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  • Writer's pictureDarren Woodland

Research Evolution: Part 1

Sound and Space: The Beginnings of Sonic Persona Invocation

When we first embarked on this research journey, our main objective was to explore the intersection of sound, identity, and narrative within immersive digital environments. Ultimately, this became understood as being too broad and big of a task to accomplish at one time, so this term, we sought to focus and narrow the research. It began with looking at “identity” as a possible avenue for exploration around sound in immersive experiences. “Sonic Identity” is a term that has a couple of known definitions. Definition primarily focused on either branding or cultural/social understandings of resistance and justice. As our research defined it, identity was better understood as a form of observing and categorizing the many elements that go into making a sound or sound object.

Initially, we wanted to unravel how the procedural generation and manipulation of the sonic elements could be seen as interactive mechanics that shape the participants' perception and construction of identity. This original intention led to the development of a theoretical concept around sonic identity constructivism; postulating that the identity of entities and spaces within interactive and immersive environments can be significantly shaped and understood through sound.

The Shift to Persona and Embodiment

Over time, our focus evolved to concentrate more and more on how sound and the sonic identity of objects could influence participants and actors within a narrative, creating a feedback loop of sonic manipulation and behavioral change. This also promoted the reevaluation of “identity” as a driving term and force in the research. This shift was primarily inspired by the realization that 'identity' as a term had become somewhat bloated and overused in many areas, causing the potential for confusion.

Upon revisiting our observations and diving into related literature, two terms emerged as more fitting: 'persona' and 'embodiment.' Persona, deriving from the Greek term for 'mask,' effectively captured the idea of an individual's socially projected image or role. Embodiment, on the other hand, offered a conceptual framework for understanding the physical presence or sensation within a narrative or virtual space. Instead of identities being constructed, they were being evoked—brought into form—through interactions with sound.

Now there is one caveat around “persona,” being that personas are often used in UX/ID to develop fictitious user profiles for testing and evaluation. This is something that is continuing to be discussed and explored around the potential terminology switch.

Ultimately, this evolution led to a crucial pivot in the research: the development or reworking of the theoretical and conceptual model to focus less on constructing and more and invoking. This concept, grounded in a feedback loop model, suggests that the interactive and improvisational manipulation of sound in real time can influence the participants' embodied personas. The emergent sonic interactions within the narrative can thereby alter the behavior and engagement of the participants, contributing to the co-creation of the narrative experience.

Putting Theory into Practice

To test this theoretical concept, we ultimately plan to design and evaluate an immersive, movement-based extended reality (XR) experience (most likely centered around dance). This platform offers a practical space to explore how sonic interactions shape the emergent narrative and participant experiences, providing tangible evidence of our musings and feedback-oriented design framework. We anticipate this experiential platform will offer a tangible context to assess how sonic interactions influence the emergent narrative and participant personas, providing essential insights into our research.

In retrospect, the journey of research thus far has been one of continuous evolution, discovery, and re-definition.

The quest for precision and clarity guided me to uncover and articulate the complex interplay of sound, embodiment, persona, and narrative. As my investigation into sonic persona invocation continues, I look forward to the myriad of insights yet to be discovered in the captivating realm of immersive sonic narratives. As the journey continues, we are eager to share the outcomes and findings of the study as they unfold.

Below you can see the evolution of the research definition and problem statement.

Version 1:

Research Problem Statement:

In the emerging domain of procedural and generative narratives, the role of sound in understanding the identity of spaces and actors remains an underexplored area of study. This research aims to investigate the interplay between gesture and movement, interaction, and performativity in the perception and formation of identity for both spaces and actors, with a specific focus on dance performance, generative sounds, improvisational feedback loops, and emergent narrative. The significance of this research lies in its potential to contribute to the fields of art and design, and digital media, specifically in the use of technology for performance, augmented and extended reality, and the design and understanding of interactive and immersive experiences. The goal of this study is to assess, define, and develop novel principles and new knowledge in these fields through the design and development of an artistic performance piece and interactive installation. Ultimately, this research seeks to enhance our understanding of the complex relationships between people, objects, and systems in the context of generative narratives and the role of sound in shaping the identity of spaces and actors.

Research Problem (Elevator Pitch):

Our research studies how sound influences how we understand spaces and the people interacting within them, focusing on dance performances and sonic interactions to improve our knowledge of how art, design, and technology can create real-time immersive experiences.

Version 2:

General Problem Statement:

In the domain of interactive experiences with generative/emergent storytelling, the role of sound in understanding the identity of spaces and actors remains an underexplored area of study. This research aims to investigate the interplay between sound, movement, interaction, and performativity in the perception and formation of identity for both spaces and actors, with a specific focus on, generative sounds, improvisational feedback loops, and emergent narratives within extended reality.

Research Problem (Elevator Pitch)

Our research explores how the integration of sound, movement, and technology can shape identity and immersive experiences within dynamic spaces in extended reality.

Version 3:

This experimental study delves into the intersections of sound, embodiment, persona, and narrative within immersive digital environments. It explores the potential of procedural sound generation as interaction mechanics for shaping participant embodiment and the development of personas within a generative narrative backdrop.

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