SURVIVING WITH THE MAJORITY: PERSUASION AND DECISION MAKING DURING AN INTERACTIVE CINEMA EXPERIENCE
Supervisor: Luciano Gamberini
Co-supervisor: Alice Bettelli
Graduate student: Leonardo Pierobon
Interactive cinema represents a form of entertainment that aims to give the viewer the opportunity to actively participate in the creation and evolution of the story, influencing the fate of the characters and the world in which it is set. This media experienced a moment of renewed interest and success in 2018, with the release of the Netflix-produced film entitled Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. The popularity of this entertainment platform and the funds invested in this project caught the attention of a great many viewers. However, many people probably do not know that the first interactive film dates back many decades earlier: in 1967, director Radúz Činčera made an interactive film called Kinoautomat. At some crucial moments in this film, an actor would enter the scene and invite viewers to choose between two alternatives via a remote control. However, all of these media generally represent an individual activity. In 2015 Blast Theory proposed the first screening in a movie theater of an interactive film: while watching, viewers could use their phones to answer questions posed by the narrator as the plot unfolded. These answers were fed into subsequent scenes through the narrator’s voice, giving viewers the opportunity to become co-authors of the story itself. Collective viewing of an interactive film, in which viewers have a choice in how the story continues, represents a challenge from both technological and narrative perspectives. With the advancement of streaming and social media networking systems, these shared experiences could become a new form of entertainment.
In order to make a contribution to the design and development of these kinds of experiences, in this study we simulated a collective viewing of an interactive movie. The objectives of the study were to evaluate a simulated collective viewing experience of an interactive movie, to assess the effect caused by the social influence of virtual agents on participants’ choices, and to evaluate users’ experience while watching an interactive movie.
The experimental design involved inter-group comparisons. The independent variable was social influence, i.e., the inclusion of a simulated theater screen in the viewers’ votes were visible to the users before making their choice.
The results of the study showed that although the virtual agents were not perceived as credible or real, participants’ decisions were influenced by the observed majority. In addition, a further investigation conducted, related to the content of the interactive movie, revealed a relationship between the risk associated with the choices, and the conformity demonstrated by the participants. In creating a collective viewing experience such as the one simulated in this study, therefore, it is crucial to take into consideration the content of the proposed choices, and the credibility of the agents, in order to produce a change in people’s behavior.