a division between an urban site, a wilderness site, and a human appearing as an outsider. However, the separations are not solid or sanitized but leaky, subtle, and ambiguous. Using a paper prototype of the game-like experience Corridor (2023), which I designed, I underline how urban, and transportation can be perceived as a matter of coexistence through the logic of environments. I turn to transportation as a designed experience of movement and a helpful metaphor for understanding environments through the idea of moving together.

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