1. Introduction

Why people like to play Role Play Game RPG game such as second life on the Internet? Today, more and more people have their virtual identity and enjoy their existence in the online world; no matter they are play games or socializing. They have two parallel worlds running simultaneously: the real world and the virtual one and they would eventually become emerged. [1] People love to dream and create their imaginary worlds, and our human nature has the urge to turn our imagination into reality. Visions in “Minority Report” have been prototyped with haptic and ubiquitous computing, and lots of inventions in science fiction are being produced in the market.

As the boundary between virtual world and reality world is blurring, the way people communicate in virtual world may be useful to enhance communication in the real world. It is especially obvious in situation of multimedia exhibition and theme park scenarios wherein the artifacts and information are presented digitally and communicate through interactive and sensory means.

To have better understanding towards how visitors make sense of the information in a space of museum or exhibition, it is necessary to study cognitive psychology and human factors related to how people perceive, remember, think, speak, and solve problems. In the moment, interactive games and hi-tech devices are developed and implemented in many new museum projects. Can these interactive games serve satisfactorily these aims? Or are they simply an arrogant display of technology driven performance? How the experiences in virtual world help our cognition in the real world when they come together side by side? [2]

 

2. How to engage visitors

From the Executive Director of the Ghibli Museum, Hayao Miyazaki who is the famous cartoon feature film director, his design philosophy is to build a museum that much can be discovered, and that makes you feel more enriched when you leave than when you entered! What he doesn’t want is a pretentious museum, an arrogant museum and a museum that treats its contents as if they were more important than people. [3] The above thinking is all people-centered. The key is how the visitors can make the content relevant through active “discovery”.

In an exhibition space, participants get the excitement by making sense of the new environment, with new stimuli and unexpected happenings and findings. Wayfinding and orientation is the first obstacle among other communication hurdles. Can visitors set their own route or task in a theme park? And the system will build and reorganize the experience according to the action and choice along the path. From the experience of RPG game design, players can choose from a list of characters that lead to different paths of adventures. The elasticity and flexibility of storytelling, and realization of two-way communication between player and the story align with human nature of randomness and unexpectedness. [4]

 

To tell a story that arouses emotion

As Kenneth Burke described in his Dramatism theory, life is not like a drama, but life is a drama: that humans by nature see and interpret our surrounding as drama. An ambiguous image has multiple interpretations on the perceptual level; like the question “Is the glass half empty or half full?” If the percept has no grounding in a person’s experience, the person may literally not perceive it. People tend to compose the surrounding into stories based on the context and their previous knowledge for the world and otherwise they have problem understanding them. The idea of randomness aligns with the “principle of crescendo” of Kenneth Burke that is an innate form of mind, as is contrast, comparison, balance and so on, but it needs to be individuated in order to evoke emotion. [5] This becomes an obvious reason for me to suggest that whatever content is in a museum or an exhibition; a “story” has to be written as the basic structure of an embodied experience. A story provides a foundation for viewers to build their knowledge upon, and associate with emotionally.

An example is the “Dino” special exhibition featured in The National Museum of Natural History when I visit London in 2007. The whole exhibition is wrapped with a metaphor of “discovery”. Visitors are enjoying the exhibition just like children playing in the garden, digging on the ground, and discovering fossils with our own hands. Wide ranges of media are employed, including miniatures and full size models, tangible but interactive books, sliding information panels, interactive games and information kiosks. The theme of “discovery” is consistent independent of the media. Visitors has to push, slide, dig, flip in order to reveal information. The sense of surprise and involvement arouse emotion and memory of childhood. The tour experience in that exhibition space is great despite the fact that the exhibition is not a “Hi-tech” one.

3. Tour Experience Management

Just like traceurs performing free running/Parkour in urban space, their aim is to get from one point to another as smoothly and efficiently as possible. The essence of the sport is the fluidity. [6] By analyzing the touch points along the path with steps, playground bench, walls, staircases, etc., the traceur on a run has penetrates the surrounding environment and links the obstacles; and the elements along the way together like a human thread with his smooth flow of actions. This may be a way to realize a good tour experience to an exhibition space encompassing the visitors. When the space itself becomes a media, the visitors serve as agents to extract and even construct the storyline according to their own understanding and preferences, just like the skill and idea of a traceurs. They redefine the space, create relationships between various sensory elements and eventually make sense of the information by themselves.

The mechanism of perception affects heavily how we understand the world. People see things based on what is known already, and preconceived concepts will be used as building blocks for constructing new concepts. A person’s knowledge creates his or her reality as much as the truth, because the human mind can only contemplate that to which it has been exposed. [7] This concept echoes with the idea of fluidity, and the flexibility that allows the visitors to construct their own path of viewing is based on the accumulation of knowledge in the exhibition space.

 

One story at a time

As what was suggested by Marty Sklar, then head of Walt Disney Imagineering, avoid overload. Resist the temptation to tell too much. Don’t force people to swallow more than they can digest, try to stimulate and provide guidance to those who want more. Then tell one story at a time. If there is a lot of information divide it into distinct, logical, organized stories. People can absorb and retain information more clearly if the path to the next concept is clear and logical. [8] This demonstrates similarity to the awareness of our capacity for processing information by George A. Miller, “The Magic Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.” There is a considerable amount of information that we can process and receive at a time.

 

4. Conclusion

Interactions include conversations, connections, collaborations and relationships. Walt Disney created the model of Disneyland by moving cartoon into real life in traditional media age and Disney mode had become the classic mode in the development of theme park. The development of online network and virtual reality technology has opened a completely new digital communication age. Researchers are trying to adopt virtual interactions into real physical space, the immersive designvirtual reality vs. embodied virtuality.

An ecological understanding of perception derived from James J. Gibson’s early work is that of “perception-in-action”, the notion that perception is a requisite property of animate action; that without perception action would be unguided, and without action perception would serve no purpose.

Audiences of new generation are familiar with Illusion-inducting experience of the simulation. The integration between digital information and physical movement is seamless and phenomenal. This is an age when real and super real is one, when private experiences can be shared, and usefulness and playfulness is combined. With the world saturated with realistic representation, the excitement should be participatory, with the strong sense of control. Visitor becomes the creator.

Reference

1.     Edward Castronova. 2001. Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier.
2.     Virtualization: From Avatar to the Mirrorworlds
3.     Executive Director Hayao Miyazaki’s design philosophy behind the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka extracted from http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/004518.html
4.     Zhe Hu Kexin Chen. The Design of Sustainable Development in Theme Park Design Based on RPG Mode. The Sustainable Urban Design Institute of Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST)
5.     Kenneth Burke. Counter-Statement.
6.     Anne Galloway. 2004. Parkour Space. Use the commonplace to Escape the Commonplace – Yosa Buson, http://www.spaceandculture.org/2004/05/06/parkour-space/
7.     Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Colin Smith. 2002. Phenomenology of perception.
8.     A talk given by Marty Sklar, then head of Walt Disney Imagineering retrieved from http://www.themedattraction.com/mickeys10commandments.htm