Innovations in Visualization

A Delicate Agreement

Lindsay MacDonald
Miguel Nacenta
John Brosz
Sheelagh Carpendale


Common liminal spaces such as stairways, hallways and elevators require movement in order for people to exist comfortably within them, for example, walking through a corridor or riding in an elevator. In the case of an elevator, the space itself is moving and the people within must wait for it to complete its task. Consequently, a definite in-between time is created within a liminal space, and the movement of people is restricted to a limited area. In Western civilization, we have well defined notions of personal space that we expect others to respect. This is not limited to proximity alone, but includes gaze and speech. The liminal space of the elevator is an appropriate setting to examine the effects of gaze on interaction between strangers. There are unspoken rules about what behaviour is acceptable while riding with a stranger. There is an awkwardness and tension in this space; its occupants hope that their co-riders will not break the silence or violate the delicate agreement about how one ought to behave and where it is acceptable to look. If these rules are broken, the remainder of the elevator ride becomes unbelievably uncomfortable.

A Delicate Agreement is a gaze-triggered interactive installation that explores these concepts. It is a set of elevator doors with a peephole in each door that entices viewers to peer inside and observe an animation of the passengers. Each elevator passenger, or character, has a programmed personality that enables them to act and react to the other characters’ behaviour and the viewers’ gaze. The result is the emergence of a rich interactive narrative made up of encounters in the liminal time and space of an elevator ride.


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Lindsay MacDonald, John Brosz, Miguel A. Nacenta and Sheelagh Carpendale. Designing the Unexpected: Endlessly Fascinating Interaction for Interactive Installations. In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, pages 41-48, 2015. PDF Paper
Lindsay MacDonald. ”A Delicate Agreement”: Exploring Subtle Gaze-Triggered Interaction in Art. Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, April, 2011. PDF Paper

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