The main parameters of interactive installations

In an era where the desire to enliven public spaces with engaging and playful experiences is growing, placemaking — a concept present for several decades — has experienced significant growth during the pandemic. This approach redefines public space as a living place that the community must reclaim. The reduction of public green spaces and the effects of urban environments on well-being highlight the relevance of this trend.

Interactive installations generate memorable experiences and stimulate participant engagement, supporting the economic and social objectives of urban revitalization. These increasingly popular temporary installations offer unparalleled flexibility, allowing managers to regularly renew content and adapt spaces according to seasons and themes, while enriching local communities with works by international artists.

However, the knowledge and familiarity with interactive installations vary among potential clients. The scarcity of spaces dedicated to this type of installation and the lack of documentation on their positive impacts limit their adoption. While potential clients recognize the engaging aspects of these experiences, they struggle to measure their indirect benefits.

What is the definition of an interactive installation?

An interactive installation is a work that exists in the physical space.

It requires interaction and engagement from the audience, and in some cases, with its environment, in order to come to life. The audience is encouraged to initiate an action through mechanical, electronic or digital devices. This action triggers a response from the work that stimulates one or more of the individual’s senses.

It comes to life in a place of transit or a public space. This installation can be either temporary or permanent and is independent from other works.

Designed to engage audiences, interactive installations can be characterized by three main parameters.

1. Type of interaction

An installation can generate individual interactions, where only one person interacts with it at a time, or collective interactions, where multiple people interact with it simultaneously.

The types of interaction vary on a scale, considering the level of interaction between participants, the installation’s response to the number of participants, and the interest in observing others interact with the installation.

2. Nature of content

The content of an interactive installation can convey messages on social, political, economic, cultural, environmental, technological, ethical, or psychological issues to prompt reflection among participants. Alternatively, it may aim solely to entertain without conveying any specific message.

The nature of the content varies on a scale, balancing the emphasis on message transmission versus entertainment.

3. Le dispositif

An interactive installation can consist of a mechanical interaction device if it uses physical components, or a digital interaction device if it uses electronic components and computer algorithms to process, store, and transmit information digitally.

Installations vary on a scale based on the devices used to generate the desired interaction.

Four main customer segments are identified based on the alignment of their objectives with the benefits offered by interactive installations.

Public spaces, festivals, real estate, and brands and agencies represent the most promising segments due to their interest in using interactive installations to enhance spaces and generate public engagement.

To maximize the impact and encourage adoption of interactive installations, producers must consider the specificities of each customer segment. Understanding the unique expectations, motivators, and barriers of each target group allows for tailored offerings and communications during the commercialization phase.

* The definition of interactive installations, developed by Habo as part of a study commissioned by XN Québec, aims to explore the potential of interactive installations for major American and European markets.
** This project is supported financially by the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC), the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications (MCC), and the Ville de Montréal.