Hybrid Interactive Experiences

In May 2020 I was invited to participate in the organisation of the Interactive Experiences track at CHItaly 2021 together with Secil Ugur Yavuz and Jennifer Schubert from the Faculty of Design and Arts of the University of Bolzano. I thought this could be a good opportunity to collaborate with inspiring colleagues while participating in the organisation of (yet one more ;)) research conference. However, the Interactive Experiences turned out to be very different from any other interactive exhibition I had organised. As the months went by, and the Covid-19 pandemic continued hitting the world, we realised that it would be impossible to hold an in-person conference. The conference organisers decided to go for a hybrid conference, as this format could open opportunities for broadening participation. Little we knew about what designing a hybrid interactive exhibition would look like. What followed were three months of a full-time commitment to design and implement an interactive exhibition in Bolzano and online. Thankfully we were not alone in this. The authors of the installations collaborated in adopting and sometimes modifying their prototypes and installations to the hybrid format. The digital and technical chairs and several student volunteers were essential to the implementation of the exhibition on Gather Town. The ACM SIGCHI Development Fund financially supported all the additional, and difficult to anticipate, costs that hybrid exhibitions bring along. The most visible outcome was the hybrid interactive exhibition “(Dis) Assembling Futures”; however, we also gained a lot of knowledge on what it means to design and implement a hybrid interactive installation – and what does “hybrid” means. As I write this text, Secil, Jennifer, and I are putting down our insights into a paper, which we hope will see the light soon.

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