NWG 1: Immersive Spaces (for junior scholars)

Members: Elisabeth Sommerlad (Geography, Spokesperson); Helena Rapp (Geographie), Damien B. Schlarb (American Studies), Clemens Spahr (American Studies)

NWG 1 focuses on man-made or rather re-made spaces that for commercial and/or aesthetic reasons seek to evoke a feeling or an experience that has commonly been described as “immersive.” This includes, inter alia, theme parks, themed businesses and restaurants, cruise ships, tourist places, video games as well as performances in a theatrical context. Nowadays, studies about immersive spaces come from a large variety of academic disciplines, among them American studies, theatre and performance studies, anthropology, and geography as well as history, film studies, architecture, tourism studies, and sociology.

Although the debates within these different disciplines often revolve around similar topics and although scholars with different disciplinary backgrounds have often made similar observations and come to similar conclusions, research about immersive spaces has only rarely crossed disciplinary boundaries (and, if it has, scholars have frequently only considered research from neighboring disciplines). One particular challenge researchers interested in more holistic approaches routinely face is the question of methodology, which is due to the fact that many scholars exclusively resort to those methods commonly employed and taught in their respective discipline. However, these tools only allow partial access to immersive spaces partially, at best.

Hence, the working group will focus especially on the methodological questions with regards to the analysis of immersive spaces. In addition to an interdisciplinary exchange of methods and the elaboration of new, transdisciplinary methods, we will focus on the experience of the visitor, and particularly that of the researcher, in an immersive space as well as on the practical challenges of doing research in immersive spaces.