Mixed Realities as Design Intervention for Communities: Blending Digital and Physical Experiences

This work explores design interventions in communities as blended physical and digital experiences. Below is a presentation that I prepared for the latest CAA Conference this past February (2021). The presentation was part of a panel discussion organized by Lilian Crum and Meaghan Barry titled, Both Here and Nowhere: Rethinking the Role of Place in Design.  

Design interventions can contribute to creating a strong ‘sense of place’ for communities and citizens through the activation of spaces and the built environment. Design interventions that merge both real and virtual worlds, where physical and digital experiences co-exist and interact in real time, can result in particularly engaging mixed realities within the built environment and beyond that can connect with audiences in multiple ways across multiple platforms. By integrating and overlapping physical and digital experiences that emphasize community engagement and participation, designers have the opportunity to create stronger, more authentic experiences between people and places, particularly in public, shared spaces where community members can interact and engage with one another and their environments. This presentation discusses concepts of mixed realities as design interventions for communities, specifically those that attempt to contribute to a community’s sense of place through a combination of overlapping digital and physical experiences in public, shared spaces. Additionally, this presentation will share projects that exemplify these principles to show how they create mixed realities for communities by offering unique experiences for audiences. The takeaway will offer suggestions for best practices in designing mixed reality interventions in community for diverse audiences by showing a range of work that spans multiple scenarios and reflecting on benefits and challenges that result. With the added complexity and challenges of COVID-19 and designing mixed reality experiences in the age of social distancing, this presentation will also attempt to discuss case studies within and through the lens of our current social-cultural landscape.

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