Design Engineering
Showcase 2020

Reversed Interactions: Facilitating Social Experiences in Art Galleries

Design Engineering MEng
Dr Céline Mougenot
Space Invaders

How can interactive exhibits be used in art galleries to shape social experiences for visitors and how can they encourage interpersonal engagement?

By trying to reach out to a wider audience and to create more meaningful experiences, art galleries and museums are transforming the way in which their collections are exhibited. Since the start of the century, a clear shift to the introduction of more interactive elements in exhibit curation has been observed, however the effects of such exhibits on shaping a social and interpersonal experience haven't been widely explored. Meanwhile, studies have shown that interactive experiences can be a catalyst to social education and development. Exhibits placed in museums and galleries cannot be abstracted from their social context, and should be allowed to benefit from it.

 — Reversed Interactions: Facilitating Social Experiences in Art Galleries


  1. Art galleries exist for their own sake – visitors often appreciate the gallery as a space more than the actual artefacts displayed there.
  2. Gallery visits are transformative – art galleries are transformative spaces, both towards their visitors, and in their own development.
  3. Interactions are self-centered – when engaging in interactivities, users tend to be focused on themselves and their personal benefits.

Reversing Interactions

Presented is a design intervention concept, which aims to catalyse social interactions in art gallery settings, by depriving the users of direct feedback when engaging with the installation.

This design intervention is based on the concept of reversing interactions. We are used to receiving direct feedback when interacting with objects. When we touch, move or speak while in the presence of an interactive exhibit, we except something to happen. Direct feedback is a proof that the object is working properly and is a validation of the interactive experience.

This intervention aims to examine what would happen if users were deprived of that direct validation – receiving no feedback for themselves, while all their interactions are being projected onto others.

The design is a small construction to be put up in an art gallery setting. This set up aims to build a feeling of curiosity and intrigue within the users. As the participants try to explore the exhibit, they will start to notice that their actions don’t generate any visible results. The installation transforms the typical elements of interaction and projects them onto the people on the outside. Touch, movement, speech become colour, intensity and noise. The participants are not aware of the experiences they’re creating for others.

Unanticipated Collaboration

The aim of the intervention is to encourage social interactions between people. Seeing how it’s not likely for the users to be able to figure out the scheme in which the exhibit operates on their own, they will be forced to reach out to others, if they are willing to find out what is happening around them.

By collaborating with people on the outside, the participants gain a new understanding of the mechanics in which the installation operates. Through communication they can start to notice that their movements around the room are tracked and projected to the outside by the use of alternating light intensity. Their tactile interactions – touching or moving the ball, or the walls of the exhibit, cause its external colours to change. And finally, the sounds they make on the inside and the words they say are distorted and replayed as noise through the speakers in the gallery room.

The idea behind the intervention, is that the personal need for the validation of interactions, will force the participants to reach out to strangers behind the wall, soon finding themselves engaging in unanticipated collaboration with others.

 — Reversed Interactions: Facilitating Social Experiences in Art Galleries
 — Reversed Interactions: Facilitating Social Experiences in Art Galleries


Awesome project! Super insightful

Anusha Sonthalia

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