Watching participants interact with the prototype versions of Pulsefield was an enlightening exercise. There seems to be three distinct phases of engagement with the piece; the first is the “observation phase,” where people are attracted by the lighting and music and approach, stopping at the boundary of the active area. There, they watch others interact with the piece, try to get their heads around what is happening, and slowly become more and more entranced by it. At this point, there is frequently a hurdle to overcome driven by shyness, fear of looking silly, or other factors before they step in the next phase. Often this occurs on a group level as friends encourage each other to jump in. During the second, “participatory phase,” people start to immerse themselves in the interaction, playing with it, teasing out new results, and trying to understand what is going on and how it works. During this phase, most people seem focussed completely on what they are doing and what the visuals and sound are doing in response to their movements, almost oblivious to others. Eventually, people tend to move the third phase, “collaborative play.” This starts with a feeling that the interactivity is not only on an individual but also on the group dynamics. Often, one person will start leading, getting other people to move together, coordinate, and create effects beyond those possible with individuals. The timeline for these varies with each group or person, but usually lasts between 10 and 45 minutes. In addition, the Pulsefield can switch into new, completely different modes either at specific times or in response to the participants. This acts as a reset to the players—just as they were about to leave, they are drawn in again and finding new ways to interact and collaborate.
My friend, Hank Leiter, posted some great photos from Burningman 2016 on his website. Check out http://www.espressobuzz.net/BurningMan/2016/Art/Pulsefield/
Finally, after leaving the old version of the web site up way too long, I’ve got around to updating it to correspond with the version of the Pulsefield as of Dec, 2016. The documentation for the old version can still be found under the Version 1 menu item!