Salon 5: Immersion and Participation dissected the interplay of immersion, interaction, participation, technology, and innovative communication, especially as they pertain to museums. Immersion evokes total envelopment–the plunge into a separate, all-encompassing physical or mental space. Artistic practice is deeply connected to this idea, and so too can be the experience of engaging with art. Viewers can be transported by their exposure to a work, even overcome by a Stendhal Syndrome-like vertigo. Museum galleries can similarly be conceived as immersive experiences that transport the visitor out of everyday life.

Participation—which implies exchange, interactivity, commitment—has become, however, the holy grail for most museums and for many designers, architects, and artists. The concept is not new, but recent technological innovations have enabled experiments with enhanced storytelling techniques, and have also introduced a demand for more complex, involving, and multi-sensorial experiences on the part of the audience.

These were some of the questions we asked our speakers and audience to consider:

  • What is the rapport between immersion and participation?
  • What is the future role of immersive technology in art museums? In education?
  • Can immersive technology have a role not only in education, marketing, and entertainment, but also in social science and policy-making?
  • Can an experience be technologically mediated and immersive but not controlling?
  • Can a museum visitor meet art on her own terms if the environment is an immersive one?

Reading Resources


Aina Abiodun

Co-Founder of StoryCode and creator of the first Story Hackathon

Deb Howes

Director of Digital Learning at The Museum of Modern Art

Frank Rose

Digital anthropologist and author of The Art of Immersion (2011)

Lance Weiler

Writer, director, and experience designer