Igniting Change

It’s that sinking feeling when someone traps you in the corner of a party to talk about the garbage patch in the Pacific, or how North Korea could nuke us. Maybe it’s climate change or melting glaciers. What do you do next? Join Greenpeace or watch Netflix?

What about when you’re not feeling trapped, and you’re actually having this discussion with a well-informed individual — is it your duty to engage? Do you remember that feeling at the pit of your stomach as you both careened down the rabbit hole of global demise drowning oneself in a pit of self-inflicted despair?

More often than not this pursuit of worldly solutions causes an adverse reaction. For an individual to make real social change, one must be exhilarated and compelled. So the question remains: how do we confront global issues and instigate positive change?

Are You Programmed?

We are conditioned, and we are patterned. Governments, the media and academic institutions shape the content of our minds. This process is the dam where social change stops. We either don’t see how our actions are having an impact, or we’re disenchanted, not believing that an individual can make a difference. We are dependent creatures, whether it be on our parents, teachers, politicians or corporations.

Through immediate experiences that are empathetic, playful in nature, and guided by meaningful objective there is greater opportunity to achieve social evolution with immersive design.

Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, once said,

“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.”

Immersive Experience Design Is an Emerging Discipline

Augmented physical worlds are infused by narrative driven environments with theatrical elements.

The goal of immersive experience is to design a sensory world directed by a story arc, in pursuit of an objective that demands resolution.

The experience’s properties can include a passive, interactive or fully collaborative process. Technology often plays an influential role, though the analog world holds much importance as well. The use of cross-media resources to create audience touchpoints via email, phone and in-person are used to amplify interaction.

Refreshing Approach

In creating immersive experiences designers are given the opportunity to create a platform for disrupting cultural conditioning and societal norms. Experience designers determine the objective by identifying oppressive mechanisms and shaping an impactful narrative and environment to challenge them. Through the use of absurdist and humorous metaphors, the designer can challenge real social issues. By breaking the issue down into its pieces and arguments, one can employ artists to create content that gets to an emotional core of the issue at hand.

Through this method experience designers introduce a story arc, antagonists, protagonists, conflict, and catharsis. Participants in experience-driven events are encouraged to find unique solutions to the challenges they encounter while interacting with the narrative. In this way each individual can contribute to a shared story of the experience, as every action carries a meaning. Through this platform, when successful, an experience designer can get the audience to suspend their disbelief. The world becomes unexpectedly real. It is at this moment that they relinquish their preconceived notion of themselves. Once they are able to refresh their perspective on the consequences of their actions space is made for new and profound thought patterns.

Call To Action

Like all good campaigns, effective immersive experience design comes with a call to action. Individuals who have passed through these transformational experiences are often left with new ideas and perspectives. They see their behavior through a new lens. It is the designer’s responsibility to have positive intent, to focus the group energy effectively.

The emerging discipline of immersive design has no boundaries. It is the pallette for which experience is the medium. This is a unique opportunity to implement change, and moreover— it’s fun as hell.


“All a person can do in this life is gather about him his integrity, his imagination, and his individuality — and with these ever with him, out front and in sharp focus, leap into the dance of experience.” — Tom Robbins

Writer: Benja Juster is Freelance Immersive Experience Designer. See his work at Benja.us

Editors: Mischa Steiner, Ariana Campellone, Courtney Andujar, Damian Madray & Christopher Pezza

Photos: Elena Kulikova, Piotr Wojnarsky & Marissa D’Orazio