#853 DocLab: Testing Boundaries in an Audio Tour of a Stranger’s Home with Nadja van der Weide’s “Look Inside”

Look Inside is an immersive experience the premiered at IDFA DocLab 2019 where you get to take an audio tour of a complete stranger’s home. This was one of the hottest tickets in all of IDFA DocLab selling out quickly, and being one of the hardest pieces to get into. It was a completely novel context of an experience, one that tested my boundaries, and ended up provided a lot of really deep and fundamental experiential design insights in looking at the dialectic between the self versus the other and public versus private contexts.

Creator Nadja van der Weide did her a master’s degree on the theme of “reinventing daily life” at the Sandberg Institute, which was a part of the temporary theme that lasts for only two years. She’s been exploring how to use theatrical experiences for us to consider how we can make novel connections to other people in her Common Good performances, and so Look Inside in her second installation that orchestrates unique encounters with “the other.”

After getting a ticket to this experience, you get an email with an address and instructions for how to open a lockbox that contains a phone with an audio tour as well as a key to open the front door. You enter into the home, and then are guided through the home and invited to test your boundaries about what you feel comfortable doing. There’s a number of specific situations you’re invited to play with, and each one is difficult to predict how you’re going to react until you’re in that actual situation. Van der Weide likes how these contexts are so specific and unique, and how we end up using a lot of intuition in order to explore our boundaries character in these situations.

Overall, this was my most memorable experiences at the IDFA DocLab, and it also proved to provide some of the deepest experiential design insights. The context of entering into a complete strangers home while they’re not there is something that is extremely intimate. There’s all sorts of curatorial decisions that the owner had to make about what would be public and what would be private, and the experience ends up being a bit of a mystery in trying to piece together fragments of this owner’s life, their story, and different aspects of their character or personality based upon what you might be able to glean from the environment.

So in some sense, it’s an environmental narrative. But in another sense, it’s more of an open-ended experience and generative narrative that’s creates opportunities for the participants to test their boundaries and sense of ethical thresholds in deciding what is and is not okay to do within this situation. It was a completely unique and novel context for me to be in, and so there were surprising things that I did that I wouldn’t have been able to predict.

I had a chance to unpack my experience with van der Weide, and for her to explain her experiential design process including the logistics of trying to find people who were willing to open up their home for this type of art project (feel free to contact her if you’d like to open up your home for this anywhere around the world). It turns out that it was a pretty involved development process with a lot of people who end up dropping out once they realize the full implications of what it’d mean to have complete strangers poking around their house. I talk a lot about my own experiences in taking the tour, and what I discovered about traits of my own character. Finally, we talk about this type of performance are as an intervention into daily life designed to find points of connection and common ground of humanity in the midst of an economy and technologies that cultivate patterns of loneliness.


Here’s the trailer for the Look Inside experience

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So continuing on my series of looking at some of the immersive storytelling and experiential design innovations that were coming out of the IDVA DocLab, I'm really excited about today's episode because I'm going to be diving into this experience, one of my favorite experiences of the DocLab, called Look Inside. So Naja Fundavida, she created this experience where you take this audio tour, it's like an augmented reality audio tour, where you go into some stranger's home in Amsterdam it's this like secret location that you get this email and you get these instructions for how to get there and then you open up this box you get this phone that has an audio tour and you start the tour and then you enter in the home and you take this whole tour that is all about exploring different levels of your boundaries like what are you okay doing what's your limits for doing different stuff but the narrative is embedded within the environment in terms of you know this is somebody's actual life and so there's many different stories are there and so it's a little bit of this negotiation between what has this person allowed to be revealed to you about their private intimate life? And what are the limits for yourself to see how far you're going to dig into discovering what that story might be? So very simple on the surface type of experience, but also very rich in terms of what the audio was able to do in terms of guiding me through this experience. But also, it was one of those experiences that was one of the hardest to get into because there's not that many people that got to get into it. It sold out immediately. And so because I was pressed, I was able to have the opportunity to see it and to be able to actually talk to the creator afterwards and to be able to unpack it. So I'm excited to dive into it because I think there's actually a lot of really fascinating experiential design insights that I got out of this experience. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Naja happened on Saturday, November 23rd, 2019 at the IDFA DocLab in Amsterdam, Netherlands. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:08.449] Nadja van der Weide: So I'm Nadja van der Weyden, and I made Look Inside. It's actually called Common Good Look Inside. It's part of a series, Common Good. And this is, for me, chapter two of research on, actually, the bigger topic is making real contact with the other, and the other is the other stranger. And yeah, so this is chapter two.

[00:02:28.903] Kent Bye: Great. So maybe you could give me a bit more context as to your background and your journey into this space.

[00:02:35.355] Nadja van der Weide: Yeah, I would say I come from theatre more. I work from the scope of theatre and I work with audio so I went kind of moved a bit from the theatrical scope or I use the theatrical scope is actually how I see it and I put that into audio works or immersive experiences. So I try to deal with the live aspects combining with audio and commenting kind of on the real world. That's what I do. And I studied here in Amsterdam where we are now. And I did a master's which is called Reinventing Daily Life, which I think is a very, in that sense, a good name for what I'm busy with, is working in a documentary way, thinking about or looking at the daily life and mostly at people's behaviors.

[00:03:20.214] Kent Bye: So maybe you could go back and talk about the first iteration of this, or first chapter of this experience, since I've only done the second chapter. So where did this begin? What was the seed of this project?

[00:03:32.737] Nadja van der Weide: So the beginning is called an exercise for real life, which actually chapter two is also an exercise for real life, but the first one took place in public space and you would be on your own having an audio walk on a public square in Amsterdam. I mean it was in Amsterdam this case, it could happen anywhere else actually, but it has to do with the fact that there is a liveliness and that it is a city alive where you are one of the people. and you start on your own and along the way you discover that you're actually not alone but there's another and this other you're gonna meet through a kind of instructive audio walk that I have given you and you do a kind of ritual of meeting each other which yeah can be very strange but also very nice it differs a lot how people react basically so that was chapter one and it came out of an urge both of the projects For me, it has a lot to do with the bigger city, where you are not so aware or not so connected to the stranger other, because you have to move through the city, you run, you are in a hurry, but also it's so full, it's so busy, it's so, so kind of you close off. That's a reaction, a natural reaction that you have, I think, especially in the bigger cities, especially in the busy cities. So for me, this is a kind of counter exercise. where basically I invite you to stand still to meditate on the other, the stranger other and how you actually behave towards this stranger other. So yeah, I had the first chapter on that and then I thought I think I should make a second one. I think this is a bigger topic that has to do a lot with the intimacy, the potential of intimacy in public space. which to me is something fantastic that can happen. This stranger in the subway that is next to you and seems kind of nice, but you're never going to talk to him, because why should you? Because you have your boundaries or your ethical limits. But why shouldn't you actually? What do you have to lose also? And for me, this is a kind of invitation to see, hey, where is this limit for you? And how can you challenge yourself in discovering Maybe new, maybe saying, hey, it's actually very good as it is. But look at yourself and see what you're doing and if you're OK with what you're doing.

[00:05:46.087] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so in this piece, I guess the chapter two follow on is that here at the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam, at the DocLab, there's 40 different immersive experiences that are curated, ranging from virtual reality, augmented reality, just video that's being projected up. And this piece was this immersive audio tour At a secret location where we don't know where it's at, you have to get on the list of what's like an hour-long experience. And so you have to get this email. It tells you where to go. You go to the address. You have the instructions. Open the safe. And then there's this phone that you put around your neck. You push play, and you start listening to this audio tour. For me, I actually, the key was attached to the collar, and I didn't see it at first. And so I was looking for the key. And I was following the instructions step by step and at the point it says, okay, take the key and open the door. And I like, I don't find the key. I tried to open the door. So I have this moment of panic of like, I'm not going to be able to get into this house. There's a phone number for emergencies, but I don't have international service. And then so like, I'm just like, in this, like, I don't know if I'm going to be able actually to do this. And then I finally find that it's attached to the necklace and I'm able to get in. So like a huge sigh of relief. And then I'm able to kind of walk around this person's home. So I find myself being guided through this complete stranger's home who's presumably opened up their home to you in this festival, in this context, to be able to have a number of strangers walk through their home. It felt like a lot of testing of the boundaries of what is ethical and what you should and should not do. And you're invited to participate and do things and to write on the whiteboard. And then it made me think about, well, I was assuming that everything that was on this whiteboard was already there. So then it's maybe reconsider how many of these little drawings were there from who owned this place or were from previous people. And then I was like, well, I'm going to leave some trace for other people to wonder that once they get to that point. Because they may have started to reevaluate. So I started to think about the future audience people and how I'm having a conversation with them in that way. So for me, that was a fun moment. Because you're in this situation where you are asking them to kind of go through, like, go into the house and check out the bathroom, open up the cupboards. So maybe you could just, well, first of all, talk about the process of convincing somebody in Amsterdam to let you do this. And then after that, how you were trying to architect the boundaries that you're trying to play with and what you were trying to explore with that.

[00:08:17.702] Nadja van der Weide: So this first question on how do you find a private house is a question I get a lot. And I think it has a logical reason. The question is, of course, I also have a house. Would I open it to other people? Which is a very logical question that follows out of this. And hereby the invitation, if ever you want to open your house to have other people have such an experience, definitely contact me. Around the world, totally. And I think there, well maybe I just have to, what is interesting is indeed in the process of making this project, I have been doing a lot of tryouts to have different test audience to develop the whole, as far as I, from my perspective of my western point of view of course, so I realize a lot that it's a culturally related project in that sense. that it's ethical boundaries a lot of these subjects of course have to do with how I know it or how you perceive it so this is a very difficult topic I think that's one part and then the other part is because there's two questions I have to go to the first question first because it will help to understand the second one the housing I was really surprised I think I tested in six different houses all of those people I didn't know prior to they opened up their house they gave me the key they said do whatever you want And then came the process, and I think this is a very important part of this project also, it became an important part, is that then when starting to do it they realize what is actually the implication of it. Of course that there are actually real strangers in their home and that they maybe still have their cash lying there or their private pictures or their whatever lingerie or, you know, it's like... So by doing this, they also get to the same subject of what the audio actually deals with. So it became something that I'm making for a stranger audience, but it also became something that I'm making for the inhabitant of the house. So it was a lot of negotiation each time after a while, so a lot of them I guess, I mean, those who are open to it and those who think, okay, good, I'm up for these kind of funny ideas, let's go for it. And then in second thought, it would always be, okay, good. But then the pictures, do they stay? Yeah, I don't know, do they or not? And then, oh, yeah, but do I actually want to take off the stuff of the whiteboard as well or do I keep it? Yeah. And then what is too private and what is okay private and what do I want to share? And oh, this person that died in the card, yeah, it can maybe stay, but no, but this is like a very personal note. Oh, but why is this personal? So it gave this negotiation a lot, which to me was very interesting and also I used it to make the work better, let's say, to improve the work. So yes, that's how, in that sense, how I find them. That's a matter of searching around and I come from Amsterdam and this is the First time it's the premiere here. So now I knew like it was a lot of via via searching But also out in the open just putting ads and posting like hey, I'm searching. It's this kind of totally weird projects Are you as weird as me? Do you want to open your house? Why not? And then people would just react to it and say yeah, why not? This is nice Yeah, I like your idea. It's I would I would be up for having an art project in my home. I I For instance, there was one person that said, yeah, I always loved to organize private concerts in my living room. So this is a kind of alternative to it. Yeah, great. So apparently there are people that are totally willing to open their house, which I think is a fantastic thing. And then the second part, can you repeat?

[00:11:54.211] Kent Bye: In this experience you're playing with boundaries and testing boundaries and you're asking people to pay attention to a boundary but then sometimes you're inviting people to cross over that boundary and then you're in some ways giving permission for them to do certain things like there was a moment when you had people go through and open up and find where the cookie jar is and you open it and it's sort of like and then later you kind of implicitly were like oh and as you're eating your cookie because you didn't say feel free to take a cookie you're just like notice where the cookie jar is and there's no like go ahead and take one so I was invited to make tea and I was like, oh, am I going to actually, like, I don't know if I want to actually, like, be carrying tea around this person's house. And I wasn't like, I didn't want to have to, like, deal with being overhydrated and have to go to the bathroom. And I was like, I was just logistically just decided not to do it. But then also I don't eat sugar. So it wasn't like a bunch of temptation for me. But there was these moments where you're asking people to confront certain things. There's like, I'm sort of doing these things and then projecting myself if there was a stranger in my house would I want them to be doing that and then kind of then having that as part of my decision-making process as to how open and free am I going to be with someone who I don't really know who's a stranger who I've been guided by this artist who is then giving me the green light to do certain actions that I'm going to be very obedient to those actions but also Still, if you were to ask me to do things that I thought was unreasonable, I wouldn't do as well. So finding what that boundary is for myself is what I felt like there was that negotiation process internally as I was going through this experience.

[00:13:28.975] Nadja van der Weide: Yeah, am I giving you the permission? Maybe that's a good question. Am I? I wonder. So in the making of this process, I talked a lot with a psychologist. You have the, I don't really know the translation, but like intimacy psychology of people dealing with intimacy problems that has to do a lot with sexuology, I think the English word would be. but also all kinds of other topics that have to do with intimacy that is not necessarily sexually related. And there is a lot of code on how to deal with others concerning boundaries, and concerning ethical boundaries, concerning the intimacy boundaries, which is a very careful topic, let's say. So that's a starting point where I before really testing things was doing a lot of research in within that field to discover Okay, how do you deal with such situations? how can you be respectful to a stranger that you don't know and also or in my case that a spectator has his own life, ethics, boundaries that I don't know of and I will never know because everybody is different. So basically what I needed to develop is a time frame and an attention span where within we, meaning me, the maker, and the invitation to you, the spectator, can be invited to look at these topics. But maybe you have felt totally uncomfortable and the one after you was totally okay with the whole situation and is still lying in bed now. So these differences, that is, I think, the richness of people, is that your boundary is not the boundary of the one after you. And these differences make you think about it also. You're the one having your hand in the cookie jar and then deciding, no, maybe not to. but the other one would totally go for it or would say no way I'm not going to do this and all these options are fine as long as you, for me that's my invitation, to look at yourself and to see what do I do and why do I do this and how would other people do that and do I know or do I have an assumption or is it actually different and am I having this assumption but maybe it's not at all happening and I'm the only one eating five cookies and nobody touches the cookies

[00:15:47.723] Kent Bye: Well today during the it's a doc lab conference you were up on stage and having a brief little interview about your piece and I think you mentioned something like This is doing the things that you want to do when you go into people's homes And so like when you are in an Airbnb you would try on people's clothes and I was kind of like, oh, that's interesting I I don't have that thing. I don't I don't do that but I There may be other things where there's a certain amount of curiosity about someone's personality or character, where it's a little bit of like, what can you tell about somebody based upon the artifacts that are left around the home, and just this whole phenomenon of Airbnb where people are already opening up their homes to people and inviting them into these intimate spaces. pushing the limits of what could be explored within the context of the rooms that you're in. But then, yeah, maybe you could just talk about that impulse that you have to want to test your own boundaries when you're in these situations where it's maybe not so clear as to what the exact line might be.

[00:16:43.476] Nadja van der Weide: Yeah, I think for me, I'm actually literally not so sure if I would really put on people's clothes in the end. But I think for me there is always this moment, so I think Airbnb in that sense is a very good example, where you are in someone's space and there is this allowance, but then on the other hand you also pay for it, so you have a kind of contract with each other. And there's also lots of security stuff behind and you have this whole system of talking about the other at the end saying like yeah he left his dirty socks under the bed. So you get this whole review of how people look at you or how you have dealt with the house or if you were a good house father to the house and I think this situation is something that applies to this project as well. that the fantasies of what you're doing versus what you are actually doing are not necessarily matching. That's why I gave this example of trying on clothes because probably if they would, like lots of reasons I would never put them on already. So it really has to do if a house is attracting me or invites me to come closer, I would do it. But if it gives me a certain distance or if I think it's smelly or any other I think intuitive feeling of distance, I would say, would already make me choose never to wear any of those clothes. So I think this is an interesting, it has to do a lot with intuition of each person, how you deal with the situation, if you want to cross a boundary or not at all, or if you just think it's... weird or interesting and there's several layers. There's just the object of the house, so the objects that are in there and there is the relation towards the inhabitants or the person that lives there. And those are two questions actually that are kind of, I would say, simultaneously going on and then there is actually even a third layer and that is the other, the other visitor in this case or the other outsider, maybe the other on the streets. And I think this ethical kind of going back and forth between, OK, indeed, am I attracted to open this drawer? Am I actually going to look into it? Or am I attracted to know the visitor more? These, for me, are two interesting questions. And then a kind of afterwards reflection, am I also attracted to do this myself, to open up myself? And maybe it's your house, but maybe it's other things. And this is an open invitation.

[00:19:03.657] Kent Bye: Well, then as I am walking through this house, a lot of the text that is there is in a language that I don't read in the Dutch. So you're inviting me to kind of shuffle through this person's mail, to look at the books that they have, to notice what books that they're reading on their bedside table. Normally, if that was all in English, that would be revealing a lot of specific things about this person. But because it was in language that I don't necessarily read, then I felt like there was a certain part of this person that was even more of a mystery to me because it was like I could only go upon how things were decorated and arranged or their clothes or what their decoration or just how they've set up their their space and imagining how they might spend different time in these different spaces. But I felt like not being able to read things and feeling functionally illiterate in the house I think it would have been different if I would have been able to read all these other things and I felt like there may Have been more of those boundaries that may have maybe reflect on some of that a little bit more Yeah, but it's a Dutch person.

[00:20:07.268] Nadja van der Weide: Yeah I mean that's in this case this is also part of I mean you could have taken out your phone and put it into Google Translate if you would have wanted to in a way so this is also up to you to what extent do you really eagerly want to discover what's written or if you're really up to knowing what these words mean or if you think hey actually for me it's fine enough if I just say seated for an hour and just look around and I'm not gonna touch anything it's up to you

[00:20:36.719] Kent Bye: And then as we're having this conversation, I'm imagining, I wonder if this person imagined that a stranger would not only go through this house, but also talk about it publicly on a podcast. And wondering, oh, is this something that, like, in terms of me even talking about it publicly or unpacking the process a little bit, like, what's the line of what information I glean from this person do I keep secret and not and talk about? what is part of my own experience that I own in relation to the audio experience that you gave and then figure out where that boundary is, which I feel like is a whole other layer of now that we're right now in more of a public context and talking about it, how much you're publicly sharing and how much I'm publicly sharing and how much this person who's opened up their home is consenting to all that as well.

[00:21:23.378] Nadja van der Weide: Yeah, I think this is a bit the same as going to a movie, you don't tell the clue either. And I think in this case that counts, that there is a certain amount of things that definitely some people tell you indeed when they've seen a movie and there's this clue in the end and then, yeah, they're not going to reveal. the part, you know, they will tell you about some striking moments for them but they won't tell the bigger message or they won't tell because they would just say I go and see yourself and I think in this case it's really part of the project go and experience yourself because I cannot put my experience onto your way of seeing of perceiving it and I think that's the interesting part is that there is some secrecy about it that is I think interesting to keep alive in order to be able to be open to the experience as you perceive it. And also it will be different for everybody. So that's the second part that is nice about it, I think.

[00:22:18.468] Kent Bye: Well, as I entered the home, I had just used the key to enter the home, but then I decided to put the lock on the door because I was like, I don't actually know what this experience is at all. Like, I don't know if somebody's going to come in and try to scare me. Like, I was just like, OK, I'm just going to protect myself in that way. And so I felt like, yeah, this interesting crossing into something that I've never done before and like, how do I handle this situation? And then like dealing with the own inherent fear. But yeah, I think overall, somebody who's creating an experience for somebody, there's this thought of a story or kind of a building and releasing of tension. And it felt like more of a guided sort of testing of boundaries. But I don't know, would you call it more of an experience or a story or how you start to think about like, crafting these different moral dilemmas that you're putting people through and how you would maybe build up a bunch of tension and then release it and if that feels like it would be more of the experience and like how once you're there then what you want to try to play with in terms of your design to be able to make it even more intense for people in some way.

[00:23:25.307] Nadja van der Weide: So I think, for me, it's an experience. It's an experience within, well, it's an exercise. It's a practice that you're doing to be able to look at real life in a maybe different way or maybe totally the same way, but to be able to look at the life that you're living in for a little while from a little distance and that's how I started. So for me that means an experience in that sense, experiencing that taking of a little distance, that meditation on life itself, on your life, on your behavior. So that is for me the experience part and then in a way I use the theatrical scope to be able to have you develop your own story in a way, because a lot of the content of the house tells you a story. It's not necessarily the voiceover that tells you who lives there. It's you discovering it. So it's you discovering the storyline of this house or this person or these persons. And along the way you experience something yourself as well. So it's a combination and the story of the house gives you an experience actually. And for me, the pair of headphones with the voice coming through To your ears that is the medium being able to have you visit that house to be able to have you Inside and be there and spend the time that I think is interesting for this project to be focusing on The beginning of the interview you had mentioned that you had got a specific degree and it was a degree that I've never heard of in the United States So what what was the degree again?

[00:25:06.645] Kent Bye: And then what does it mean with how that relates to what you're doing with these types of experiences? I

[00:25:11.383] Nadja van der Weide: So I mentioned the name, actually, of the master's that I did. This was my latest studies at the art school in Amsterdam, the Rietveld Academy. They have a master's department, which is called the Sandberg Institute. And they develop a temporary master each year, a two-year master's program. And they develop it for a temporary time span. And it reflects or it reacts to an actual... theme, topic, problem, anything in society that they think is interesting to develop a master's upon or about, to have the students focus on that subject for two years. So it's kind of, it's somewhere between a research master and a trial and error master also. But also, yeah, so topic related. And in my case it was a bunch of students that are interested in interventions in the daily life and people researching how art, so it is this boundary between community arts, the fine arts, the black box, going out of the black box, then how do you deal with art in society and what as an artist should your role be ethically but also artistically and how do you deal with that or what do you want to bring to society as a maker, so that was a an interesting topic to think about and to work on for a while.

[00:26:36.735] Kent Bye: So would you consider this an intervention into daily life? And if so, then what were you trying to stop or intervene?

[00:26:44.577] Nadja van der Weide: Yeah, I could say so. I mean, it's a very small scale, of course. The one, the alone experience that you have doesn't mean influencing the mass media. So for me, I find it interesting to focus on the attention, the time and attention that I can give to one spectator to really think further, take a step further and use the artificial framework in order to maybe take a step further than you would do normally in the real life. So I give you this fictional setting in a way to act as you would maybe normally do or not and see how that reflects on your life when you would be outside again in that sense. So yes, it's an intervention in real life but on a very small scale.

[00:27:34.907] Kent Bye: So for you, what are some of the either biggest open questions you're trying to answer or open problems you're trying to solve with your work?

[00:27:43.632] Nadja van der Weide: It's what I mentioned earlier that I, yeah, what I find really interesting to be able to deal with in my work is the individualism that I feel as an inhabitant or as a person in the bigger cities, but also in, yeah, for me this is something that comes from the Dutch society where I grew up. I have a feeling I don't belong to a god anymore. I don't believe in god. I'm not part of a bigger structure in that sense. I'm an individual and I've grown up as a person that is in a way educated to not be in that sense part. So of course you're part of other people or you have social relations, but you're not part of a bigger structure. We're not in a communist society anymore, which has good things also, but there is a downside for me about the individualism, the loneliness that is increasing a lot in bigger cities, not even in bigger cities like around the world. And for me, this is an issue that I think is important to address and to make you feel to what extent how do you relate to others and what is the importance of this. For me the vital thing in life is that you relate to others and yeah it's an ode to the other and to to the fears that you have to make in contact and to overcome those fears and to invite yourself to dare. Yeah, to dare to make contact. And I think everybody does already. So that's the funny thing. There's nothing special about this, about this subject. Every person is a social being, so you are in this process already. But what if you take a little step back from your, what I call then, normal behavior, your daily behavior, and look at it and kind of evaluate. Is it okay? Do I feel okay with what I'm doing? And do I feel Or that I need to change anything or that I'm very happy with the way how I relate to others or is there some more to gain or some more to do or maybe next time in the subway I will talk to that nice looking person that is sitting next to me that normally I would only look at my phone but this time I would actually just smile, why not?

[00:30:00.091] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think is the ultimate potential of these immersive technologies and what they might be able to enable?

[00:30:13.914] Nadja van der Weide: Well, I think it's very healthy to just to take a step back for everybody every once in a while and to be able to hear or experience stories from others and to practice that mode and I think storytelling can be a great way of coming across inspiring or maybe sometimes just nice or just you know it doesn't have to be always uplifting in that sense of course like I know my work has this part of where it's also a lot of thinking about yourself but I think there is only the inspiration of other people telling you Other perspectives is something very valuable and with this project I think what is nice is that you can really immerse into someone else's life as much as your boundaries let you and to me that is a potential that you can have in such a way that you need to be on your own in really an unknown house. You really have to immerse in order to be able to get there. So this time I chose this medium but maybe next time we will all dance together and this will also get you somewhere. So it's a way and for this project I thought it would be best you never know but at least a good or an interesting way to me to discover how the house can be an experience that you can really explore and where I can give you the freedom to perceive the story as you want it and in the speed you want it also. So there's a lot of influence of yourself. It's an interactive story in multiple ways. You interact with the house, but also the story interacts on how fast or slow you go. So for some people you're done within the 30 minutes and the other stays there and will be there for one and a half hours. It's possible.

[00:32:12.247] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?

[00:32:19.269] Nadja van der Weide: Yeah, if you want to open your house, then let me know.

[00:32:25.732] Kent Bye: Awesome, great. Well, it was a very surreal experience, I have to say. And it felt like very intimate and testing a lot of my own boundaries. But I very much appreciated the experience and glad I had a chance to sit down with you and talk about it a little bit. And yeah, just thanks for putting together experience and sitting down with me to talk about it today. So thank you.

[00:32:43.679] Nadja van der Weide: Thank you very much also.

[00:32:45.900] Kent Bye: So that was Naja Fundavida. And she created an experience called Look Inside that was at Ifadoc Lab. So I have a lot of different takeaways from this experience. First of all, well, it was definitely one of the most memorable experiences that I had. I mean, you're being invited to go into somebody's home. So as I broke down the different elements of this experience, I think there's very distinct aspects of both the context, character story, and the different levels of presence that I had here. So first of all, this is a very distinct context. You're being invited into a stranger's home and there's this dialectic between the public and the private. So what has this person decided? What normally was private? What have they made public? Because you're a member from the public coming into their private home. So there's all sorts of curatorial decisions that are invisible, but we are seeing the result of that. There's also this dialectic between yourself and the other, somebody who you don't know and they don't know you. And so you're in their home, you're having all of these boundaries that are being presented to you within this audio experience. And that's, I guess, more of the character of the experience where it's really testing the boundaries and the limits. Really allowing you to explore your curiosity and to see how you're gonna be connected to this person The name of the title is look inside and it has a little bit of a double meaning because you're literally looking inside of somebody else's home But you're also being asked to look inside of yourself to determine like where you okay with your own sense of your ethical boundaries in this type of experience and You know, I talked to somebody afterwards and they were a little bit disappointed that there wasn't more of a narrative construction around like a building and releasing of the tension that was being given to this audio. But if you look at the narrative in terms of the spectrum between authored narrative and generative narrative, this was much more on the side of a generative narrative, which means that it's much more difficult to build and release narrative tension when you have the freedom to basically explore around and do whatever you want. So I didn't think that was necessarily a problem and I asked Nadja like whether or not she thought of this as more of a story or an experience and she's definitely trying to get more towards this element of an experience. You know, if you take a step back and how to architect these different aspects in the future, then there are ways to kind of build and release different aspects of the narrative tension. as these boundaries that you're being tested. And the whole thing about this thing is it's all about you and you testing your own character, because you are the protagonist in this story testing your limits and your boundaries about what you want to learn about. So in some ways, this is an environmental narrative. So the narrative is embedded within the context of this home because it's literally somebody's home and they have stories and there's little artifacts of these stories that are around this home and so each of the objects that are in this home or some signifier that are pointing back to either some aspect of this other person's character that you're trying to glean and like you're piecing together this puzzle through like this mental and social presence of you're trying to fit together a mental construct of who this person is and trying to like create the story of different objects you're seeing the different design I couldn't read Dutch but if you could read Dutch you'd be able to get even higher levels of being able to piece together different aspects of the story because there's just all this Dutch language the mail that's there the books that are being read the notes that are on the whiteboard written in Dutch. And so there's all these layers of that puzzle of trying to figure out who this person is, that are embedded within the environment. The other thing in terms of the emotional presence is that because there wasn't this building and releasing of Narrative tension then it is less of an authored narrative in that way but when I think back about it and I think about the amount of emotions that I was feeling it was more about how the objects in the space were related to Memories that I had or just being in somebody's home and that being a strange context that I've never been in I've never been invited into somebody's home and another city and not being able to read anything and I almost as a guest in this person's home, but just open invitation. So it was very memorable. It was like very scenic and I'll probably remember moments in there for the rest of my life, just because it was such a very distinct context. So to think about like, what's it take to create a memory, something of visceral emotion. And again, Kasper Sonnen, he kind of defines the definition of an interactive media as the more that you put into the experience, the more that you get out. And it felt like, you know, obviously this is what human life is. And so, In some ways, experiential design is like, what is life? Because the more you put in, the more you get out. But in this specific context of this experience, you could go in there and not be curious, and you're not gonna be discovering different things. And there's limits there in terms of what you can discover, because this has been curated between what is life. going to be made available. There's certain doors that were locked. You know, as I was going through the experience, I was also kind of testing the boundaries of the limits. Like, is this door locked? Because there were a number of different locked doors and places that were a place for the person in that home to be able to put either information or maybe there were other aspects of the rooms that were just were not available for us. But there's certain boundaries that they're trying to set forth as well and other implicit boundaries that you're trying to explore as you're going through this experience. and a high amount of active presence. And so because it is about your curiosity and exploration and what are the limits of the agency that you can do in an experience like this, it was in some ways very unbounded. It is really quite limitless. There was this thought in my mind of like, you know, what are the different contingency plans into how to make this a safe experience? Talking to Casper Sonnen of DocLab, he said, you know, there's a lot of liability insurance they had to figure out because you're selling a ticket into somebody's home. So what's it mean to be able to have this stranger entering into this home as an entertainment experience, but yet there's all these real implications for how this could go horribly wrong. And so are there like hidden cameras in this experience? This experience was all about testing limits and boundaries. And so there's a part of me that wonders like, oh, was I being watched? Was all my actions being recorded? Was there a certain amount of what I was doing that is going to be added into a larger performance art piece? Because, you know, here I am being a voyeur into this other person's home. then are there other voyeuristic elements of my actions or different things that are being recorded. So I feel like that was a little unclear in terms of what that limits were, but you know, I wouldn't fault them for wanting to have a little extra levels of protection of, you know, seeing if there was any sort of like extreme theft or vandalization or anything like that, that they would have some sort of record. So, but you're in this experience where your agency feels pretty unbounded. There is this guided narrative that you're given in terms of, you know, you're being invited to be able to test your own boundaries, like how far are you going to take this experience? And some of them were implicit, some of them were explicit, but again, that's part of the joy of having an experience like this because, you know, if you were to tell me like, okay, you're going to go into this house and you're going to, you know, do these number of things. There's certain things that I did that I would never be able to predict. Like when I walked into the door, I felt this sort of sense of unease. Like, I don't know if I feel safe in here. I feel like I need to like lock this chain lock so that nobody else could get in, even if they tried to get in. Like I didn't expect that that was going to be a part of this horror experience, but there was just a part of my sense of safety being unsettled that I did that. Now, I wouldn't have ever predicted that I would have done that. I had to be in that situation in that context to know what I did. And that's a lot of what nausea was saying is that like with each of these specific contexts that you're in, you have to use your own intuition about what type of boundaries you're going to do. But it's in some ways this look inside is like looking back inside of yourself to be able to see what your limits are. Now, the deeper context of this whole experience that Naja is creating is trying to allow people to reconnect to each other. And so she went to grad school to kind of reinvent daily living. That's part of her common good series, but it's also this series of trying to connect yourself to the other. And so it sounds like in her previous experience, Sounds like people are maybe taking this open-ended walking tour and then all of a sudden they discover that other people are also on this walking tour and a lot about what this walking tour is about is to find those other people that are within that same context and to connect to this stranger and there's this kind of ritualistic dance that she did and so trying to figure out, you know, how you as an individual, we are individuals, and we all have our own sort of individuated self and our ego, but we're also social creatures that are within this relational context. And so I think if you look deep philosophically at the metaphysics of reality, we have this substance metaphysics, which is really focusing on the physicality of physical stuff, and that there can be a result of trying to see ourselves as these islands that are not in relationship or connected to other people. And then there's a whole other relational metaphysics or process philosophy or Chinese philosophy that sees the underlying ground of being in reality as these relationships, that once you interrogate these physical substance deep enough that there's actually no physical stuff there, it's actually just patterns of relationships relative to each other. And so if you say that the grounding of all reality with this relational metaphysics is this relational self, then you start to then see like, well, what if all of life is about being connected to each other and being in relationship to each other and finding these opportunities that as we're walking around feeling isolated and lonely, where maybe the thing that's going to give us the most joy and most relationship is to find these fundamental aspects of our character, we can find commonality and common ground with what it means to be human and to be able to connect to other people. And I think that's a lot of what this experience is about is trying to break down your sense of the other and your sense of self and to find ways to be connected in relationship to each other. And by playing with these boundaries of what's public and what's private and to invite you into something that is probably the most intimate thing that you could possibly do is to invite a stranger into your home and to allow them to kind of poke around and look around. I mean, there's so many different aspects of things that you consider sacred or private. that could be gleaned from somebody doing that. And so I think the larger thrust of this work, you know, this really provocative question that's asked you at the end of this experience is, is this an experience that you would let other people do within your home? And I don't know if there's asked a number of different times at the beginning or the end. I don't quite remember the whole Details, but I do remember being asked that and it's this provocative question because here you are in somebody's home You've had this whole experience and then you're being asked well based upon your own direct experience Is this something that you would be willing to give to somebody else? And I started to think about this in terms of this type of concept philosophically because you know What if we lived in a world where everybody started to do that? You start to go back to these old indigenous practices where the concepts of land and land ownership start to change and it's more of a resource that's seen as serving in the public interest of the community. I think there needs to be a balance between what is your private world that you feel safe in your shelter, but there's also this other extreme of like, well, maybe we've gone too far and maybe we need to start to shift at this other dialectic of Seeing what has used to be private put as to more of these public resources. I think within virtual reality It's actually easier to do that because you can create Multimedia objects and there's just more opportunities to share these resources where if it's not physically being created with physical stuff, you know, there's certain amount of supply and demand where a The economics of that supply and demand is that, you know, it's difficult for you to just kind of give away all sorts of stuff. But within the virtual reality realm, it's much easier to cultivate this type of gift economy spirit where it's like more intellectual property and the energy that it takes for you to create these virtual objects. But it's much easier at that point to distribute it out and to share the wealth in that way. and to share different aspects of cultural heritage. And so, you know, I imagine that in the future, this is a part of the shifting of the dialectic of private owned resources and intellectual property that is really locked down into creating these open commons. I think, you know, there's so many For me, so many different profound implications of this type of experience, because if you start to like extrapolate that out, then then it becomes more of like, well, would you be willing to invite somebody into your private virtual home where you have more control over whether or not things are stolen or defaced or whatnot? It's a lot safer if you were to create a representation of your home and have that be explorable or whatnot to be able to allow you to share different aspects of your personal character, maybe allowing people to come into that place and to be able to learn different aspects about you. But it's a little bit more of the safety net where you don't actually have to actually physically let people into your home. So as I was thinking about this experience, I thought, you know, there's actually a lot of really profound things that, you know, Naja is doing in terms of her mission of trying to connect yourself to the other and to reinvent daily life and to allow you to be connected to the other in different ways. So again, this experience on the surface seems very simple. You're going into somebody's home and you're taking a tour. But the design and intention behind it and the different experience of that is actually a very memorable experience. I think in the future, if you start to think about there's different contexts that you have in your life and if you're opening up those different contexts and finding ways for you to be connected to the larger story of that person. My family went on this whole family vacation that we went to Chicago and Memphis. New Orleans and we did over a dozen different guided tours and one of the places we went was Elvis's Graceland where you're invited to walk through his home and it's a guided tour and it's very similar to this open into a stranger's home But Priscilla Presley, you know the estate of Elvis facing bankruptcy for you know, she needed to do something so she decided to kind of turn this moment in time of Elvis's home and turn it into this like museum we were able to walk around and learn about Elvis. And so Elvis being obviously one of the most famous rock stars out there, but to be able to walk through all these different aspects of his intimate life, and to see his home and all these different artifacts that he saved, you learn so much about somebody in that way. And so I also thought about, you know, what does this mean for everybody to start to be able to do this? Because, you know, not everybody wants to travel to anywhere around the world to visit your home. But with the virtual reality technologies, we have the capability for anybody to start to do the similar thing, you know, start to archive different aspects of your home and to open that up to other people. as an expression of your character. And it could be levels of abstraction too. It doesn't have to actually be your literal home, but it could be some sort of symbolic representation of your most sacred objects and different things that as people go into the space, they're able to learn more about you and your character. So, like I said, this is a really profound experience and it really helped for me to flesh out this experiential design aspects of seeing how you have this very rich embodied experience of going into somebody's home. You're being invited to touch different things, to taste different things, to be physically embedded within this other context and seeing how the different levels of emotional presence were more around my own personal memories and my own connection. there wasn't a lot of building and releasing of the narrative tension that give you like a story that it's much more of that generative narrative exploring the limits of your agency the mental and social presence of like solving the puzzle of who this is you are also connected to this individual's home in different ways you're going into their home you have opportunities to either directly communicate with the future people going through this experience by having a whiteboard you're kind of invited to connect to not only yourself in that moment but other people that may see this same location, but also opportunities to connect to the owner as well. And then a deeper context of, you know, going into somebody's home, the dialect between the public and the private and the self and the other. And this is an audio tour that's helping guide and direct these different boundaries. The character of the experience being about boundary and limits and curiosity and being connected and finding what those limits and tests are. And the story is that, you know, you're the protagonist, you're seeing how you react and you change and you're realizing different aspects of your own character around safety and desire to connect to strangers and it's this environmental narrative that is really testing your ethical boundaries your personal boundaries of What's it mean to have permission to consent and license to do different things? What's it feel like to be a voyeur and to be able to look inside not only this other person's home but to also to look inside yourself and to see what you discover about yourself and So that's all that I have for today. And I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a, there's a supportive podcast. And so I do rely upon donations from other people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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