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Interactive working methods involves the interaction of Others. How do you identify the people who take part in your work? Are they participants? Guinea -pigs? Co-producers? Can you specify which kind of Others are involved in the making of the work? Does their role change throughout the process? Do participants become co-authors during the process of the work, or do participants become onlookers?

By Others we mean all individuals other than the initiating author of the work. We have set out to collect and map different kinds of Others in order to make distinctions, comparisons and most importantly to view the relations between relevant others who are directly or incidentally involved in interpreting, partaking and altogether informing the shape and significance of your work.


In our search for words to describe others, we came up with the following three general categories:

Participants: participants are Others who play an active part in the work, who often have a creative role in the development of the work. The participant’s role can take place in any part of the work process.

Onlookers: are Others who witness the publication of the work but are not involved in the actual happening or process of interaction itself. They are the direct audience during the realisation of the work.

Witnesses of Traces: are Others who were not present when the work was realized. They know of the interactive work through documentation or word of mouth, through its traces. They are an indirect audience.

Possible types of Participants are (more than one role is possible):

  • a creative co-player,
  • sub-creator,
  • a researcher,
  • a disrupter,
  • a user,
  • an assigner of meanings,
  • a critical mirror,
  • a chooser,
  • an executor,
  • an errorist,
  • a completer,
  • a switch-tripper,
  • an intimator,
  • an anticipator,
  • a content provider,
  • a resistor,
  • a mis-informed participant,
  • a victim,
  • a guinea pig,
  • a token representative,
  • a co-producer,
  • an activator, …

(this list is potentially endless..)

An Onlooker can be

  • a reflector,
  • potential participant,
  • a documentarist,
  • a reason for embarrassment,
  • a reporter,
  • a withstander


tek-nikolaus-onlookerSketch by Nikolaus Gansterer

A Witness of Traces could be

  • a critic,
  • a judge,
  • a referent,
  • a post-actual audience,
  • someone who reads the review of the work,
  • a museum visitor,
  • a story-teller,
  • an art historian,
  • a prospective commissioner,
  • a potential participant

(again, a potentially endless list)

player-onlookerOne person does not necessarily assume one role throughout the life of the work. One person could shift from being a withstander to becoming creative co-player. Thinking about which types and roles of Others play a role in your work, and when and to what extent they take on an active or passive participation is important for understanding what your intentions are.


Lino: it’s necessary to give an example and to come up with a more suitable terminology for “user”…I’m especially interested in how people in train stations change from one form of transport to another, each with their own film in their head…a person is a meaning giving machine, a person is a system of categorization, categorising everything they experience …I want to create a rupture in this system so that they are made aware of how they categorise …you can say the other is a categoriser, and image-maker

Mine: …a librarian of live experience

Lino:…or a flaneur.a person who walks and wonders who is creating meaning as he walks as in the book ‘The art of taking a walk’ —a highly recommended read.

Lino: through designing experience you decode the other. Yet, the experience is not necessarily always experienced according to how it is intended by the designer. The participant, the onlooker may confuse the intentions of the work, or interpret the work in such a way that is a unique, idiosyncratic interpretation…This is the errorist, or misinterpreter.

Klaas: …this could become a new political ideology: errorism! International errorism.

Yvonne: The errorist is an inherent part of interactive work methods…you can never fully project what a users experience will be, [the way your work is carried out by others] can swerve from your intention of what the work is meant to be.

(Mine Kaylan, Lino Hellings, Yvonne Dröge Wndel and Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, December 2004, Veemvloer, Amsterdam)

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